– Conversation with co-worker-
Me: You know another woman who has aged beautifully??? Cicely Tyson!!!
Them: ……who’s that? Mike Tyson’s mom?
Me: *slowly dies inside*
Never in my life had it occurred to me, that I would encounter someone who didn’t know who Cicely Tyson was. She’s been a famous actress for decades. I couldn’t conceive that someone hadn’t at least heard of her. But much to my dismay, another coworker came forward and said: “Yeah….is that his mom?” I was dumbfounded. When I told my mom of the story she laughed and said “Yeah babe, not everybody may know her. I know it sounds weird but, we grew up on her. Lots of people didn’t.” <- THAT! It was my mom’s final statement that resonated with me: ‘Lots of people didn’t.’ It made me realize that while I’m assuming people are closed-minded or sheltered for not knowing what I find to be common knowledge, I too am closed-minded and sheltered for even thinking that it was common knowledge. Are you confused? Let me explain…
We all live in bubbles.
Some bubbles are bigger than others.
If you’re white in the United States, then you live in the biggest bubble of them all.
But of course, there are sub-bubbles within the larger bubbles.
Progressive people live in bubbles. Pretty, liberal, big city, urban, metropolitan bubbles.
Bubbles are comforting and familiar but, they can also be distorting.
Yet we don’t realize the distortion until our bubbles intersect with other bubbles.
I grew up in and around places and people who were exposed to the same things as me — inner city Pittsburgh, south suburban Chicago, city of Chicago, public schools, Black and Brown people, low-income people, urban culture, progressive culture, liberal views, etc. So the things that I know, most people around me know; leading me to believe many things are common knowledge. Among those who reside in my bubble, many things are common knowledge. But outside of my bubble, some things aren’t common knowledge…and I didn’t know that. I sound crazy, I know. How could I not know that? But I didn’t.
In the grand scheme of things this phenomena goes far beyond just knowing celebrities. It encompasses our entire society and impacts our political system. When Trump became President, I was dumbfounded. Again, I couldn’t conceive that there were people in my country, in 2016 that supported his rhetoric and discriminatory policies. And yet, here we are…post grieving stage. Yes, I grieved for my country when he won, and during that grieving period I thought about my bubble theory and I realized the distortion of my liberal/progressive bubble. I thought about the times I visited my boyfriend who, a mechanical engineer, is living in Iowa for work. I thought of all the small and rural towns I passed through to get to his equally small town. I thought about how many small towns there are in each state compared to the few major cities there are in each state. I thought about the major news and media sources and their urban and metropolitan headquarters. I realized that most of us are living in bubble in which we don’t realize that we still are the minority — that the larger, more dominant bubble is still the “White, middle-America” bubble. That bubble currently controls much of our government. That bubble has been the largest bubble since the conception of our country. Although the bubbles in which I reside in are very large, they are not the largest. I realized that I needed to humble myself and that we all needed to humble ourselves.
In an earlier post I discussed the benefit to stepping out of your comfort zone to interact with others who think differently than you. In this same space, there is a great benefit to intersecting your bubble with other bubbles. Often times I find that our bubbles intersect randomly, as they did with my coworkers about Cicely Tyson. The innocence in their ignorance was that they had no idea who she was because they didn’t need to. They hadn’t been exposed to her because she was outside of their bubble. With a bubble so large that nearly all mainstream media and culture is a reflection of your own, you need not venture too far out of your bubble to be stimulated. You have more than enough right where you are. So it wasn’t until their bubbles intersected with mine, that they knew who she was. Similarly, it wasn’t until my bubble intersected with theirs, that I knew how small my bubble can be compared to others’. Let’s not even get into the United States bubble compared to the world bubble.
But I hope that you get the gist. If this was news to you as it was to me, then I encourage you to identity the number of bubbles you reside in and if they ever distorted your view of other people’s bubbles. If this wasn’t news to you…thanks for the memo -_-
Photo by THEPIXELMAN. Acquired through OGQ Background HD.