I am quite a reflective person. I reflect on the reasons why I have done things in my past to better understand the self I currently am today. I have not always done this, many years ago all I did was look at the now and took action accordingly. So what has brought me to this juncture? Why am I writing this?. It was an article I had seen recently about past language and behaviours written by David McQueen. I had also seen other articles about past thoughts and how they feel about their past thoughts.
My reflection started with the society that we live in now verses, the one we lived in when I was a teenager. During those times, it was ok to be negative towards gay people, white people could use the N word freely, people with disabilities were called crippled and women were extremely sexualised. In my community the notion of being gay was one of being dirty, women were seen as not being valuable and if you had a disabled child it was not spoken about.
I remember that my mothers’ view was so different to so many of her peers. She said, “people don’t choose to be gay, they can’t switch it on and off”. Although I was taught this, I was still influenced by my environment. I was never negative towards gay people but I am sure I wouldn’t of gone out of my way to speak to someone who was gay.
Language in those days did not promote inclusivity, it promoted separation. It was them and us. There was limited integration on my street, but I did have a white friend and an Asian friend, Catherine and Lovely. Although we were friendly our parents did not mingle with each other. I remember someone called my Asian friend the P word, I defended her and was upset that she was so sad. Catherine didn’t have any problems with people calling her names. I didn’t know then, that because she was white she was less likely to be called names.
I feel during my younger years, negativity about people who were not white was encouraged. Negative stereotypes on TV, teachers, doctors and alike perpetuated negativity and caused angst. I believe my self worth during this time was quite low. However I didn’t have time to be concerned about my worth because I was busy surviving like everyone else.
Everyone who looked like me, seemed to be struggling. I don’t remember meeting a middle class black person until I met my great Aunt years later. Neither did I know of anyone who was gay, or maybe I did but they had to conceal it. I did however know a disabled elderly lady who lived across the road from us. My mum use to send us across the road to get money to do shopping for her. I also had a friend who was deaf and could not speak. I am afraid the term we used then was deaf and dumb, which is shocking.
My value system has always been strong thanks to my mother but society skewered by view of people and of myself. I wish I recognised much earlier that I needed to re-educate myself to fully understand how people live, learn more about their culture and to be more confident to engage with people, rather than wait to see if they would speak to me. Lifes lessons I suppose. I am glad I paid attention and strived to be the best version of me.
Re-education of self has been a steady progressive affair. I realise my worth and I recognised that some of those in power create narratives that don’t belong in today’s society. Educating oneself rather than rely on the system has been a good way for me to learn about others. My world view has changed because I have become more understanding. My confidence has increased because I learnt about me, my history and the person I want to be.