Updated: Feb 24
I write this article after discussion with several prisoners including Hamzah and Sheppard Thomas. I spoke to a variety of people to include different ages, genders, races, and religions. the purpose is to reflect a broader spectrum of perceptions, and to get a better understanding of why we are misunderstood.
I am almost 40 years old and white. Most of my life I can identify as being misunderstood. I didn't grow up learning about biases I had to learn them on my own through self studies. That has led me to write about it now. I learned that it's not just me who is misunderstood, but most people feel the same way. We try to explain but it appears many either do not understand or simply do not care.
while investigating for this article I also found that the majority of people go off of what they heard rather than doing any significant fact checking. This increases the number and magnitude of us being misunderstood.
Let me begin with some of my story. I was born as the only child between my mother and my father. my mother had two sons and one daughter from previous marriages. My father had three daughters from a previous marriage. for most of my life growing up I was raised as an only child by my father.
by the time I turned 14 I felt so different and misunderstood that I began to cut on myself. I did not hide the marks because it was really a cry for help. A cry that went unheard so I began to escalate it. My best friend was my grandfather even though we rarely did any talking. He passed away approximately 10 years after my grandmother. I felt like I had nowhere else to escape the madness around me.
I began to cut deeper and bigger and become more reckless in my everyday life. This time I kept them hidden because I compartmentalized it as no one cares about me anyway. This seemed to give me a sense of relief. Even if it was only temporary. As time passed by nothing really changed, because the underlying problem still existed. I still felt misunderstood. I was hurting, I felt alone, alienated, subpar, and I wanted to be accepted.
People thought of me as weird, they would point and laugh, they would talk behind my back like I didn't know. The anger and resentment grew inside but I still could not properly and accurately Express myself. I have learned that it is because we all speak a different language. What I call our personal language. Even if we all speak english, spanish, Arabic, or any other language, it's not the same. there is no such thing as a universal language that everyone understands. This is because every one of us are different and unique with different cultures, backgrounds, upbringings, intellectual levels, religions, and beliefs.
Being called weird has always been perceived as a negative and hurtful comment until I learned a new way of looking at it. Now I understand it as being different in this understood due to a translation barrier. it means when we think or utter these words that we have forgotten what it's like to be different ourselves. it is just like trying to speak with another person with whom cannot speak the same language as us.
Every misunderstanding stems from a lack of knowledge. Due to our ignorance of others personal language we have conflicts. these conflicts will always exist until we learn and accept that we cannot force our views and beliefs on to others, and not everyone will see things the way we do. you must learn to give and take, to compromise, and not to hold all our beliefs as convictions rather than opinions. Once we accept others for who they are then we can begin to accept ourselves for who we are.
I was raised in a predominantly all white schools, and lived and predominantly all white neighborhoods in my early life. My social skills were greatly damaged by my upbringing and becoming a loner. when I first went to prison I learned that I did not understand any culture or beliefs. I didn't even understand myself despite that at the time I felt like I did. since middle school I have longed for death, because of the social and language barrier. One of many possible effects of being misunderstood. Since that time I have learned how to see things from a different set of eyes and appreciate life with a much greater gratitude than I have ever before.
Differences in culture, religion, and beliefs were not taught in school, class, or groups. Something I believe to be a major contributing factor to all of us being misunderstood. Even today people try to alienate this from being taught. An example of this is the critical race theory. In our society we unfortunately believe in extremely long prison sentences. This makes these differences even worse and society as a whole feels the impact. All these different beliefs, religions, backgrounds, upbringings, intellectual levels (i.e. different personal languages) leads to increased levels of being misunderstood.
What one person views as disrespect the next person may not. So people have a choice to compromise or one person will be slighted. Generally those who are more aggressive will exert their will over others and make them submit. this is often done without violence although violence happens a lot as well. Aggressors often say each person has this right or that right, but if the other person's perceptions or believes do not align with theirs then it's simply does not make sense and must therefore be wrong.
These principles are not strictly for our prison system. They also are part of our workforce, schools, military, and communities. We're not taught about different religious views in schools. many households also do not teach this, because they teach and want taught but they consider relevant. This further exasperates or deepens the problems within our homes, community, and society as a whole. Then our society and the criminal justice system expects it to mesh without conflicts. This is impossible because so many are misunderstood.
Biases are so ingrained within us that often times it acts with their narc subconscious. I have written about this as well as prosecutorial discretion, and a poem called to understand. all of these topics merge with each other and if we reflect and try to understand ourselves and those with whom are past cross perhaps we'll find contentment, peace, and understanding. In the end if we understand the next person will understand ourselves. if we understand ourselves then we'll understand the next person.
it is with our siblings or those who we grow up with that we learn about others uniqueness. Without this our social skills will be greatly dampered. We can see this with the covid-19 pandemic and the schools going to online. The children's social skills and behavior are negatively affected. We can also see that over the last 8 years are 13-year-olds overall test scores continue to decline.
although I have siblings it's really like I don't. I have one half sister who I am the closest to yet that relationship is so far away. I have always wanted a close sibling or a best friend, but because my views rarely align with those who I met, and because I failed it understanding those who are misunderstood, I continued to withdraw from others.
Sometimes it's hard to create new bonds because of what we know or what we fear. Nowadays it's like trying to get over on someone is the new thing. Then i, like so many others, have learned repeated loss. when we love something and then we lose it we feel the sadness no matter if we express it outward or suppress it. it is good and healthy to love others other than ourselves, but that does not make the loss less hurtful. So we act in ways intended to protect our hearts, but our reasoning, and how we go about it maybe misunderstood.
our experiences greatly affect our future thought processes and actions. some of these experiences cause us to shut off our emotions. Some mistake these choices to do so as them not caring. this distinction is important because although one who does not care has no positive emotion towards those it's reflected does not mean that one who chooses not to show their emotions does not care. It simply means they have a hard time showing it, afraid to show it, or doesn't want to show it.
I am of the sound opinion that we as a whole have failed at proper and effective communication. This happens, for example, when we fail to exercise empathy and believe that everything must fit into our own perfect box of understanding.
The truth is we don't know what the person has encountered, endured, and struggles with. We don't know their perceptions or what is in their hearts. We don't know who we are really talking to. Sometimes they are close to committing suicide or a homicide. Some live a double life. All because they were misunderstood and we did not take the time to understand. This does not excuse nor should it excuse anyone's criminal behavior, but it's important for all of us to reflect on.
Are lack of effective communication comes from our lack of expression and understanding. Take for example, some people believe it's a bad sign of character to talk too much. Then on the other end of the spectrum some believe those who speak little are rude or up to no good. some believe it's rude to ask questions but some believe it to be improper to volunteer information that was not specifically asked for. Therefore they believe that one should ask what they want to know. There are some who believe it's a strong bond when you can work together or be in the same room and not talk much. Whereas others May view this as an awkward silence and become frustrated. Some people are content reading all day and being by themselves, but others May view this as weird, or they are up to no good. It is true that people may be playing coy, or appear to be minding their own business, however, they are actually covertly gathering intelligence on those around them, or acting as a line of defense for someone doing elicit activity. Again, we don't know despite what our experiences and our history has taught us each time we exercise our personal skills of judgment we are still only assuming, because there are so many different examples of how people's differences are misunderstood.
With this people in accurately place labels and assumptions on them. This can cause some to feel misplaced like a second-class citizen. This to some means someone who has either willfully or unwillfully surrendered their rights. Examples are for willfully when one commits a crime and it's a collateral consequence or unwillfully when someone is born in poverty, with a severe disability, or any circumstance where they are viewed as inferior.
Now the question becomes when we come to such in pass what do we do? First we must truly listen and be objective to what the other person has to say. Verizon wireless has a saying "can you hear me now?" The answer is no for most. We are not hearing one another despite the words hitting our ears. Rather The words get Lost in translation once they hit our brains. Some operate on intelligence over emotion and others operate on emotion over intelligence. This often changes depending on the encounter or experience. We all have skills, experiences, and personal strengths. Until we stop thinking we know everything, or that we are self-sufficient, that we don't need anyone else, we will always remain misunderstood and separated. Rather it's when we come together collectively when magnificent things happen. It is okay to have convictions, but we must have opinions and allow others to have their convictions and their opinions as well. We must avoid merging the two into one.
Written by Mika'eel
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