Jelalian: On weight loss and racism
Some things should go without saying, but unfortunately, they still need to be said.
“Nobody is perfect” is one of those things.
I shouldn’t have to say it, but here we are.
We’re all flawed people. Some of us are impatient. Some of us are lazy. Some of us are rude. And some of us like pineapple on pizza.
I’d like to talk about two of my imperfections and hopefully make a point that will help someone with theirs.
My first flaw is that I’m fat, unnecessarily so.
To clarify, I have a weight issue due to a lack of trying. I’m not one of those people who exercises, eats healthily, and just can’t manage to lose weight.
That’s just not the reality of my situation.
I’ve made some small changes and continue making small changes, but ultimately I’d have to put more effort into weight loss to see any meaningful change. And unfortunately, I still prefer tacos to carrots.
I bring up these specific issues to bring up a point.
Should I lose some weight? Yes. Do I have the right to be fat? For sure. Does having this right mean I shouldn’t try to lose weight? No. Does being fat mean I’m a bad person? No. Does it mean I’m out to terrorize your family with Oreos? No. Can I be a good husband, son, father, neighbor, friend and community member while still fat? 100%.
Could being fat cause problems for others? In a way, yeah. Unnecessary weight is commonly connected to a variety of health issues. An avoidable heart attack could very well place a burden on friends, family and possibly others.
Which brings me to my second flaw.
Harvard University has a set of exams that you can take online for free. They’re called their Implicit Association Tests” or IATs. These tests contain a series of questions and exercises that measure if you have an implicit preference toward one group of people or another. They test every kind of preference from race to political persuasions to disabilities to gender to sexuality.
This week, I took on that measured implicit preferences between white people (European American) and black people (African American.)
I answered the questions as best as I could and made an honest-to-God attempt to complete the exercises to the best of my abilities.
The results of my test were that I had a “strong automatic preference to European Americans over African Americans.”
There are five levels of preference between no preference and extreme preference, and if no preference was at the bottom then “strong” was fourth from the top.
I don’t want to give away how the test works because I hope some of you will Google “Harvard IAT” and take the test for yourself, and explaining the test beforehand will make it much easier to game the results in your favor.
And I don’t want to dismiss what I think the shortcomings of the test were. And I don’t think anyone would claim that an easy-to-game test is the end-all-be-all to whether you have racist tendencies or not.
But I’d rather focus on what it made me do.
It made me think about myself and the world view I hold.
Should I work on my racist tendencies? Yes. Do I have the right to be racist? For sure. Does having this right mean I shouldn’t try to hold racist views? No. Does being racist mean I’m a bad person? In some ways yes, and in some ways no. Does it mean I’m out to terrorize your family with bedsheets and burning crosses? No. Can I be a good husband, son, father, neighbor, friend and community member while still having these tendencies? Most of the time, probably.
But does holding a racist view affect others? It sure can. If those views make me intentionally or unintentionally prejudiced against someone or if those views blind me to the need for reforms, a racist belief will hurt people.
I thought about what the results meant and instances when I had racist ideas and thoughts.
I thought about a time where I was surprised to find out a singer I really like was black because she didn’t “sound like it.” I thought of times in school where I heard a black peer’s name and thought, “That was kind of weird.” I thought about the first time I met a middle school friend of Chinese heritage, and the first thing I noticed was that he didn’t have an accent.
Racism, like unhealthy weight gain, is an issue that exists on a spectrum. Some people are a little fat and some people are really fat. Some people are a little racist and others are really racist.
You can dress for your body type, but everyone can see how big you are. You can explain away racist actions all day long, but people still see them.
It’s one thing not to realize you have a flaw. It’s another thing to hide your flaws instead of actively working to fix them.
It’s not enough to pretend that we don’t have imperfections. It’s not enough to hear criticisms and dismiss them based on a small group of rioters. It’s not even enough to own our flaws.
We must own them, and take the steps to fix them.
Anything less is lip service at best and willful support of racist thoughts, words and actions at worst. And let’s not forget, racism makes it impossible for some to breathe, whether it’s conscious racism or not.