Tiger Times

Exhume their stories

Senior learns to look past judgment, stereotypes

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Photo by Alyssa Kift

Photo by Alyssa Kift

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Story by Colton Johnson, editor in chief

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There are those of us who, no matter how diligently they try to be on time, always seem to be just a few minutes late. There are those of us who believe in life after death. Those of us who fall in love with someone of the same gender.

There are those of us who are Asian. Those of us who are Hindu. Those of us who are martial artists. Those of us who aren’t guaranteed a meal when they go home. There are some of us who have been out of the country, and some of us who have never left the state. Those of us who have wisdom from experience, and those of us who are beginning new chapters. 

Then, there’s us, who, when we put our hands to our chest, will feel a heartbeat. Us who know that heartache fills your stomach with lead, who have accidently left the towel on the opposite side of the bathroom and tiptoed across the floor in the cold to get it. 

There’s us. People who — despite our differences, despite our opinions, despite our workplace or our backgrounds — are more alike than different.

We categorize people based on their differences, boxing them in glass walls so that they can do no more than look across the great expanse of space separating us from them, whether it be between two countries or a cash register. ”

— Colton Johnson

We categorize people based on their differences, boxing them in glass walls so that they can do no more than look across the great expanse of space separating us from them, whether it be between two countries or a cash register. 

It is at this point that we begin to disqualify people over their humanhood. It is rather a matter of us versus them. It is this label of “them,” a distinction of otherness, that allows us to stereotype, to paint the faces of those people, whose lives are as complex and elaborate as our own.

It creates darkness, the list of “ism” words: Racism. Sexism. Heterosexism. Mentalism. Cissexism. Ableism. Classism. Lookism. 

I think people do not ask because it is easier to look at life through one lens rather than many. We have been learning to annotate poetry through different lenses, and I try to look at people the same way. It is easy to be angry at people who receive welfare or disability checks when you don’t see their life at home.

There was a woman named Ms. Bernice who used to take care of me when I was young. She was a black woman who cooked collard greens, fried chicken and called us her black “grandbabies.” I loved her, and she loved me. She also didn’t have a working air conditioner in her house. She has never left her hometown of Tampa, Florida. Ever.

I think she is one of the reasons I have always tried to look past a stereotype. She has more love in her heart than most of the people I have ever met. 

According to Princeton psychologists, it only takes a tenth of a second to judge someone based on their appearance, and if not reevaluated, the judgment stands. 

It is so easy to forget that the woman behind the cash register with tired eyes and a soft smile may also be a widower, a mother or a cancer patient trying to make ends meet. And yet, no one seems to take the time to connect with them. Because in that moment, they are not interested in them as people, they are interested in them to get something they want. 

I guess I had sort of a realization whenever I was putting money for gas on a card in a Walmart gas station. A woman by the name of Freedom, with a big, toothy smile asked how my day was, and I can’t explain it any other way than to say that she genuinely wanted to know. I had just had an audition for a show, and she seemed so excited for me. She told me to let her know if I got the part. 

We all have hope. We all feel pain. We all die. We are all living on the same planet in the same generation, and to me, that is pretty special. In all the time we could’ve been born, we are here, experiencing the same world, and yet, there is so much that people experience differently. ”

— Colton Johnson

And so, the next time I went in, I did. I have continued to. We always talk about what has happened in our lives since we last saw each other. It has made me realize the humanity in her. The stories in everyone. 

We all have hope. We all feel pain. We all die. We are all living on the same planet in the same generation, and to me, that is pretty special. In all the time we could’ve been born, we are here, experiencing the same world, and yet, there is so much that people experience differently. 

The world is filled to the brim, bursting with stories. With people who dream, some who have not seen those dreams to fruition. With people who have loved and lost. With love. The common bond. The beat in every heart that urges us to move forward. 

It is love that makes us human; it unites us. It is the most important thing. 

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About the Contributors
Colton Johnson, editor in chief
If a tragically humiliating outbreak of stress hives the week before Prom didn’t stop senior Colton Johnson from obtaining ⅓ of the power over the print newspaper along with his fearless co-editors in chief, then it seems that nothing can truly break this free flyin colt (knock on wood). In his three years serving on...
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