Subtle Prejudice

Friday, January 15, 2010

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First, I need to note that the image to your left was taken by D. Sharon Pruitt from the Creative Commons website (  She asked that we give her credit when using her work.

And now:

I composed a book on this subject last night.  However, you'll be relieved to hear that I didn't have my flash drive with me at the time and the computer I drafted it on doesn't have internet access.  I'll just have to wing it.  Besides, I supposed it was a bit wordy...

Instead I'm going to tell you the truest thing that I know.  All people, regardless of who they are, where the come from, how they dress, what they believe, who they love or where they sleep at night are of equal worth.  All of them.  All of us.  Because that's the issue here, isn't it?  Prejudice is what happens when we say, "You aren't one of us.  You're different, which must mean you're not as good."

We seem to feel this need to draw lines and paint things with judgments of black or white.  We determine that this one is "good" and this one is "bad".  This is necessary to a certain degree.  It's how we as humans make sense of our world and strive to keep ourselves and those we love safe.  Because we learn at an early age that all people may be people, but not all people have our best interest at heart.  It's a fact of nature that will always be there.  So, yes, we must make "judgments" so to speak on our fellow humans.  To make such judgments based on what an individual does, the choices they make, whether they are open and loving or angry and hurtful, this is healthy.  This is smart.  But to determine a person's worth or place in society based on nothing more than their race, creed, color, sexual orientation, income or what side of town they grew up on, this is ludicrous.  This is prejudice.  And it is alive and well in America, no matter how far we've come.

Most prejudice is subtle.  It is perpetuated through little turns of phrases that belittle others, sayings many people take for granted.  For instance, my son picked up the local vernacular and started calling things he saw as ridiculous or not worth his time "gay".  We had a long discussion (a few of them, actually) about why this is a bigoted thing to say and what harm it does.  You wouldn't say something you considered useless or silly "black", would you?  How about "Baptist".  Or, try this on for size, "That's so Mexican."  Are you horrified?  You should be.  But I am willing to bet there are people somewhere who use this little phrase all the time.  Because it's what people do.  A group of people confuse us or annoy us or make us uncomfortable, and we deal with it by belittling them.  So, other people hear the phrase.  And they start saying it.  And all of a sudden, it's everywhere.  Gay becomes synonymous with "worthless" and "foolish".  But it's harmless, right?

I'm going to let you ponder that one for yourself.  And I'd ask that you consider how many homosexuals end up hospitalized and/or dead simply because they're gay.  The same is true for other groups, as well.  People in our oh-so-modern society are victims of prejudice every hour of every day.  This is not just a stain on our history, friends.  This is now.  This is happening.

Today, since my time is short, I'll close by asking of you one small thing.  I'd ask you to look for hidden prejudices within yourself, no matter how progressive or "liberal" you may consider yourself.  Listen to what words you use to mean useless or foolish.  Listen to the insults you throw.  And listen to others.  You'll hear it, in little "innocent" comments, the type of which breed enough hate and give enough justification to get people killed.  Just watch the news... if your eyes are open, you'll see for yourself.


firespark said...

I'm posting a comment to myself because it seems people are having problems with this. This is a test.

Anonymous said...

testing again :)

sarah franz-wichlacz said...

now i'm testing this way....