Sorry. Nothing about writing today. Feel free to move along.
This is a post about prejudice with an angle toward racism. It is NOT a political post. I don’t do politics online. If you read this as political, you need to stand back and re-evaluate how you perceive those around you. Human lives should never be politicized. Once a group is reduced to an issue, their humanity becomes peripheral. They become a tool used to divide and conquer. That’s politics, and as I said, I’m not going there.
I’ve been both fascinated and horrified by prejudice most of my life. I have shelves of books on the subject, yet understanding eludes me.
HERE’S WHAT I KNOW
First, we are all prejudiced. It’s how the human brain works. We can’t know everything, so we extrapolate from the few to the many. Whenever we draw a conclusion about an entire group from the [perceived] actions of a few, this is prejudice.
Second, the opportunities for prejudice are endless. Some of us hold preconceived notions about race, religion, or nationality, others make assumptions about gender, gun ownership, or ass size.
Third, all prejudgments have one thing in common. They are based on some combination of speculation, fear, and generalization rather than personal knowledge or experience.
Fourth, we are wired to prejudge. It’s necessary for survival. It is the means by which we—and by we, I mean every single person on the planet—filters and processes information. If you see a shark in the water, chances are you’ll head to dry land rather than hang around to confirm whether he’s had lunch. You’ve seen Jaws. You don’t need a one-on-one.
But this post is not about sharks. It’s about people. It’s about the importance of acknowledging our instinctive need to prejudge.
Only by recognizing our innate tendency toward prejudice can we move beyond it.
And by the way, the “PC” notion that we’re all the same itself smacks of prejudice. Yes, all lives matter, but each of us is unique in his or her own right, and each of us deserves to be valued.
Even if you don’t see color, society does. To deny this reality, to denounce prejudice with “we’re all human,” is to negate another individual’s life experiences. Awareness of skin color is not the same as racism.
Differences in our cultural values, expectations, and norms are not measurable. There is no better or worse than. Our differences are an opportunity to share and learn. A chance to engage with others and enrich our lives. They should not divide us.
You are likely appalled by the recent racially charged violence in the U.S. At least, I hope you are. I certainly am. You could make the argument that non-violent efforts have done little to ease racial hostilities in this country, and you’d be correct in saying so. But violence has fared no better, inflaming fears, increasing the loss of life, and dividing us further.
I don’t have an answer to prejudice, but I know it isn’t someone apologizing—or, conversely, pointing a finger or a gun. It isn’t forming a support group that divides more than empowers. It isn’t denying our differences, which are important, and beautiful, and make us who we are.
I also know the answer is human rather than political. It involves empathy, understanding, listening, and respect. Because in the end, there is no them. Them is a political construct.
There is only us.