Becoming aware of our own prejudice can help us eliminate it.
In this article I would like to offer you food for thought on your journey—a new perspective about how we all relate to each other and how we each have a role in bringing the people of the world together, in peaceful harmony. It can be done—and we are closer than ever before.
We now live in a global (if not universal) society, where we can easily “see” the differences among our human family. We can “see” differences in all areas that make us unique: religion; the color of our skin; our political beliefs; philosophies on medicine, education, and nutrition; our sexual orientation; socioeconomic status; how we live; where we live…
There are so many different aspects of being human, and no one aspect stands above the rest when it comes to the source of all things.
We call this source, God, Allah, Jesus (Christ,) Adonai, Source, Goddess, The One, The Great and Powerful Oz…So many names for that which can either bring us together or, as history shows, tear us apart. So many lessons to learn from our choices of the past.
With the rapid introduction of technology into our global society, we now, more than ever, have an opportunity to learn about each other. To stand in our individualness, in our power, yet honor those who may seem different than us. I do believe that we humans are getting better at honoring diversity, but we still have a long way to go.
I would like to pose a few questions; some thoughts to ponder. I hope they will help you to look inside, at your oneness, and “see” with eyes wide open the beauty and uniqueness that is you. What makes you, YOU? Can you list the things that make up the "self"? It’s hard to do.
So many things influence the person we are and more experiences will influence who we become. We change every day. We are all a work in progress, and we have great ability to mold and shape the “Me” we want to become. Sometimes, there are things about ourselves that we don’t even know. In asking myself some of these questions, I have found things in myself that I was not aware of and, in finding those things, I have been able to shift my thinking. So here are a few questions;
Do you think you are prejudiced?
(This can be a tricky question; each of the following questions will break it down for you.)
Why do you think you are or are not prejudiced?
Why do you think you are, or are not, prejudice?
Have you ever made a decision about someone based solely on the way they look?
Can an accent or speech patterns make you pass judgment before you really know someone?
Have you ever made a statement that places a group of people into one behavioral category?
Have you ever made a decision to do, or not do, something based solely on what you have been told about a certain neighborhood, town, city, country….?
If you have children, have you ever said something to your children like, “We don’t believe like they do, so you…” or “We don’t want people to think that…” or how about, “If you do that, people will think you...”
When describing someone, have you ever made the first trait you mention about them the color of their skin, their religion, their sexual orientation…?
Chances are you have answered yes to at least one of these questions. I know I have. And it is a normal, human condition to make decisions based on what we have been told, have experienced ourselves, or have been shown through actions or media influence.
The question is, “How can we all reduce our prejudices and biases?”
The Power of Conscious Description
I have made it a point in my life to change what adjectives I use when describing other people. For example, if you are describing a person at a party, consider saying something like, “the guy over there by the window with the blue shirt,” instead of saying, “the black guy over there.” There is nothing wrong with identifying someone with a physical trait, but is that physical trait the most important thing about them? Probably not. Many people often assume, when pointing someone out, that the only (or at least the best) way to describe them is by their “color.” But by choosing to describe someone in a way that does not label them, you actually change how you view that person and how others around you will view them, too.
Another thing to watch out for is defining someone based on physical attributes or other classifications, to aid in identification, even when you’re not trying to describe what they look like. For example, someone was speaking to me about an attorney they were working with. The first thing they said to describe this person was “This little Jewish guy.” I did not know this man. Did his stature or religion make any difference to me? Did this description actually define the person? No, it did not.
Another example: Someone was telling me about an experience of meeting a nice person in line at the grocery store. The first thing the person said about the encounter with this woman was, “This black lady….” Was the fact that she was black relevant? No, it was not.
We don’t realize how much we label people. It is interesting that when describing someone different than themselves most people identify the other person based on their “race.” Think about this… If you are white, how many times have you started a description with “That white girl…” Yet, have you ever started a description with “That black girl…”? To take it a step further, when describing or talking about someone, it is common practice to say something like “He was as black as black” or “That pasty white girl.” Not only is the person’s skin color an identifier, but further definition, typically not nice or necessary, is added. Listen to other conversations and how others refer to someone they are describing. Make mental notes and watch how just being aware can help you to “see” the world around you differently.
There is a great deal of value in those things that make us different. However, when labeling and describing others based on physical or cultural traits that are irrelevant or, worse, lead to false assumptions about them, the description is not for the purpose of emphasizing the value of their differences. Whether we mean to or not, describing people this way causes judgment and separation, not unity and appreciation for differences.
We can all do a better job at letting the individual qualities of a person characterize them, versus a description of what we see on the outside, or our opinion of what we think to be true about their ethnicity.
If we each continue to do everything we can—whether that means making choices to use words that honor instead of separate, instilling values of diversity and equality in our children, or spreading the message of hope and equality—together we will further advance the progress toward a society based on the values of love, peace, understanding, compassion and embracing the differences between people.
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!