Prejudice comes in many forms. It is disrespectful toward the victim, and it magnifies the flaws in the perpetrators. Racism is the most often “reported” type of prejudice, as evidenced by the current rash of police violence against young and often unarmed African American men and boys. Hateful language and actions against anyone of a race or religion that is not our own is abhorrent and defies every religious concept that the perpetrators claim to hold so dear.
The bile being spewed (whether it be racist or race baiting) sickens me. It doesn’t seem to matter to the perpetrators of such actions whether the victim is young or old, Mexican, African American, Jewish, Muslim, Indian, Chinese, Buddhist, Sikh, or any other race or religion. They attack what they don’t understand. They seem to think that their supposed Christianity or their genetics make them superior to others, or better than others. They see those others as a threat to their insulated way of life and they lash out. They live and breathe lives of hypocrisy. They are emulating the Nazi way of thought and action…those who don’t learn from history’s atrocities are bound to repeat them.
Prejudice can also be more insidious, coming in physically non-violent, but just as damaging, verbal attacks. It affects not only those who endure it by virtue of their race or religion, but also those who are different in other ways, be it mentally challenged, physically infirmed, poorly dressed, or overweight.
I have been on the receiving end of prejudice and assumptions made by those who saw me as a fat woman rather than as a woman. I can tell you that it was emotionally and psychologically damaging. However, I have the option of putting forth enough effort to be thinner...I could change the perspective and opinions of those who see and judge me. This is not the case for a woman of color. When a very good friend of mine posted an open letter to an obviously racist woman who assumed she was a waitress simply because she was African American, I was fuming. I’ve spent the last several days thinking about how much more difficult it is for women of color to endure such wrongs. No amount of effort on their part can change the perspective or opinions of those who see and judge them, because that judgement is based on the color of their skin.
My friend Liz is terrific! She is warm, smart, funny, and well educated. She is now retired, but when she was in the workforce, she was an attorney, a journalist, and a published author. She volunteers her time running writing workshops that helping veterans tell their stories. It is a wonderful program that is incredibly beneficial to young and old veterans alike. Her husband Larry is a Vietnam Vet and extremely active in veteran’s organizations. They were attending a Disabled American Veterans Christmas party, and they were the only African Americans in the room. You can read what happened in Liz’s blog “Headblind” posted December 16th.
I have run through a million scenarios on how I might have handled what happened, but none would have been as classy and non-confrontational as the way Liz reacted. I think I might have gotten a root beer for the woman and dumped it in her lap, then apologized profusely while stating that I really had no experience as a waitress because I had been too busy as a lawyer, a journalist, and an author. But then I realized that as a white woman, I could get away with that action and would just be considered a fat (and therefore stupid) bitch, but had Liz done it, she would have been vilified as an angry, race-baiting, African American woman.
Prejudice is a game with no winners.
I am disheartened by what I see in our country. We have become a nation of spoiled, enabled, haters. We need to change the paradigm before we lose all hope of recovering our national pride and our place as the premier democracy on the planet.
Shooting young black men, deporting immigrants, and preaching hatred and death for those who don’t conform to some rigid belief system is not the way to become a great nation. It is the way to become the Fourth Reich.
Regaining our national perspective starts with respect. It is simple. Treat everyone the way you wish to be treated.