People do too much of it

I recently saw a film about racism and sexism and their effects on people. The participants were lined up in chairs in a video studio, including all the cultural groups—Asian, Latino, female, black, and white in various combinations.

They all had sob stories about how racism or sexism had adversely affected them. When I say sob stories I don’t mean to imply that their emotion was feigned or exaggerated, although they didn’t mumble or hesitate the way many people might when discussing their innards and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to learn that they’re actors. They at least presumably knew for some time that they were gonna be in a video and why and didn’t just wander into the studio. Some of them were hurt and some were angry, but they had all been traumatized by sexism or racism, or both. There were maybe 10 people, including facilitators. Festering psychic wounds revealed in HD.

As a black man I know something about racism and sexism first hand, not everything, just some things. So when the young black woman began her tale of anguish over feeling that she had to give up her identity when she was at work I empathized. I think mostly she doesn’t know who she is yet, because I think if she did, she couldn’t help being herself, and the subject wouldn’t arise. She’s hurting because she feels like a sell-out, over and over every day. Anybody would hurt in that situation, although persuading the dominant culture to value you is the long way round to feeling better.

Overall, those suspiciously articulate and insightful whiners are distressed about how they think other people think about them, sometimes based on the look in a stranger’s eyes. A look can say it all, but it doesn’t mean anything unless you care about the eyes’ owner, and it’s still guesswork. One Latino man claimed to be constantly upset because white people don’t take his point of view into account or seem to care about his feelings. What a life.

All sorts of people are victims of prejudice, ethnic and gender perhaps most commonly but there are any number of ways to judge us and somebody is tough on each one. I felt sorry for the put-upon people, not on account of an “-ism” so much as because their self-esteem depends on what other people think, especially people who don’t like them. They suffer from their thoughts. Then, because I didn’t like feeling sorry—even for a stranger, although I admit it’s way better than feeling sorry for myself—I decided to think about something else and did. No problem.