Isn’t it crazy how our first impressions of someone can be completely wrong? I’ve had people tell me I look more like a Keisha than a Jennifer (what?!). I’ve seen mouths drop when I state that I graduated from BYU and yes, we’re Mormon (though technically not called that anymore). We’ve all had our share of wrong first impressions.
Before my husband and I had our first date I had a picture in my mind of what he would look like. We’d spoken on the phone and I knew he grew up for awhile in North Carolina, was a big sports fan, his mom was from Atlanta (like me!) and he served a mission in the Caribbean. I assumed tall dark and handsome. I was not expecting a cute white dude from Utah. Now this is another story for another day. But what I will say is through the years I’ve continued to learn a lot about first impressions.
We met on that blind date of sorts, 15 years ago this week. I thought he was cute, but a bit quiet. A little funny. Based on that first impression, I wasn’t sure it was going to work. I didn’t know if he’d get me. But it only took a couple more dates for me to realize that this guy was made for me. From serenading me with 90s R&B, to introducing me to fry sauce and Cafe Rio.
Throughout our years together we’ve had a lot more first impression mixups. People not realizing we are together in line, people assuming I’m not my daughter’s mom, people assuming he’s not our son’s father, and other things here and there that honestly, (and thankfully) feel most like distant memories at this point. But one thing that’s bothering me more than I realized is an assumption people make when my husband puts on his work uniform.
“Do people ever call you racist?” I asked him one afternoon in passing.
“HA!” He shouted in response. “Are you joking?”
I’ll admit the question was kind of a joke. I knew angry people called him that sometimes but I don’t think I knew (and still don’t know) the extent.
“Every day,” he said. Like, multiple times a day. As in, when responding to a call, while monitoring a protest, or randomly yelled at a passerby driving down the street.
It doesn’t really bother him. He’s used to it. And it didn’t used to bother me. Mainly because I’d resorted to it coming with the territory. But recently an acronym appeared in a comment below one of my Instagram photos that sent my into a fury.
First off, let me say that this wasn’t from any of my lovely followers. The photo was of Lil’ J and I at her daddy’s graduation from the police academy about 7 years ago. I used it for a partnership about helping the homeless. Well the post was promoted across the platform and reached many many more people. Many strangers. Strangers that didn’t like 1. Our interracial marriage. And 2. The fact that he was a police officer.
I can’t even tell you the level of horrendous comments some people had the gaul to write. Most of them surrounding the fact that he would likely kill me, or how disgusting our relationship was. Some dared to say that “given the climate” our photo was insensitive. Excuse me? Are these the same types of people who would say that a black person trying not to sit in the back of the bus in the 50s was being insensitive given the climate? I’m sorry but our existence isn’t a political statement.
I noticed four capital letters that seemed to be repeated over and over by numerous commenters (before I shut the comments off completely).
After awhile my curiosity was piqued so I googled it and learned it stands for “All cops are bastards.”
Well that’s not very nice.
My entire life I’ve been put off by stereotypes.
Assuming all women are ______.
All black people are _______.
People assuming I got the job because I’m black. Or that’s the reason I got into college, ignoring the hard work and straight As.
Then it brought me back to a section of a book I read that embodies what I was feeling.
A lot of us would get upset if my kids or I was called the N word. My husband would probably lose his mind. But do I get upset when I see someone call him a pig?
There’s a part in Brene Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness where she sums up her beliefs and fully encompasses my conflicted feelings on the matter:
Here’s what I believe:
1. If you are offended or hurt when you hear Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters called bitch, whore, or the c-word, you should be equally offended and hurt when you hear those same words used to describe Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, or Theresa May.
2. If you felt belittled when Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables” then you should have felt equally concerned when Eric Trump said “Democrats aren’t even human.”
3. When the president of the United States calls women dogs or talks about grabbing pussy, we should get chills down our spine and resistance flowing through our veins. When people call the president of the United States a pig, we should reject that language regardless of our politics and demand discourse that doesn’t make people subhuman.
4. When we hear people referred to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder, “Is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?”
5. If you’re offended by a meme of Trump Photoshopped to look like Hitler, then you shouldn’t have Obama Photoshopped to look like the Joker on your Facebook feed. There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization—the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.
My life circumstances have forced me to have a more open mind but I still make mistakes. I’m still learning. Really, we all are. And real courage comes when we’re brave enough to admit that.
In reality you know nothing about a person at first glance. You could make assumptions. But you’re risking being very wrong.
15 years ago I had the wrong first impression of my husband. But I’m glad I said yes to a second date.