When I was 17, I got fired from Mailboxes, Etc. I had been working since I was 15 (actually even longer if you count my paper route and babysitting jobs), so by this point I prided myself on being a really good employee. To be fired was devastating. A new owner had taken over and she didn’t know any of the current employees or really care to get to know us. She made assumptions about us based on her own biases. I was a teenager, therefore, how could I be trusted? A friend of mine wore combat boots and baggy clothes, she must be a druggy hipster. How could she be trusted? So she made assumptions and then waited for us to confirm her beliefs. And one Saturday, I did just that. I worked alone on Saturdays (the busiest day of the week). I had been on time, opened the store, helped all the customers that came in, handled the cash without a problem. The boxes that needed to get shipped were packaged and labeled correctly. All of this, she didn’t care to see.
What she did see when she came in after the store closed was me there still working. The problem…I had two friends come and bring me some lunch. They saw how busy I was and offered to help label a giant box of postcards for me while I finished up everything else. So when the new manager walked in, she saw my friend running the postcards through the postage machine. She didn’t say anything to me about it in that moment. She finished her conversation with me and left. The next time I worked, she asked for my keys. She said I was not allowed to have friends helping me and because of that, she was firing me. It didn’t matter what I said, she had made up her mind. Her assumptions about me had been validated with what she chose to see, and I was done.
This is what I wonder. If the owner had worked that Saturday, and it was one of the busiest Saturdays the store had, would she have asked for help? If her husband stopped in or maybe if she’d had a teenage daughter, would she have let them help her? Probably. And she wouldn’t have thought anything about it. Because she had the power.
If you have more power than another person, you have the upper hand. And if you choose to act on your own biases, and live life based on your own close-minded perceptions, people you expect to screw up, screw up. And you will fully believe you are right, because you see only the moments that validate your bias.
Say you believe all minivan drivers are the worst drivers ever. So every time you see a minivan driver do something stupid, you think, yep, I’m right. They are the worst. But how many good minivan drivers did you pass and disregard? You see what you want to see. You have your biases and you look for the moments that will validate them to prove to yourself you are right.
Spiderman’s uncle gave him some wise advice. “With great power comes great responsibility.” I think every child should be taught this because it’s evident that so many people in this world never took this message to heart. When you are the one with less power, and you know what it feels like to not be able to fight back without severe consequences, only then will you truly understand.
It’s up to the powerful to be responsible and take action. Recently I read an article that asked why is it up to women to fix this sexual harassment problem. Good question. How many men are in this country? Why don’t they all come together and say you know what, we were raised to believe it’s okay to treat women this way. We were raised in a culture where when a woman says no, she really means yes and just needs a little convincing. We now know it’s wrong. Stand together, apologize and make a change. You know who could lead that charge and maybe get some respect back? Our president. But his motto is just don’t admit you did anything wrong and you are innocent. Lie and spin your way out of the truth. Use your power to beat people down into submission.
People with power need to start understanding the responsibility they have to not abuse it. I’m tired of seeing people be at the mercy of those with power. And the powerful being assholes and liars. Is it really that difficult to tell the truth? Even more frustrating is knowing if you fight back, it won’t matter. You will be the one punished and in most cases, the person with the power will be immune to any consequences.
It’s not hopeless. I realize that. The less powerful will band together and keep fighting to be heard. Some of those powerful people will be taken down. And I vow to fight too. When I see someone treated unfairly, I will find a way to band with others to take down the people with the misplaced power. Because they don’t deserve it. And maybe my actions won’t make too much of a dent, but I also believe in karma. What’s the alternative? Sitting back and saying, well, that’s not my problem, that’s not my fight? I could, but you know what happens when you do that? Eventually it is your fight, and you will need people to stand by you.
We all need to wake up and be aware of our biases. And rather than try to prove ourselves right, try to understand the person in front of us. Actively listen to their point of view. Real life cannot be like Game of Thrones where the bad guys keep on winning. This upside down world we seem to be living in has to turn right side up again at some point. The good people of the world could use a win.