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Prejudiced but not proud

Lots of people talk about prejudices, racism, hate crimes, and profiling, and most of those who talk or write on this subject do so with the underlying assumption that they are exempt from these ideas, as though they themselves are uniquely qualified to rant and rave about how one group or another is oppressed or otherwise negatively affected. The speaker is of course either a member of the affected group or sympathetic to them for whatever reason, but rarely is the speaker one of the prejudiced party. This makes sense, but there is a parallel that I am thinking about these days that is often missed: those of us who think we are not prejudiced are often deceiving ourselves.

I like to think that I was raised in a home where all people were supposed to be equal no matter color or creed. We even sang a song about it: “Jesus loves the little children… red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight…” I went to school with children from many backgrounds and ethnicities. There were Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, African, Indian, Jewish, African-American, Hispanic, and I don’t know how many others. I was best friends with a guy named Gregg Matte, now the pastor at my church, and then after he moved away my best friend was Chris, the new black guy from around the corner. His family taught me a lot by never treating me any different from Chris- I was just his friend and they were nice like the family they were, but they certainly didn’t seem to care a bit about the difference in skin color. I really respected that.

However as I have grown up, I have come to realize that we all have prejudices about something. Or some group. Or someone. It is inevitable. Unavoidable even. No matter how much we try to avoid it, the truth is that the only way to really get rid of a particular prejudice is to get to know that thing or person better. For example when I went to Spain four years ago I got to know a few people from the Netherlands. They were continually surprised at how I didn’t fit their paradigm of a guy from Texas! Really? Who could possibly think something odd about Texans? Well, besides a few who have met Texans like Ross Perot or Howard Hughes, perhaps it could be mostly people who don’t know even one of us personally. And that got me thinking about prejudices and how we often have many that we don’t think about. It is easy to go on thinking that a generalization is accurate, especially when it seems somewhat harmless, but when presented with the truth we then are left either to believe that the facts are an exception to the generalization or maybe, just maybe, the generalization is incorrect.

So there it is. We are all prejudiced people to some degree, and for those of us who know and love God already there is only one cure: exposure to the very thing we would almost rather avoid. I am certainly not there yet, but it has been my pleasure through many travels to crack a few paradigms that just did not fit. In just the same way I have had some of my own ideas cracked by those I have let in to my own life. Thanks to God and to all of you out there for helping me continue to grow up.

Comments

Comment from sdw
Time: 17 June, 2008, 9:25 am

To advocate for the devil, if I may– not all prejudice is bad. When confronted with the unknown sometimes the only guide you have is to draw conclusions based on past experience. If you’re lost in the forest, do you eat the unidentified green fruit, or do you try your luck with the red? Do you catch the red bugs and eat them, or will they sting?

Sounds far-fetched, but it’s the same way with people. There is no shame in being educated by your past experience. The shame–the sin–is when you are so committed to a negative view of a group that you can’t give an individual a chance.

I love the old Russian proverb that Reagan turned around and applied to the Soviet government:

“TRUST, BUT VERIFY.”

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