It’s something to be ashamed of, and I am.
Prejudice is a vile, ugly thing. It feeds on the worst, most horrible of fears and does nothing to dispel them. It opens the ears to news that fits the mold, ammunition enough to deny any good reports. It disfigures the mind, hardens the heart and shuts off better urges in favor of a cold hatred that allows us to dehumanize the group in question… forget they are more like us than not.
Prejudice keeps people down. Good people.
It fuels arguments and fans old hatreds, passing easily (possibly unknowingly) from generation to generation… sometimes clearly stated, other times shared in more subtle words or the telling of ethnic jokes, repeated often enough to become what identifies one group from another. The teachings of childhood are hard to let go, even when we are motivated to do so. Even when we think we know better.
There’s a formula to it of course — an ethnic group and a fault are combined and used to define the whole. So the Irish are all drunks. Jews are all about money. The English are stuffy. Muslims are sneaky, can’t be trusted. Much as we’d like it to be different in our evolved, enlightened age, it isn’t. Instead, prejudice has gone underground, unspoken but still very much alive and well.
This week I learned just how alive and well it is in my own heart, having taken root not in childhood, but because of events from my adult life. Sometimes prejudice isn’t due to ignorance, but rather hard, hurtful experience. That’s no better. The person I want to be directs anger toward the people who’ve earned it, but not for those who haven’t, who may be desperate to reassure everyone they too are horrified and repulsed by what has been done in their name.
The person I am isn’t quite there yet.
Maybe it all comes down to recognizing that people are people… all parents want the best for their children… everyone wants to succeed, to be happy and healthy and doing good work… no one wants to suffer war, poverty or injustice. We all share this single planet, and in the end that may be the only thing that has any hope of removing prejudice from our thoughts for good.