Frame of Reference
How you relate to a person, a situation, crisis, hurt and even celebration is all affixed to your frame of reference. When I say frame of reference, I’m referring to ones central compass of beliefs and thoughts. I gained my frame of reference from Christian, Black, southern parents that some considered “middle class”… In a previous blog, I encouraged readers to think about who they are and who they are expected to be by people they love. Well… did you compile a list? What did you find out? Many of the items on my list are reflections of my frame of reference. Who determines the content and beliefs you’re exposed to? Who introduced them? How did they (the people that introduced you) come to believe what they do? Was it hurt? Experience? Fear?
With your permission, let’s unpack a little.
Who raised you? What was their belief/belief system? Is that something you believe now? Why or why not? What belief, thoughts, actions, or traditions do you realize as an adult are unhealthy or worth repeating? If you’ve never ventured from the environment that you have been exposed you to, you may not have had an opportunity to re-frame, test, dismantle or confirm what you were taught.
I’ve been told my whole frame of reference thought is… not plausible. But let’s think about it. Who taught you that you should get up and go to work every morning? You saw it, or you didn’t, or you may have felt a rumble in your tummy. Something propels you. You think working is a poor example? Maybe, but going to work everyday is not everyone’s frame of reference. Who taught you that you were supposed to save money? Maybe that’s something that wasn’t taught. If saving wasn’t taught was it because you were raised in an environment where people didn’t have funds to save? If the action was not practiced was it not practiced because it wasn’t demonstrated to the people who raised you? How about how you treat others? Is that something that was modeled?
Remember I stated I was raised in the South, by two Christian, conservative parents. “Yes Ma’am, No Sir” was taught, and expected! It’s my frame of reference. I still do it! People will equate the phrase to age and become offended, while I am being respectful. Some become offered because they feel like it’s promoting a slave mentality. I don’t equate being respectful with age, title or position and it’s not my intention to be subservient.
While we can explore many frames of reference what about negative ones that become biases? Let’s say that you grew up in a racially divided community, you were never around people of different races or cultures. Let’s say… your parents didn’t have a diverse set of friends and didn’t talk about race. You may grow up thinking or even believing that you don’t have a racist bone in your body. Well… that time when you walked in the other side of the street because you were “scared”? Why? What about the time you thought about a person of a different culture in a negative light; not because of something they did to you, but because, that’s how you’ve been programmed. You may think it’s innocent…but more often than not it’s beliefs full of hate and fear.
When I was a college freshman, I worked at a local grocery store. I actually got the job my senior year in high school so that I could transfer to pretty much any city in the state, go to school and work; all frames of references I saw at home, hard working… education… multitasking… all frames from the Pamplin household. When I got to work… I was the only person who looked like me. Not an issue and not something I wasn’t accustomed to. What I wasn’t accustomed to was how blatant and blatantly subtle the racism was! From how I was spoken to, disrespected, disregarded and judged. Yes… judged. So as I’m walking a lady to her car, she’s making small talk. I’m extra friendly, so I obliged. “You’re not from around here are you?” I replied and with pride stated I was a freshman at the university down the street. Her next response was, “You play basketball?!” I was insulted! Not because I don’t love basketball, because I do; not because I didn’t know how to play, I played in high school; but I knew what she meant. My face probably said a few things, but with a smile I said, “No Ma’am, I’m the freshman class president on my campus.”
Then there was the constant purse grabbing… as if I was going to run away with theses peoples belongings… in my work uniform shirt. Not that I would without my uniform, but with my uniform and a name tag on as big as day… yeah lady, no, I don’t want your purse!
Oh… a lady called me “girl!” It wasn’t endearing, it was rude and I knew how she meant it.
On my break I went to my car and called my Daddy. I was crying fear tears. I told him I wanted to go home and that I hated it there! I wonder what he was thinking as I told him. He asked me what happened, I gave him a recount of my day. I think back and realize, many of those people were acting out of what they knew… their frames of reference. Did they think there were racial undertones? Probably not. And some will read this and say, I’m imagining things. But I’m not.
The same way I’m not imagining racial undertones in the workplace and in society… it’s present! The people that say, “I don’t see race.” LIES! Those are the same people who will question my knowledge, authority and skills. Not based on work output, but just because… Hmmmm… just because what? Good question. You and I both know the answer, but it’s common place to pretend it’s not present.
The same people who don’t see race, are the same people that will on the sly to call me Hope and not Dr. Pamplin. Don’t get me wrong, my mom did name me Hope, that’s my name. But just like when the old lady called me “Girl” I knew what she meant and I know what professionals mean now. I don’t go around correcting people when the DR is not added to my name, but now I understand why many African American woman do. But that’s a blog all by itself… woman of color and work place culture. But it all ties right back to ones frame of reference.
Those that may feel like I’m over doing it…ones frame of reference is sometimes the difference between someone’s life or death. Parents aren’t sitting around the table discussing, how their actions around race will make a difference in how their children perceive an entire race of people, but it does!
How honest are you willing to be with yourself to discover your racial frames of reference? If your great-great-great grandparents, had land with share croppers, owned slaves or were simply apart of a racially divided nation…Jim Crow, there are some frames of references that have been passed down; just like recipes, traditions, and traits are passed down. It’s that simple! But until we unpack why we do what we do, we will count that belief as true and never re-frame it.
To be continually re-framed…