I had to attend a "meeting" of sorts recently that required the presence of many Africans and African Americans. It was an open forum for a job. I am being purposely vague because the actual even was so specific that to reveal it would erase the anonymity of the attendees and I do not want that to be the purpose or "fault" of this blog entry.
The event was strange to me because I have not been around so many people of color in over a year ... the exact amount of time I have spent in Poland. I had to ask myself why this event would be different? Is skin color such a factor in my life that it became the main thing I saw? Well, yes and no.
The difference for me was in the feel or energy. There was something about being around people that looked like me that made a difference. I am not sure if this sounds racist or prejudice to some people, but, nonetheless, it is true for me. A part of me believes that my upbringing has unconsciously ingrained in me a feeling of being different. Growing up in the US in the 80's, I was painfully aware of differences in all aspects of my life. There was no ignoring the fact that I was different looking than the people I was around. However, never did I stop to think past the color of the skin. Being in Poland has forced me to look at people for who they are and not their skin color. It sounds cliche, but I have to admit I feel a deep sense of truth in this statement. I cannot judge people on skin appearance here as I so often did in the US. All Poles are basically the same "color" to me.
So, how does a sometimes judgmental person figure out who to dislike when I have that unhealthy urge to pigeonhole a person?
I guess this is another blessing I have received from living in Poland. I have had to become less judgmental, more open minded, more honest with myself and, most importantly, more willing to know a person before deciding if this is a person I want to be around.