Perception is Reality, Part Deux

Here's a slightly different take on Perception and Reality.

I was at a birthday party several years ago and was speaking with an acquaintance. Let's call her Ceci. She's very intelligent and very successful. Princeton undergrad, an Attorney, tall, good-looking and black. She was born and raised in New Jersey. I was raised in central Pennsylvania. Her take on Pennsylvania is that everyone past Philadelphia regularly walks around in white hoods, carrying a torch in one hand. At the time, I was merely bemused. Later on, as I thought back, I was mildly offended. I don't think I was deeply offended, but I was deeply affected. I continued to replay that interaction, testing it for perception vs reality.

Recently, I had the chance to do a little research into her perception. If you'd like your nice suburban butt kicked out of your comfort zone, go browse The Southern Poverty Law Center website. My analysis is going to be far from a thorough scientific report, but it will give you some idea of where reality lies. Lays. Lies. What's true and not.

Pennsylvania has 46,058 square miles and 37 known hate groups, which equals 1 hate group per 1,245 square miles. New Jersey, at 8,722 square miles, is about 1/5 the size of its neighbor. New Jersey has 40 known hate groups, which equals 1 hate group per 218 sq miles.

Pennsylvania has a population of about 12,500,000 people which is about 1 hate group per 337,840 people. New Jersey has a population of about 8,680,000 people. That's 1 hate group per 217,000 people.

I'm not picking on New Jersey. Some of my best friends are from New Jersey. They can be very nice. ;-) I just wanted to check Ceci's perception. And defend Pennsylvania. She, like most people, are comfortable at home, no matter what "home" actually is. It could, in fact, be dangerous, abusive, toxic. But not knowing what's out there, the unfamiliar, is UNcomfortable, even scary. What is that saying about the known evil? Help me out here. Think about the extreme situation where a child is abused in her own home. But it's home and normal to her. She grows up and what? Another abusive situation. Feels like home. How about you? What do you take for granted as being safe and even, good? but is merely familiar?


Julie said...

I know all too well about hate groups and racism. I don't know if you saw the sign "Vote right. Vote white." when Obama was running for office? It was in all the papers and spread like wildfire on the internet. Well, that sign was about a half hour from my house. That kind of blatant racism surrounds me. I also think that on Emily's soccer team was the child of a white supremist. I don't know that for a fact but I would be willing to bet a lot of money on the fact the family member was one with all his swastika tattoos. The sad part is we live in a really nice neighborhood. We are very suburban and by and large an educated group of people. It saddens me to think that it exists here too where people should "know" better.

The sad thing is I have had more than one person tell me it was ok that I adopt an "oriental" baby because they are "almost" white. What?!?!?! They aren't white at all. They are Asian. I also tell people that rugs are oriental and people are Asian.

I very rarely let my perception of right and wrong guide me anymore as far as what is familiar is concerned. I think that comes from traveling to other countries. You learn that you are not the only one that is out there and that your way isn't the only right way. You become more tolerant of others around you. I think that my parents did me a great favor when they took us abroad when we were young. I know that comes off snobby but it is not supposed to. They worked very hard and saved a lot to make these trips possible for us. It's just I think that we would be in a better place in the world if more people went to places completely different from where they are now. It would certainly open their eyes.

Lora said...

I took an organized crime class in undergrad, and learned about the hate centered in New Jersey. About how NJ is worse than the deep south. One of the kids in class stood up and said "yeah, but if you were from New Jersey you would understand why we hate everyone who isn't white."

Needless to say he was asked to leave.

It's just sickening.