“Do not call for black power or green power. Call for brain power.” (Barbara Jordan) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to add his comments about Black History Month, which is what Barbara Jordan was alluding to in her quote.
It’s interesting that the brain helps us distinguish between colors, but it is the mind that assigns tags to those colors. Those tags may include fear or mistrust or prejudices, based solely upon color. For some that is enough for them to form opinions or to make judgments. Yet, if we used our brains, we might ask ourselves, upon what basis of facts, other than color am I basing these feelings or opinions? Have I even talked to this person? Do I even know their name or anything about their life story? How can I have jumped to a conclusion of fear or mistrust, based solely upon the one input of color? Yet many do. Use your brain.
There is an old piece of advice that is widely circulated in signs and sayings that goes: “Engage brain before engaging mouth.” It might also apply that one should engage their brains before making up their minds, especially about other people. Color is just one differentiation between people; it just happens to be the easiest to spot. Use your brain.
Language and the way people speak is another differentiation that many use to jump to discriminatory opinions. We have had such an influx of immigration from so many foreign countries that it is almost impossible not to overhear others speaking in a language that we do not understand or with an accent that is noticeable. There is also the street slang (sometimes labeled Ebonics) that is used by a portion of the African-American population. Any of these cues can kick off an immediate reaction that is just as powerful as the recognition of the color of the individual. Those reactions are often not favorable and lead to conclusions that are just as wrong as those based solely upon color. Use your brain.
The best advice against letting these or any other differences that one might notice lead you immediately to some conclusion or reaction is to engage your brain. Think before you act or react. Learn to control your mind. The first thing that most will have to do is to calm the perception of that person somehow representing a threat to you. Unless someone walks up to you with some sort of weapon in their hand, why do you perceive them to be a threat? Is it their color? Is it the way they speak? Is it how they are dressed? Why are any of those things a threat to you? Use your brain.
The key to using your brain is to let it work without a preconceived overlay of prejudice or fear. We have turned the old saying “innocent until proven guilty” completely around and perverted it through our prejudices into “guilty until they can prove themselves to be innocent.” If, instead of thinking (with our minds) that every person of color or language difference that you meet is somehow out to do you harm; it might make life more interesting and rewarding, if you went into each meeting with a new person in the frame of mind that you were going to get to know them and see what interesting things that you might learn from them. You can do that if you, Use your brain.
I suspect that the people that you jump to conclusion about get awfully tired of having to prove themselves to you somehow. They may have also jumped to conclusions about you, based upon what they see or hear from you. They may have fears about you and what you may do to them, especially if you happen to be wearing a police uniform. You might immediately say how could they think that about you? Well, duh; use your brain; what’s on the news all too often these days. “If they only got to know me”, you might think; “they wouldn’t be afraid of me.” OK, so why is the opposite not true? Use your brain.
As you go about your day and the upcoming weekend, try to be more cognizant of the frequency in which you let some preconceived prejudice in your mind take control of you and shape your reactions to people. The more you become aware of it the easier it might become to at least stop and try to Use your brain.
You’ll be glad that you did.