In Brief—A peek at the often hidden prejudice that hides within most of us as well as the blatant prejudice we find in some misguided individuals.
Prejudice is a Plague Hiding Within—
It emerged from hiding in my subconscious in the unlikeliest of places. Dressed in my hippie trousers, flowered shirt and with my wallet tucked in my waistband, I was walking through Disneyland, “The Magic Kingdom,” when I saw them…two young well-dressed African-American men walking toward me enjoying the sights amid the happy crowd. Instinctively, I tapped my wallet to see if it was there. Busted! My hidden prejudice arose from my subconscious to reveal itself in all its ugliness. Fortunately, I recognized it and have dealt with it…but it’s there.
Scientific research shows that prejudice toward outsiders is an inborn defense mechanism that came from our early ancestors who were suspicious of those not in their group. It’s usually easy to identify “The Other”: Those who have a different skin color. Those who speak a different language. Those who come from a different culture. Those who flee deadly violence, corruption and privation.
What drives us to experience prejudice? Fear is usually the culprit. Economic fears: “They’re going to steal our jobs or our possessions.”
Personal Security: “They’re going to attack me or my loved ones.”
Health Threats: “They’re dirty or disease-ridden and will infect us.” Fear of immigrants or vagrants carrying diseases.
Traditional Values: “They love others of the same sex; they have a feminist agenda; they don’t revere our national anthem; they want to bring down our system of government; they worship in a different way.
You can probably add to this list, but in every case, the outsiders are different in some way that sets them apart from the majority.
A look around this chaotic world shows how destructive prejudice is. People of color are forced into substandard housing or jobs that pay less…if they have job at all. Researchers have found that people with African-American sounding names are not hired despite having the same education or experience as the white applicant.
They are shot by police or civilians who imagine they are under threat. Flip open the daily newspaper. They are denied justice in the unjust court system. They receive substandard education or their parents are denied food stamps and childcare. They are targeted by politicians selfishly interested in advancing their own careers…and bank accounts.
Using fear, right-wing political parties inflame the gullible citizenry to oppose rational solutions. It’s happening in America. It’s happening in Europe. In Asia and Australia. Lack of empathy and compassion are ignored, and prejudice driven by fear of “The Other” is inexorably leading humanity to extinction in the not-too-distant future.
Rational thought is abandoned as primitive instinct is released from the depths of millennia of evolution. Civilization gives way to our basest instincts.
A number of famous people have written about prejudice. It’s worth considering what they have said…
“Someone has said that it requires less mental effort to condemn than to think.”― Emma Goldman
All of us need to explore our subconsciouness to recognize prejudice that’s hiding within and tame it. We need to recognize the wisdom of Audre Lorde and celebrate our differences, not let them frighten us. We must rise above our unreasoning fears.