There are moments when you suddenly become aware of a reality that has always surrounded you, but that you usually have the privilege of not seeing.
1. A male friend of mine stopped mid-sentence when we were walking across campus and asked, "Does it ever make you feel uncomfortable?"
"Every guy we pass looks right at you - stares. Nobody ever looks that directly at me when I'm walking around. Does it ever bother you?"
"Yeah, all the time."
"I guess I just never noticed what girls have to deal with before."
2. I was dating a guy from Trinidad - he is black, I am white. I was hurt that he never wanted to hold my hand in public. "Don't you see the way people stare at us when we are walking together? Holding hands makes it even worse. You mean you haven't noticed?" No, I had not. But I did after that.
3. I said to a friend who is a lesbian, "Well, but, we live in such a nice, liberal town."
"Sure, but I can't kiss my girlfriend in public, I can't hold her hand without getting the stink-eye, and we can't even go to the grocery store together without people gaping at us. I don't want to believe that this town is as good as we'll ever find." Unfortunately, it might be.
4. My neighbor said to me yesterday, "because I'm big, people feel like they have the right to treat me like crap. I've been told at my job that I'll never get ahead because I'm 'fat.' People have come up to me in the store and told me that I shouldn't be buying any junk food because I need to lose weight. They act like they have the right to judge me just because they see that I'm heavy."
5. "I didn't even know that antisemitism existed in the States" I said to my roommate.
"In high school, swastikas were constantly being scratched onto my locker. Every time the school would paint one off, another would appear. I got a couple of notes in my locker from people threatening to beat-up me and my brother."
"Wow, I didn't know," I said.
"I wouldn't expect you to."
Just because you don't see it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.