The PowerPoint presentation covers the gamut of possibilities for prejudice and bias. Race, gender orientation, age, religion, and body shape; it has them all! I see a lot of Asian faces in the mix. some of them are attractive to me if, I were to meet them in real life. I guess some other people would find that those faces awaken their prejudices. As a person who does not fit into the standard “American” image, a lot of these pictures simply don’t make me think negative thoughts. I feel like I am an outsider a lot of the time, both among Caucasians, and among Chinese and other Asians, because of my personal history, and I identify with outsider groups.
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Prejudice and prejudice
The exception is the picture of the very seriously overweight people. Being very fat has been uncommon in China. Food has been very scarce and so precious in China for most of the past millennium. Chinese hospitality meant you offered guest food immediately because there was always a real chance that the guest had not eaten recently or enough. Looking at ancient screens and paintings, it seems that few people have ever gotten the chance to get overweight. In ancient China, women had to have their feet bound to be able to build up fat on their thighs. Even today, Chinese people are not comfortable with obesity. There were a lot of negative comments a while ago when the Chinese government prohibited adoptions by people who were obese. Of course, this does not give me an excuse to be prejudiced, but at least I know where it comes from.
So when I see very fat people, it is somewhat disturbing, and still very alien to me. I think that when I see a fat person, I am imagining that they must be greedy or lazy or both. Intellectually, I know that there may be medical reasons why someone is very fat, and I read about portion size and calorie density all the time in magazines. I know from reading articles everywhere that losing weight is difficult for people in this country these days. However, when I see gross obesity, it makes me uncomfortable nonetheless. I want to look away.
As a result, I have not dated a lot of women who are above normal weight. I do not have a huge number of friends who are very overweight. If I were working for someone who was obese, I might have an attitude that they were not working as hard as me. If I were working next to someone who was obese, I think I might be resentful and imagine that they were not working as hard as me. If a very overweight woman was interested in me, I wonder if I could be as polite and gracious as a gentleman should be, or if I would even consider going out with her.
I know that this level of prejudice is damaging and could prevent me from taking advantage of valuable opportunities socially or professionally. What if the job of my dreams is in an office run by a very obese person? What if my soul mate is overweight? What if there are people who are obese who could be helpful to me in school or career, and I have ignored them?
Of course, my silent judgment about those who are obese is probably detectable to them, even if only unconsciously. It must be hurtful and wounding. As I think about it, I wonder how many people are thinking about me the same way, imagining that I am “inscrutable” or smell of garlic, or have nothing on my mind but making money or gambling, or that I don’t have good personal hygiene. I wonder if they are thinking Chin Chin Chinamen, eats dead cats- if he can’t get them, eats dead rats. Those are all things that people think about Chinese folks when they don’t know them personally.
I know that there are people around me whom I could cultivate as friends who are overweight. I should probably simply swallow hard, and sit with some of these people at lunch. If I get to know one or a couple of people who happen to be obese, maybe I can reassure that part of myself that is still acting as though it is still living in China, that they are not lazy, don’t eat more than other people (I know all this scientifically already; I do read!), don’t smell funny, and have all the usual good qualities to offer that other people do: humor, interest in music, reading, nature, travel, and whatever else we can find to talk about, just like other people. When my brain gets the message, I hope I can give up this prejudice. It would certainly expand the number of women that I could hang out with!
I hope that I do not need to be seen with glamorous women. Well, maybe some women are overweight who are also glamourous. There probably are. There are certainly large African-American women who are glammed out, like Queen Latifa. A large woman won an Academy Award this year. I have to keep my eyes open and my mind, too, to notice women looking nicely dressed and accessories who are also overweight. It must be a challenge to look hot when all the clothes are designed for size 2s.
Now that I have thought this through, I am feeling a bit better about the idea of getting to know more overweight people, women, especially. I hope I can follow through with this plan to get a more realistic and accepting idea of what people are like who have different body shapes and sizes.