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The Cody Blog: Fight Your Mind

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Fight Your Mind

The other day I was having dinner at the W Hotel in midtown (don't eat there -- way over priced and not very good food). I had to go up to the second floor to use the bathroom, and as I came out of the elevator, I encountered two middle Eastern men on the payphone.

My first thought, as it should have been for any good teleconomist, was: who uses payphones at the W any more. I'd guess than 99% of all adults who stay at the W own a cell phone.

My second thought, and this is what the post is about, was: two Middle Eastern men using a payphone -- that can't be good.

That thought is wrongheaded. Granted, I can't not think a thought that my brain thinks, if you know what I mean. But all us non-Arabs have to fight against these racist-ass thoughts. Stereotypes make people miss out on so much good stuff, and they create barriers of communication and barriers of upward mobility for individuals, and they keep us from learning new things from people with a different perspective than one's own.

Any rational, open-minded person accepts that judging any random black dude as more likely to commit a crime is a close-minded ignorant way of thinking. I often rail against people who use any racial slur -- I like to call them out. Sometimes, they'll be like, "What does it matter?"

Let's say you're in a position of power. Looking to hire someone. A black guy comes in the door, and because you've allowed negative racial sentiments -- however minor -- to fester in your mind he doesn't get quite a fair shake. You've allowed a bias towards white people to build up -- and the reason why is because you still allow those age-old ignorant-ass desires to categorize things (people, shows, superstitions, whatever) dominate your fundamental thinking.

Get over it. The world and the events and objects in it don't fit into those comfortable categories you wish they did. Individuals are individuals -- by definition, you know? And just because you happened to notice that the last three times you used a roll-on deodorant that the market went up or the last two times you wore some shirt that you got laid -- doesn't make it cause and effect, bubba.

But back to the Middle Eastern racism thing. Let's all quit trying to rationalize the new accepted racism against Arabs. If I hear another no-sense-making idiot say, "What can I do? If I get on an airplane and there's some young Arab men sitting next to me, I'm going to look them over and think twice."

Here's what you can do. You can accept that your mind wants to project the horrible deeds that some dudes who looked like those guys sitting next to onto those guys sitting next to you. And then you can step back and think that thought through. And realize it's silly. And wrong. That's what I did all in the span of about 15 seconds the other night when I got off the elevator at the W.

But seriously, and this is suspicious -- who the fuck stays at the W and has to use a payphone?


Blogger Donna Willard said...

I'm confused...didn't you just contradict and cancel the validity of everything you said with that last sentence?

3/02/2005 11:41:00 PM  
Blogger Cody Willard said...

Absolutely not. If I saw someone with a gun walking down the street, that would be suspicious too. People's actions can and should dictate our judgments. And that two people staying at the W are on the payphone is a suspicious action regardless of whatever race the two people happen to be.

3/03/2005 08:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They could have been calling an escort service.

3/03/2005 08:57:00 AM  
Blogger Cody Willard said...

Nothing morally wrong or suspicious about that. Another place the regulators waste our lives away is fighting a losing battle against prostitution -- which should be a free market choice between two parties...unlike those frickin nasty porn spammers violating my home whom the regulators don't bother prosecuting.

3/03/2005 09:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is not racist to exercise common sense. Your guilt is the same kind of thinking that has blue haired grandmothers being frisked at airports. Profiling is a valid tool when the facts support it, and the fact is that arab men make up a disproportionate % of islamic fundamentalists. If you thought the same thing just because you saw two arab males walking down the street acting normal, then you should feel guilty!

3/03/2005 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger Donna Willard said...

Sorry...comparing someone of any ethnicity, race, gender, whatever, with a deadly gun walking down the street IS suspicious, because guns are explicitly dangerous. Talking on a payphone in a hotel cannot be compared to the gun toter because the danger is "suggested" only, and with a far reach of the imagination at that...I don't think anyone has ever been killed or maimed from a wound caused by two guys talking at a payphone...guns, bombs, knives, etc., but not that.

3/03/2005 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger Donna Willard said...

Let me try again...(it's not the gun walking down the street :) The two actions: someone---anyone---totin' a gun and someone---anyone---talking at a payphone in a hotel comprise two totally different situations, one imminently dangerous and the other one PERHAPS REMOTELY SUGGESTING danger.

3/03/2005 07:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Mitch Powitz said...


Hey I'm a usual reader of yours from the realmoney.com site ... and just want to say...

I understand why you feel the way feel, but in reality - there are just as many white Americans who are equally if not more dangerous than those two guys you saw. Granted, the situation alerted your senses, but the scarier thought is the person who you don't think will do harm that does. White Supremists, etc. Check out the movie Arlington Road if you've never seen it.

Now, that's scary.

Keep up the good work.

3/04/2005 08:39:00 PM  
Anonymous joeblue3 said...

I do not think we can come to a meaningful understanding of race and racism in our society until we can talk to each other without being offended that the "other" side doesn't understand your perspective.

Our individual histories and life experiences give definition to our perspectives which create our reality. These experiences are very rarely the same from person to person so our perspectives are inherently unique. Imagine the disparate beliefs on race relations produced by a black boy harassed weekly by the police or a redneck who is fed racist bile on a daily basis from his father.

It is OK to have different viewpoints. It is OK to disagree. It is NOT OK to dismiss someone's perspective as "wrong" simply because the life experience forming that opinion was different than yours.

In order to "form a more perfect union", I believe we must accept that our past is what it is, acknowledge it's imperfections and elevate our tolerance for each other's variant beliefs.

I am not a religious person. I worship at the Church of St. Mattress far more than I care to admit, but I think the following prayer is especially relevant in this post.

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me show love
Where there is injury, let me give pardon
Where there is doubt, let me have faith
Where there is darkness, let me spread light
Where there is sadness, help me find joy
Grant that I may not so much seek
to be understood
as to understand
To be loved...as to love"

3/18/2005 07:55:00 AM  

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