St. Peters, MO
Driving brings out the worst in all of us, no? I think I have done a good job in life of respecting people for who they are in spite of having been exposed to many stereotypes and prejudices, some involving race, in my short 30 years…but then I catch myself being cut off while driving. And what are always the first things that come to my mind? How do I handle this situation mentally? I don’t typically just think, ‘what a terrible driver’. It usually comes with some eye-rolling and an acute awareness that the driver’s license plater says ‘Texas’ loud and proud on it, or that they’re driving a Mercedes, or that they’re driving an old beater, or that they’re a certain race or that they even appear to be a certain stereotype within a race. I think to myself, ‘go figure, they’re XYZ.’ Maybe the person is actually quite like me, driving a car quite similar to mine. ‘This is why women have such a bad driving reputation,’ I think to myself. ‘Thanks, lady, for re-enforcing the stereotype.’ As if it’s no shock that I was cut off because of some physical, geographic or material attribute that has nothing to do with what just happened…even when they’re similar to me. The truth is that I’m angry because I feel like I have been wronged. I would be angry no matter who did this. So why do my thoughts instantly conjure up ‘excuses’? I’m sad that I think this way, but acutely aware that we are all guilty of this at times – even if it remains an internal thought. Driving in a car is just an easy example because it is something that nearly all of us can relate to, obviously these instantaneous thoughts seep into other facets of life without my realizing it until I really dig back retrospectively.
I was at Michele’s talk last night in St. Louis, and I think the most important message in that talk was supplied by a story she told regarding her grandmother: ‘Focus on the children’. I don’t want to harbor these thoughts, perhaps that’s why I’m so aware that I just had them. So why are they there? Perhaps because I was exposed to them, whether at home, school or work, somewhere along the way my brain decided that ‘this is how you react to being cut off on the highway.’ Maybe if we all resisted tagging on that extra, unneeded thought when driving on the highway with our kids, they would never have those thoughts. Maybe we could just say, ‘Ugh, what a bad driver, they could have caused an accident,’ instead of tacking on that bit about ‘ah, they’re XYZ, go figure’.