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Pride and Prejudice

March 27, 2012

What is prejudice?

I was recently involved in a discussion that led to many hours of thought on the idea of prejudice.  According to Merriam-Webster online, prejudice is –

a (1) : preconceived judgment or opinion
   (2) : an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge
b : an instance of such judgment or opinion
c : an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics
So prejudice is basically an opinion formed without fact.  This is not only possible with a negative opinion, but with a positive one as well.  We discussed whether prejudice is inherently good or bad, whether it can be completely escaped in this life, whether it can be helpful, and other angles.  I would like to offer my thoughts on some of these things.

Where do we find prejudice?

We find prejudice in nearly every part of life.  Prejudice is found in our schools, churches, work-places, play-grounds, and just about every place imaginable.  Here we must also discriminate ( to distinguish by discerning or exposing differences) the difference between prejudice and factual judgement.  Factual judgement can be obtained from a number of sources, including one’s own experience, deliberate research, and interview.  These sources, when carefully considered, can help us to make correct observations and judgements about many things.

How is prejudice shown?

Teachers may assume your level of intellectual ability based on that of an older sibling or parent.  Class-mates may assume athletic ability based on size or interest.  Many people form an opinion about one’s financial status, level of education, experience, and more within 30 seconds of the initial introduction.  Some people assume that you can or cannot do certain jobs because of gender, race, or other irrelevant factors.

Prejudice is not only indicated by the people we exclude.  It is also indicated by the people we include.  The old saying is that “birds of a feather flock together.”  There is a tremendous amount of truth in that statement.  In any large group of individuals, smaller groups will quickly form as each individual finds others to whom they are similar.  This too is an example of prejudice, of assuming because one is similar to you that they will accept or be friendly to you.

Who exhibits prejudice?

Prejudice is not only a flaw of the majority.  In the United States today, every minority group lobbies for special rights.  There are special rights groups for women, African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, Homosexuals, Vegetarians, Middle-class, Lower-class, whales, owls, squirrels, and a plethora of other interests.  Many of these groups have tendencies toward prejudice against their counterparts. I had a friend once who told me that the only minority in America now was the Caucasian Male.  His meaning was that the Caucasian male (white man) is the only group that is not accorded special rights because of the group to which they belong.

Here are some examples of prejudice at work.  The Women’s Liberation movement of the last century has largely destroyed the image of a mature man.  I remember a grade-school teacher relating his experience on a tour of government facilities in New York City.  My teacher was told that there were many government jobs for which they would only accept African Americans, and this was back in the 80’s.  We all know of the KKK, the Black Panthers, the Mafia.   We have all heard the terms used in derision of someone because of their skin color or ethnicity.

We have also seen people flock by the thousands to hear someone speak simply because of their position in life.  This adulation, often seen in connection with sports figures and movie stars, is another type of prejudice.  The public life of these individuals can be a very poor indication of their own character or values.  We simply assume that because they are “stars,” they are good people.

Does prejudice have a place in society?

One person was quick to point out to me that groups do tend to have certain characteristics.  Most mothers are women.  This is a fact because of physical ability.  The average man has more raw strength than the average woman.   This is directly related to size, and to bone and muscle mass.  Most doctors are educated – I wouldn’t want to be seen by one that was UN-educated!  These, however, are not prejudices.  They are indications of fact.

Prejudice has, for many years, been given a place in society.  Our society has taught us, whether right or wrong, that Communism is bad, capitalism is good, and America is the most powerful nation on earth.  Prejudice was used and cultivated in a memorable 20 year span to propel a man name Hitler to power in Germany and attempt genocide.  Prejudice is used by society in some parts of the world to teach that America, capitalism, democracy, and Christianity are all evil and connected.

Prejudice should NOT have a place in OUR society.

An example of accepted prejudice in our society

Right now, throughout America, we are repeating one of our oldest traditions.  We are in the process of electing a leader, a representative, and a ruler.  These three are all bound up in one man, and one would think that we would put aside prejudice for this process.  It is my contention, however, that there is a great, and socially acceptable, prejudice at work here.

Since the beginning of our great nation, careful, conservative thought and Christian values have been at the core of our society.  They were evident in the colonization of this continent, in the conflict for our freedom, and in the creation of our system of government.  Countless writings detail the reverence which our forefathers held for God, and those same writings show a passion for doing things right and for treating men fairly.

Now, those values on which our nation was founded are being held in contempt.  Those who hold such values are viewed, especially by our enlightened media, as old-fashioned, un-educated, and inept.  This is particularly evident in the candidacy of one Rick Santorum.  Our media seems to be passionate about discounting his achievements while extolling those of his rival.  This obvious bias is not only tolerated, it is accepted as the norm. This prejudicial treatment has the potential to affect the outcome of our elections, and in doing so wreak havoc on the nation so many take for granted.

What can be done about this prejudice?

The first thing we can do is be active in the election process.  I don’t mean getting out and “stumping” for any particular candidate.  Rather, make the effort to carefully research each candidate before voting.  Prejudice often seems to come as a result of laziness; people won’t make the effort to get to know the facts.  We can avoid this prejudicial treatment by using the process as intended – doing our homework and voting carefully.

The second thing we can do is encourage others to look beyond the media coverage and think for themselves.  Obviously, you and I will have opinions of our own.  Obviously, I would wish to see a certain candidate win, and that would likely come out in any discussion of current events.  However, my biggest concern is that so many people fail to use their voice, or use it carelessly, or even worse, wastefully.  Encourage your friends, acquaintances, coworkers, and family to think through the issues, know the values of the candidates, and vote.

In conclusion, I hope you, whoever you are, are not taking the privilege and responsibility of voting for granted.  I would love to tell you who to vote for, but I would far rather you come to your own careful conclusions and vote based on your own deliberations.  The way to destroy prejudice, this one or any other, is to become informed.  Know the person, issue, or group, and you will find it much easier to understand it or them.  Know the issues at stake in this election; know the candidates running for office; know what your own values are; and VOTE.

Thank you for taking the time to ponder my deliberations.

Dave

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