Be Someone Who Judges No One
Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors
Be Someone Who Judges No OneAn Incident That Helped Me See The Light
Below is an excerpt from my new book, I Can See Clearly Now, which details one of the most influential moments of my life.
Boot camp behind me, I’m in Bainbridge, Maryland, attending school for six months to become a radioman and cryptographer. School is arduous, with daily classes from early morning until late in the evening, and requires nightly study. Mornings are spent learning Morse code, converting the dash-dot sounds into letters, and we have exams every other day. My classes also include study in the areas of communications, electronics, physics, learning to operate the latest equipment, encoding and decoding, and mastering typing. My subconscious mind is learning how to respond automatically when I hear the sounds in my headphones.
I am totally committed to pursuing this six-month academic adventure with excellence, and I’m reminded that when I choose to apply myself I can literally master any discipline. Back in high school, when I loved a subject I invariably received a grade of A. When I was uninterested, I’d simply withdraw, unattached to whether I got a passing or failing grade. Here in radioman school I am one determined young sailor; I strive to not only pass the course, but to do so with distinction. At graduation, I am at the top of my class.
My best friend at Bainbridge is a 19-year-old young man named Ray Dudley from Chicago. We study together, we bond like brothers, and basically we become inseparable. When we leave the base to go to Baltimore or Washington, D.C., for a weekend, we frequently do so together.
Ray and I are returning to the base after a weekend in D.C. It’s 10 p.m. on a Sunday night and we are due back on base at Bainbridge before midnight. We decide to stop in the little town of Havre de Grace, Maryland, and have a dish of fried rice, as we haven’t eaten all day. It is an inexpensive meal for two hungry sailors in the uniform of the United States Navy before the ten-mile cab ride to the base.
I’m startled when I hear, “Sorry, boys, we can’t serve you in this restaurant.” I ask the waitress why that is—the restaurant is open until midnight, and there are lots of returning servicemen eating. She looks sheepishly at me and simply shrugs her shoulders and points at my best friend, a U.S. Navy serviceman serving his country as a member of the armed forces . . . and then it hits me squarely in the face, as if someone just punched me with a vicious blow. Ray is an African American, and in this little town in Maryland they don’t serve people who do not have white skin.
I ask to speak to a manager, but no one of higher authority appears. The waitress doesn’t want to have an unpleasant scene, but I am outraged and embarrassed for my friend. Ray has lived with this kind of prejudice all of his life and motions to me to leave quietly to avoid any possibility of a serious conflict.
I have never experienced the horror of racial prejudice like this. I am perplexed, deeply saddened, and so hurt for my friend. But more than this, I am outraged at the insanity of refusing to serve another human being who is wearing the uniform of the armed forces of his country, and willing to go to war and die so that the opportunity to live and breathe freely is preserved for everyone—even the owners of restaurants, and the waitresses who work there.
I apologize to Ray as we head back to our barracks at the Bainbridge Naval Base. I vow to myself to never, ever prejudge anyone on the basis of their appearance. I am shaken to my core. I am changed forever. I will dedicate my life to ridding the world of such moronic thinking. Every day for the remainder of my time at Bainbridge, I am obsessed with what I, as one man, can do to eradicate this kind of simpleminded behavior. It is my life’s mission. I am committed to being a man who judges no one.
I Can See Clearly Now
That Sunday night in Havre de Grace still stands out as one of the most influential evenings of my life, even though it was more than 50 years ago. That moment of looking into my friend Ray’s eyes and seeing the pain that prejudice can cause inspired me to make a commitment to abolish prejudgment from my own way of being, and to incorporate this love for all of humanity as a cornerstone of my life’s work.
From that night on, I became fully aware of my own propensity for labeling people on the basis of any external factors, and I began to traverse a path wherein I was able to see the unfolding of Spirit in every person I encountered. In many respects, that experience as a 19-year-old sailor was Divinely orchestrated. I had to be there as a witness and an unwilling participant in order to have the horror of this kind of behavior brought home to me.
That hapless waitress was only reacting due to inbred conditioning that had been imposed upon her by cultural circumstances when she was a child. She saw mistreatment of people with dark skin and accepted it as the thing to do. She was also an employee who was just “doing what I’m told to do—it’s my job.”This mentality has been the driving force behind endless heinous acts over the centuries. In order to replace these habits with behavior that is compassionate rather than prejudiced, people must examine how their subconscious minds have been programmed and then begin to change these habitual ways of being.
Back in 1959 I began to do precisely that. I had heard plenty of racist talk as I was growing up in the 1940s and ’50s, and though I have no memory of ever using such language in my lifetime, I know that I witnessed it regularly and it didn’t arouse any sense of outrage within me. My experience with Ray Dudley turned me around. I began a slow transformation of expressing my disdain for such language without making a scene. I began to read books that dealt with the subject of prejudice and hatred, and I railed against policies of the Navy wherein segregation was an established norm. As I look back on two of the most consequential themes of my writing and of my adult development, they both harken back to that painful night in Maryland.
The first of these themes is teaching people how to have a mind of their own, independent of what they have been taught to believe. If I know it is wrong and not in harmony with the Divine love espoused by our most revered spiritual masters, then regardless of what I have been taught, I must think for myself and come always from a place of love. If we are told that God is love, then we shouldn’t just say it in our place of worship during a ceremonial weekly religious service. We must live it.
The second theme involves the subconscious mind wherein adult habits are ingrained. I wrote of my time in radio school learning Morse code. I practiced and practiced until it went from a conscious-mind activity to a permanent place in my subconscious habitual mind. I haven’t used Morse code in over half a century—and every bit of the programming continues to be present in my being. I can still spell out any word or sentence instantaneously in my mind using the dots and dashes that were placed there several decades ago.
Similarly, we all have other ideas that we call memes, which drive our behavior today. Even though they may not serve us, they are still there operating, just like my unconscious tapping out of the Morse code today. That waitress in the restaurant in Havre de Grace in 1959 was acting out both of the themes. She was doing what she was told to do, even though her body language was saying, I don’t really feel this way—I’m just doing my job; and she was also acting out of a host of memes that she had never taken the opportunity to correct and then eradicate completely from her subconscious mind.
I can still see that waitress and my young African-American friend Ray Dudley in my mind as I write these words. I believe they were both sent into my life that Sunday night to help me to not only see the light but to teach from a more illumined perspective.