I write about my life and life itself seen through my eyes for who can write through the experiences of others if not their own?

Monday, August 10, 2009

I'm So Prejudiced!

This past Sunday I ran the Catskill Mountain 100K, a 5 people team race where each person runs two 10Ks.

I only had 4 runners and desperately needed one more; the recruitment for the last female had been elusive. My friend, with whom I had planned running the relay for months, had injured herself two weeks earlier and I was left “captain” by default.

Three days before the relay having depleted all options for recruitment, I contacted a woman, a summer visitor who had come to one of the runs at my house. She gladly accepted.

I informed my teammates that our mixed category (three men 2 women) team was up and running (no pun intended) and the other female “is a Hasidic but she is really nice”, I said justifying my choice.

By the third phone call I realized what I was saying. I was identifying our new runner by her ethnic background and I was assuring my team that in spite of it, she was a nice person as if it was an exception I was willing to carve out.

I grew up in a family of “soft prejudice”. Exceptions were made all the time for blacks and occasionally gays but at the core of their essence appalling epithets remained part of our lives. These minority groups were always regarded as avoidable and sadly, of a lower status than the rest.

The accusations were seldom supported by actual data and at best they were founded in one incident passed second hand and hardly ever personal.

I have written in the past with disapproval about our human tendency to disregard our positive experience and concentrate on the negative however infrequent it may be. Often, we afford more importance to one incident that upset us than to the many others that gave us joy.

It’s the unfairness of what we do.

When the Relay was over, I drove home with a trophy for the team. I called the Hasidic runner on my way and told her I had a medal and shirt for her. She drove to meet me at a gas station. I handed her the medal and shirt and then the trophy. Her face lightened with surprise. “But you are the captain, it’s your trophy, I’m happy you included me”.

“It is yours, you made our team possible, without you we would not have been able to participate. You earned this trophy”.

I drove away watching her stand in the drizzle- her hair covered in a net still wearing the skirt she had run in - holding her hand to her chest in appreciation. She ran to my car and gave me a hug.

She had already given me a lot more than that. She taught me a lesson.