(Estimated reading time 2 minutes)
You can’t see what you can’t see. Sometimes what you can’t see shapes the world in a profound way.
From time to time I have lunch with a friend of mine. My friend is from the Middle East. She is visibly Muslim – she wears a hijab. Some time back, we were having lunch, and I noticed something. For me, it was just the flicker of something in my peripheral vision. Was the waitress really only directing her comments at me and not even making eye contact with my friend? At the time, I pushed it aside, not knowing if I’d actually seen anything. I focused on catching up with my friend. Later this seemingly tiny incident kept coming back to me. Was I making it up? Making too much of it? Did I really see what I thought I saw?
The next time I had lunch with my friend, I decided to ask her if my recollections of our previous lunch were accurate. I felt kind of stupid bringing it up, but I’m trying to be courageous in my life, so I asked her anyway.
Our conversation went something like this:
Me: Remember the last time we had lunch? There was something that I think happened, but I’m not sure, and it’s bothering me. I wanted to get your take on it. All through the meal, it felt like the waitress was only addressing her comments to me. Are you ready to order? How’s the food? Would you like more water? One bill or two? Did I make that up?
My friend: You didn’t make it up. It happens to me all the time. It’s even happening with our waitress today.
I was shocked. Even though I had been thinking about the events at our previous lunch, reading a bit about racism and doing some self-reflection in this area, I still hadn’t seen it happen right in front of my eyes. It was only once my friend told me that I could see it in the present situation. It made me realize that my friend experiences a different reality than I do. Even though we live in the same country, it’s a different world.
Just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Sometimes you need to ask someone else to show it to you.
It makes me wonder what else I’m not seeing.
Sue Das, Courage Coach, CPCC, ACC , B Soc Sc (SW)