Does It Scare You To Jaywalk?
Illustrated by Christopher Olson
“We all see the world through a lens. We look through lenses of age, ethnicity, race, ability and that’s how we see the world.” These words are from Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, who was discussing the Charlottesville riots in 2017 on a Facebook live video. Her statement made me reflect on the lenses through which I see the world in my day to day life. One of the first of those lenses that come to mind—a lens I think about all the time—is that I am a person of color.
How does being a person of color influence my perspective? Here is one way: because of the clear injustices that happen to people of color, I have a different perspective from my white friends when it comes to the police. A simple example that happens every day is when my friends and I are crossing the road. When the lights are red, my friends will usually check to see if there are any cars coming; if not, they’ll go ahead and cross. As for me, I always wait until the pedestrian sign appears. Every time this happens, I have one thought crossing my mind: if I follow them and cross the road illegally and if we get stopped by the police, is there a probability that I’ll be the only one getting in trouble? Chances might seem slim but because I often see black people getting wrongly arrested/accused, I can’t help but think that I will not be an exception. Race plays a big role when it comes to privilege, and as a black woman, I consciously or subconsciously view some things differently as a result.
In one of my classes, the teacher asked if we consider being able to attend Dawson College a privilege. I could see the uncertainty among my classmates and I, which was followed by another question from the teacher: “What is the definition of being poor? How would you know if someone is poor?” One student answered by saying that seeing homeless people in the streets is a good indication. The teacher then responded by saying there could be people in the class that are poor, or people who go to Dawson that are poor, but we can’t really tell. This little example ties in with how our perception of what being poor really means. Because of the socioeconomic status of those who belong to the upper and middle classes, their perspectives might be limited when it comes to understanding what poverty looks like.
In order for us to be able to understand different perspectives, we need empathy, which requires personal reflection. People should learn to listen to one another more. When one has a different opinion from the other, it’s easier to disagree and then dismiss what the other person is saying. The problem with this is, just because we don’t see things the way the other person does, it does not mean their opinion is less important or is wrong. Listening to other’s life stories, experiences and opinions not only helps us understand of perspectives different from our own but it also may shape our own perspective and help us grow as individuals.