During the recent NBA finals, my partner, a life-long Golden State Warriors fan, kept saying to me “Thoughts become things.” He’s not particularly woo, but people tend to tap into the metaphysical when pro-sports championships are at stake. And we won, so maybe all his ‘winning’ thoughts made the difference. I don’t know. I do however believe thoughts are powerful.
It’s tricky though, because some thoughts are a lot like knee reflexes. Often they just happen.
For example, just because I know that body size doesn’t tell me about a person’s health, lifestyle, intelligence, or worth doesn’t mean my brain doesn’t make automatic assumptions. My brain does this increasingly less because of I’ve spent over a decade bringing awareness to and challenging any size prejudice thoughts I notice.
What I don’t do is beat myself up for having a judgmental thought. That’s what they call adding insult to injury. If I notice a prejudiced thought floating through my brain. I name it and remind myself of the truth: “You don’t know anything about that person from looking at them, just like they don’t know anything about you from looking at you” and move on.
I don’t believe people who say they don’t have prejudiced thoughts. We all do. Our society blasts images with corresponding meanings at us all day. We are told what beautiful looks like, what health looks like, what intelligence looks like, what fitness looks like, what love looks like, what criminals look like, what wealth looks like and so forth.
But these images are lies. These things—beauty, health, love, etc.—come in every package under the sun and the truth is that it can take our brains a while to catch up with this reality.
But we must fiercely participate in this catching up.
We have to bear witness to our thoughts and step in, with firm kindness, when they need correcting.
And, as I said, I’ve been doing this when it comes to body size, but I admit that haven’t been as diligent about racial assumptions. I’ve let myself believe that because my conscious mind isn’t racist that I don’t need to examine my own unconscious thoughts and actions.
That changed this week.
I’m stepping up and expanding my own awareness practices to include knee-jerk thoughts like these:
Like when, late at night, I see a male person of color walking towards me on the street and I react more fearfully than if he were white…
Like when I drive past the neighborhood liquor store and see a person of color emerge and for a split second make assumptions about them that I wouldn’t make about a white customer…
Like when I see a mother and child, both of color, and assume, again for a millisecond second, that the father isn’t the picture…
These micro-aggressive thoughts are my responsibility to challenge and uproot.
I can call myself liberal, awake, progressive, feminist, and most of all, an ally to people of color, but until I take responsibility for the places within myself where these ignorant and frankly violent thoughts of my heritage still remain I’m part of the problem.
Here’s to turning the light on.
Here’s to taking responsibility.
Here’s to truer thoughts becoming more peaceful things.