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Caseythoughts Parallax: n., from the Greek. To cause to alternate the apparent displacement of an observed object due to a change in the position of the observer. (from

To give you a simple exposure to this idea before expanding a Thought, I will revert to the radio studios I occupied for many a year. There is always a plethora of glass 'walls' in a radio studio, probably to give the appearance of a rare animal in a cage to be observed by the people who thought radio people were an alien group, a sub-species rarely seen outside of captivity. One of my original mentors, as he was getting ready to retire, spoke of his pending retirement as 'the fox is out of the box'. The desire to deny exposure of these animals to the public in daylight hours is probably why we started our radio career on the 'graveyard shift' from midnight to five-ish, giving the announcer/DJ time to civilize nocturnally before being exposed to the public. This of course also led to posting of signs outside of radio studios stating it was against the rules to 'feed the animals'.

I digress. The glass also forced the placement of the analog clock away from the direct view of the announcer, at least a foot or two to the right or left, to give a correct view of the precise time. The clock would be a few inches to the right or left of the announcer's view, and thus skewed the exact position of the 'minute' hand (you might at this point explain the concept of a little hand and big hand to our digitally minded young ones).

Timing was important to the announcer, since hitting a network program exactly on time in depended on you recognizing the time to the second, but a second or two late due to a misreading of the clock due to 'parallax' would make the program get fouled up and sound amateur-ish. If the clock needed to be placed a few inches or degrees from exact center of your vision, you had to make a tiny adjustment to the minute hand to account for this and still be 'on time', even though someone looking straight on at that clock would think it was a second or two early or late. You as the announcer knew better and you could be 'on the mark'. The parallax was critical, and not necessarily obvious to anyone, even if they cared. But in the world of how radio 'sounded', it was important.

Why, you ask, the lesson in Greek, optics and radio minutia? Fascinating little thing happened last week as I was an accidental observer/listener to an encounter in an elevator.

As I have mentioned before, I do 'temporary' work to supplement my semi-retirement income, and like the idea of being challenged by work that most people never see or experience. I need the challenge, and enjoy the variety, as well as do any work assigned to me to a high standard, just for my own pleasure.

I'm currently working an excellent job with excellent pay with a very well known and respected company that is very community minded. It would not surprise anyone that this company takes the issue of sexual harassment very seriously and in conjunction with a well-respected law firm has developed a training program for all employees from CEO to the lowest paid, in an honest attempt to short circuit the emergence of harassment behaviors and face the problem head-on. Of course, this training will also eliminate lawsuits against the company, if all employees are properly immersed in an environment which does not tolerate harassment and trains its employees as a matter of daily operations and a comprehensive training program. That's the background. Here's the overheard conversation.

Last week a large group of employees were scheduled for this two hour training session, and as is natural with human beings a certain amount of 'carping' was going on in the elevators as a few complained they 'have too much to do', etc.

But, in the elevator I usually utilize (away from the public and limited access) two women I am acquainted with, co-workers, were talking about the pending training session that morning. One of the women was saying how it seemed curious and timely that the training was happening exactly as the Kavanaugh hearings were reaching their peak (or nadir? Look it up) in the media. The other woman said in response, "No, it's because of the Starbucks' thing". It took me a second to click onto this revelation.

You see, the first woman who connected the harassment training with the Senate hearings is white. The woman who made the Starbucks' connection is black.

My first reaction (mentally, not out loud) was to recognize that the 'Starbucks' thing' wasn't sexual harassment at all. It was blatant discrimination based on skin color, resulting (as you recall) in the arrest of a black man who had not made a purchase, asked for the key to the men's room and was eventually handcuffed by a Philadelphia cop. Turns out that the perception of the Starbucks' clerk was pretty blatant discrimination, and within a month Starbucks' made national headlines by closing their stores nationwide for a video training/presentation for all of their employees on discrimination issues. It wasn't sexual harassment, but that doesn't mean that the young black woman in my elevator was 'wrong'.

You see, parallax played a huge role in the perceptions of the two women, especially the black woman. A young white woman with some awareness of current news would naturally understand and probably empathize with the Senate hearings accuser (although many did not empathize, according to polling data, talk shows, etc.), while the black woman, also acutely aware of news items and issues (and too young, I would assume, to recognize the name of Anita Hill or Clarence Thomas) has been enormously influenced by the Starbucks' event which, in all probability she has experienced first hand in her life. And I say that in full knowledge of the possibility that she was born and grew up in this 'enlightened' town. I've disputed Ithaca's so-called 'tolerance and open-mindedness', and claims of diversity for years, caught hell for it from white listeners, but have had more than a few friends of color tell me of covert, sometimes outright blatant, instances of racist behavior in many forms on the part of store owners, clerks, store employees and even landlords in this 'enlightened' town. The black woman in the elevator was looking at something important in her life with a view shaded and influenced by direct experiences.

To this young, black, up and coming woman in the world of business, 'it really IS about Starbucks', by any other name. Call it sexual harassment, call it covert racism, call it prejudice, it is a degrading and humiliating part of her life. She is dealing with the reality of her life as she sees it, and it is truly reality, not a perception or illusion. We are all dealing with parallax, due to a change in position (physical, emotional, political, economic, you name it) of our eyes, heart, and understanding, and deal with the realities of how we as humans treat other humans. And, living as a black person in this white world cannot be pleasant in many circumstances. Her parallax, you see.

And this affects our internal definition of another word which is frequently used, and sometimes misused, when 'looking' at something anew. 'Perspective', that is: the state of one's ideas, the facts known to one having a meaningful relationship'. (

The facts we know, having experienced them, and the ideas we carry in our hearts and heads.

I think the difference in the two women's ideas and words convey not right or wrong perceptions, but from the placement of their eyes, hearts and understanding (experiences) of the world as it is presented to them on a daily basis. And I wonder if many of our personality traits (both the appreciated and the flawed) of individuals and larger 'groups' of people are influenced by parallax which may only be seen by them, from their particular angle, much like the radio announcer sees the clock in a way few else would experience, or understand the importance of that slightly skewed 'point of view'.

Maybe the old maxim 'walk a mile in my shoes' continues to be appropriate and could help begin the healing process: to see as my brother sees, to understand what my sister understands. And what that could mean to such matters as racial harmony, mundane customer relations, office respect, human dignity and even Senate hearings? (Well, I can hope, I guess). Human dignity and respect for different understandings of the same 'event'. Imagine that: a parallax view that can breed respect. We can dream, can't we?

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