Black and White
My world is covered by invisible lines. You can't see them and unless they affect you, you probably have no knowledge of their existence. They dictate which side of the neighborhood you're allowed in. They tell you not to make contact with that person. They command you to stay aligned with them. It's only when people cross the lines that order is disrupted for better or worse.
For a country full of a plethora of colors and variety of life we sure see things as black and white, even if we do claim to be past that era. You see one example of this is racism. Racism is the predetermined reaction programmed into one's mind when they encounter someone of different colored skin. In some cases, neighborhoods will be divided by color. If you cross that invisible line and happen to have the wrong color skin you could be shot, stabbed, or mugged. Not everyone is that radical. Still, I think is just as bad that in the back of our heads we think that an Asian with glasses is smart, or that an African American from the inner city can't be trusted, or that a Hispanic that speaks Spanish is not here legally, or even that a wealthy white kid is a snob and selfish.
Thoughts like these are not limited to skin color. I see them in my everyday life about nearly everything. If someone is homeless, they are obviously an addict. If a person has a disability, they are automatically retarded. If a boy wants to dance, he's a queer. If a girl wants to play football, she's a dike. If an individual is homosexual, they must have something wrong with them. If you find these thoughts offensive all I have to say is good. They should be. Even if the thoughts barely go noticed by us they do more damage than we can see. When a stereotype is formed another line is drawn. If too many lines are drawn everyone just ends up boxed in, and that's not good for anyone.
Yet nothing is ever set in stone. Even when we think it is an occasional flash flood will come by and erode it. I witnessed a flash flood today. His name is Jake. Jake is what we label a "troubled youth". He has had a history of drug problems and can't seem to stay in school. By stereotype, he would be the least likely to make a change in the lines drawn around us. To the contrary though, I caught him on a youth group trip to a rough area of town the other day, being the flash flood that washes away the line. I must say the whole experience was brief yet powerful enough to remind me that even I have these lines engrained inside of me. While we were at lunch, I noticed Jake outside talking to a stranger who looked pretty grungy and was black. Stereotypical alarms screamed in my head, "DANGER! DANGER!" and I went to go check what it all was about. As it turns out, the "shady" character was a fellow man of faith who simply ran into hard times, and Jake, who was expected to cause trouble, was simply offering to buy the man some lunch. With enough Jake's in the world, I think we could eventually have a clean slate where there are no lines to worry about crossing. Thanks Jake.