Last week I showed a powerful documentary film in my anthropology class called “The Anatomy of Prejudice.” This film is about a workshop Jane Elliott conducted in the UK using her ‘brown eyes/ blue eyes’ approach. She divides people by the color of their eyes to reveal what I see as the three P’s of Power, Privilege, and Prejudice. In the debriefing after showing this gripping film, I found myself recounting an experience that happened many years ago in Buffalo, around 1978.
I was on my way home from a spiritual activity, waiting for a bus in inner city Buffalo around 11:30 PM. The bus stop was on a corner with a bar. A man staggered out of the bar and over to where I stood. He pointed to a car on the streetside and told me that it was his car. Here is our opening conversation that I remember as if it was yesterday:
“I’ll bet you think I’m gonna grab you by the arm and take you over there to my car and rape you!”
(Pause)… “No, I don’t think that.”
“I could, you know. All I would have to do is grab you and take you over there to my car.”
I asked this man’s name, he answered Freddie. I asked Freddie if he had a family (yes), and we started a dialogue about each others’ lives. After a few minutes Freddie said to me:“I’m gonna stand here with you until your bus comes; I’m gonna stay right here to make sure that nobody harms you!”
Can you feel what I still feel in recounting this story? It almost makes me cry from gratitude and appreciation. Freddie did wait there at the bus stop with me, nearly twenty minutes until the last bus through inner city Buffalo arrived to take me home. We shook hands and I thanked Freddie for his protection, then we went our separate ways.
I have never forgotten this encounter with Freddie, for it taught me an invaluable Life Lesson:
SOUL = SOUL
Prejudice and acts of discrimination or prejudice-fueled hatred occur largely, I believe, out of ignorance or lack of personal exposure to or interaction with members of the ‘group’ one may be prejudiced against. I was a young, Single White Female, out of her neighborhood element in inner city Buffalo. Freddie was an older, Drunk Black Man. But as soon as we began communicating with each other, asking about each others’ lives and listening to our responses, the group prejudices we had assumed quickly dissolved into the cold night air. We conversed not as White Single Female and Drunk Black Man but, rather, Soul to Soul. In this light, how could we be anything but grateful and empathetic to one another?
images are from pixabay.com
Soul = Soul is an answer to prejudice and discrimination. When we get to know someone as an individual rather than as a faceless member of some group category, Soul lights up and there is the opportunity for mutual acknowledgement. Perhaps this is why we want to look one another in the eyes as we speak, since the eyes may open to the Window of Soul.
I welcome YOUR Story and Comments.
Ho! I finished a poem on this very subject not fifteen minutes before reading this excellent post! I’ll be posting it in the next few days — meanwhile, I’m reblogging this to my sister site Timeless Wisdoms
Thank you so much, Ana. I wish we could all learn this lesson, once and for All.
Baby steps, right?
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