They say I’ll never know what it’s like to be scrutinized while shopping because of prejudice. I disagree. I moved from the country to a metropolis to study, I could not afford to bring my vehicle so I cultivated a new skill, the passion of longboarding. Naturally, I had purchases so I patronized markets and stores. While boarding I equipped my backpack with first aid, water, etc. I brought this in while shopping, which was typically viewed as suspicious and thus I was followed. This was not the only scenario. I am naturally nervous in crowds, so in supermarkets I fidget and chat to myself. I hastily look through for what I need, nervously, and typically check the ingredients for chemicals. Sometimes I employ whistling to ease my nerves, but to some this is more suspicious. I know what it is like to experience prejudice. When I mentioned this phrase, many people think of racial prejudice. This itself is a prejudice! Prejudice is instinctive, often a subconscious connection or pattern one forms from experience. Experience is probable at best.
There is an infamous story about a young black teen that was stopped by police while running through an affluent neighborhood. The young man was doing his daily exercise routine, but he was stopped and questioned because a robbery had taken place in the vicinity and he looked out of place or suspicious. This anecdote is used to proffer proof of racial discrimination in America. The individual had no connection with the theft, he was minding his own business and inconvenienced on the basis of prejudice. Now I wager a white child running near the scene of a crime might just as well have been suspect. In this scenario it is surmised the officers, because of their race, training, or perhaps life experience stopped an innocent black man and interrogated him on the basis of his race. Do you know what it is to surmise an individual act on account of a collective (occupational, racial, or otherwise)?
Victim of circumstance. One summer I was working two jobs, house-sitting and staying up too late. One morning I was tending to the animals in whose care I was entrusted, when to my surprise an officer had drawn on me. I froze, mind racing a mile a minute, afraid: I’m glad I didn’t panic and run. That is not to say the officer would have discharged her weapon had I done so, it just would have made the situation worse. Bewildered, what had I done, why had this sheriff thought of me as a threat? My brother had left for work some minutes ago, he had accompanied me in this house-sitting endeavor, and in haste had left the front door ajar. The officer was a friend of the family, she knew them to be on vacation, realizing the issue she approached the scene with caution. The situation was easily resolved, we parted as friends, but in this scenario I was rightly suspected, not of my own fault, but merely a victim of circumstance.
Clearly one cannot control another’s thoughts, so we cannot be free from being suspected, even if we are in the right. In America, however, we have the unique right of being innocent till proven guilty, that our liberties are not denied without probable cause and due process. Unfortunately, these rights are being eroded. In my state, for example, the only thing more rampant that rape is rape accusal. Legislation has been proposed that would deny citizens certain rights merely for being accused of a crime by another individual. One can surmise a disgruntled person would gladly make trouble out of spite, people (see black football star) have been imprisoned for as much. Baseless accusation are how lynchings happen, the forfeiture of one’s individual liberties without trial, regardless if the crime is as sinister as rape, is reprehensible.
I may not be familiar with the most current statistics or the most poignant anecdotes, but I do know people in America have this notion that others will act according to their community: their occupation, their race, their outlook. This prejudice affects American minorities, our law enforcement, and politicians. The crux/ lynchpin of this debacle is collectivism: that people are made to behave according to what you suppose the standard to be for their demographic. The solution is individualism: that each of us is different and deserve to be treated on our own merit. Though out past, our experience does influence our mindset it does not define us.