I don’t remember when I saw this particular episode of “The Odd Couple.” I must have been in elementary school, watching reruns on a low-power station. Felix Unger addressed a courtroom, chalkboard before him, when he declared, “Ah, you assumed. My dear, you should never assume. You see, when you assume (wrote the word on the board) you make an ass out of you and me!”
I can see in my mind the flourishes Felix used whilst brandishing that piece of chalk, circling the parts of “assume.” Oh, how loaded that word is! In fact, if you were to see my car you could safely assume that I like the color pink, that I’ve done at least one half-marathon, and that I love Harry Potter.
To look at me is an entirely different story. It’s been assumed I’m a natural redhead. You might think I’m rather conservative due to my work wardrobe of sensible heels, pantyhose, and cardigans. It’s been assumed that because I’m married to a former enlisted man that I’m a Christian. But these assumptions are incorrect.
I am by no means faultless in the assumption game. I joke that all men are gay until proven straight. I never assume someone’s religious unless it’s blatantly obvious, whether it’s a “Praise the Lord” tie or wearing a crucifix. I assumed my coworker, an older Black woman, was going to be an uptight, pious sort of person when we first met. She’s a good Christian but oh, the language she can use would make a sailor blush! She’s been a great mentor in the workplace and I’m so happy she’s in my life.
It’s hard to overcome assumptions. My mother and I shopped last Friday evening. As we approached Mom’s car there was a group of young black men walking towards us. I felt my mother tense up beside me, subliminally telling me, “Samantha, don’t walk to the car! Pretend we’re going down the other side!” Keys in hand, I confidently strode to the car. I can’t just assume these boys are going to hurt us for goodness sake!
Now we’re confronted with assumptions in the media all the time. The Birthers have been conducting their smear campaign against the President, assuming there’s no way he’s eligible for office because his father was a native Kenyan and he has a “funny” name. Are you kidding me? If he had a different name like Bernard O’Brien, would he still face such hard-core stupidity? It’s hard to tell; the overt racism burns bright with that crowd.
To be hyperbolic, assumptions can be deadly. George Zimmerman assumed Trayvon Martin was a criminal for wearing a hoodie and running away from him in a gated condominium community in Florida. Zimmerman assumed the teen was going to harm him in some way, wielding a deadly bag of Skittles…so Zimmerman shot Martin in the name of “self-defense.”
Sadly, as a nation we will never truly know what happened that fateful night. There’ve been too many conflicting stories and they’re probably just that, stories. Assumptions are flying about: Martin had been suspended from school. He allegedly beat up Zimmerman at the scene. He ran when he thought he was being followed…so all of this makes it okay to kill the teen?
Be careful when you make assumptions. To assume certain traits of someone due to their gender, race, physical appearance, or dress can be misleading. You might miss out on meeting someone who could mean something to you.