According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, perception is defined as “the way you think about or understand someone or something; the way that you notice or understand something using one of your senses”. And reality is defined as “the true situation that exists; something that actually exists or happens”. 
And here are a few quotes from an article by Ashley Fern on Elite Daily.
- “The world we see is a reflection of who we are and what we believe.”
- “The self-fulfilling prophecy lays at the foundation of this concept; a statement that alters actions and therefore becomes true. Someone who thinks their night is going to play out terribly will subconsciously change their actions so that this prediction is fulfilled by their actions. Often the way we perceive reality is colored by how we want it rather than simply the way it is.”
- “What people perceive is usually what they believe, and this is based on what they hear, see and think.”
I say all of this because of the recent uproar over a Gap ad that was PERCEIVED as being racist. Not everyone saw it this way. I didn’t see it that way. But, then again, I’m not black so I’m not seeing it through the eyes of someone who is. I had to really look at it, and try to see it through different eyes. In trying to do that I saw…
- It was three white girls to one black girl. (Outnumbered?)
- The black girl appeared smaller than the white girls. (Inferior? Less than?)
- The tallest white girl had her arm resting on the black girl’s head. (Trying to keep her down? Keep her from her potential?)
- The black girl was wearing a different color than the white girls.
I saw four girls, one of whom was different. Her shirt said “Love” on it. She was different, but she was included. They were all young girls. What did that mean to me; what was my interpretation of what I saw? Yes, we’re different, but with “Love” we are also the same. But, that’s my perception and I’ve read that “your perception is your reality”.
I think some people (this includes ALL people of ALL races) look for things to create conflict, tension, discord; even when there’s nothing there. Why? I have no idea. Maybe they thrive on it. Maybe they’re unhappy and want others to feel the same way. Misery loves company you know. There was no “passive racism”. You may have perceived it as such, but that wasn’t what the people behind the Gap ad intended.
It’s my opinion, philosophy, whatever you wanna call it, that intent is what matters. If someone says something to me that I find offensive or hurts my feelings, I’ll say something. If they say, “I didn’t mean to offend you or hurt your feelings” then I’m not going to raise holy hell. And most of the time, I think you can tell if there’s intent behind what someone says or does.
I also don’t think that just because someone’s offended or raises hell over something that they perceive to be true that someone else should have to resign or pull an ad. If you can prove intent, fine; pull the ad. As far as resigning from their position or their job, people are human. They make mistakes. They say and do things without thinking it through; without thinking about how someone else is going to interpret it. How it’s going to make someone else feel. People are lazy. They don’t think that much. It uses too much energy. I think most people though, once it’s pointed out to them, try to make amends and try not to make that same mistake again. People are not infallible.
Again, it’s easy for me to say all of this because I haven’t lived my entire life feeling that I was being treated differently, being seen differently, just because I was born with a certain color skin. I’m not saying either side (There are other “sides”. The world isn’t just black and white.) is right or wrong. I’m saying all of this to try to get people to see things, think about things differently. Try to see things from a different perspective. Maybe if you try to see it from someone who’s been discriminated against their whole life, you’ll understand why something might have upset them. And, if you try to see it from someone who may not have had that intent, you’ll see that they weren’t trying to discriminate.
I think if we all tried, really tried, to see things with “Love” in our hearts, with compassion and kindness, we can try to mend the hurt and rebuild relationships between people of all colors.