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Prejudice and Discrimination Will Always Exist: 4 Ways to Curb it in Your Corner of the World
Prejudice vs. Discrimination
Laws can be enacted, groups can protest, and leaders can say all the right things; however, prejudice and discrimination have existed for centuries and unfortunately will continue for centuries. Thankfully, in the United States of America, people have the freedom to think and believe what they want plus the freedom to say what they want; however, because of this, prejudice and discrimination will continue.
Many times prejudice and discrimination are used interchangeable; however, they are not the same. Merriam-webster.com defines prejudice as:
“preconceived judgment or opinion; an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge; an instance of such judgment or opinion; an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics”
They define discrimination as:
“the act of making or perceiving a difference; the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually; prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment (example: racial discrimination)”
Prejudice is essentially the thoughts that lead to the action of discrimination.
No matter who you are, you have prejudicial thoughts against something or someone and if you deny it, you are not being truthful. Prejudice, and thereby discrimination, comes from how you were raised, circumstances in your life, things people have done to you in the past, religious beliefs, lack of knowledge, etc. Perception about people is different for everyone.
Think about it…what comes to mind when you hear about:
- A female commercial pilot or contractor?
- A male home decorator?
- A black male nanny?
- A white male social worker?
- A Native American CEO?
- A black male janitor?
- A white female nurse?
- Someone who believes in Jesus Christ?
- Someone who believes in Buddha?
- Someone born and raised in the Ozarks?
- Someone born and raised in Beverly Hills?
- A professional boxer?
- A business owner?
Thoughts about each, preconceived notions, come to mind, right? Those are prejudicial thoughts and those thoughts can lead to discrimination such as not hiring someone, talking differently to them or about them, etc.
Prejudice and Discrimination
A Perfect World vs. Reality
In a perfect world, prejudice and discrimination could be extinguished and would not exist; however, this is not reality because we cannot change all minds at the same time about all groups of people. It is like saying world peace is possible for any length of time. World peace has never happened and I expect never will happen. Yes, there are things that we can do to calm areas of the world and bring peace in some parts but to think that we can have peace all around the world for any length of time at the same time is impractical.
This does not mean we don’t try to stop prejudice or discrimination (or achieve world peace). It also doesn’t mean we don’t continue to fight for people’s rights and equality. Yes, there are things we can do to try to change minds and lessen discrimination…and we should…but to say prejudice and discrimination, in every form, will someday not exist at all is unrealistic.
Prejudice & Discrimination: Then and Now
There has been some form of prejudice and discrimination from the time America was discovered and probably before that in other countries. In the early years of America:
- prejudices caused our ancestors to discriminate against Native Americans, people migrating here from countries not their own, and the British
- prejudices led our ancestors to discriminate against blacks which led to the era of slavery causing blacks to form prejudices against Whites because of the treatment they received
- prejudices against women led to discriminatory behaviors when women weren’t supposed to work outside the home, vote, consume alcohol, partake in household financial decisions, and so much more.
- prejudices against Jews led to them be heavily discriminated against because of their beliefs which ultimately to war. Thereafter, prejudices were formed against all Germans and they were discriminated against because of the behavior of other Germans
- prejudices about the Vietnam war let to Vietnam vets being discriminated against just because they participated in a war by order of the U.S. Government
Today people have prejudices and discriminate against blue collar workers, people from inner cities, farmers, gays, transgender people, computer nerds, disabled people, rich people, poor people, skinny people, fat people, truck drivers, accountants, lawyers, Catholics/Catholic priests, Muslims, Hispanics, Cubans, people from California, people from New York, people from the Midwest, people from Texas, etc.
Even though some prejudices have simply been left to history and strides have been made in areas such as the end of slavery, rights to blacks, women’s rights and equality, gay rights, and more, prejudicial thoughts and discriminatory actions still exist and will always exist. To think otherwise is not living in reality.
Prejudices and discrimination will continue to exist, in part, because people have long memories, unforgiving hearts, and pass their prejudices to their kids. Some people just cannot leave the past in the past or judge people on their own merit. In addition, prejudices and discrimination continue, in part, because people do not like change, resist change, or do not like going out of their comfort zones. However, there is an ironic twist to all of this.
The Ironic Twist
The ironic twist is that to some degree there is a need for prejudice and discrimination especially when it comes to your own personal safety, the safety of your family, or the safety of the United States. In some instances, we as individuals and the United States government must use prejudicial thoughts and discriminatory actions to stay safe.For instance, if you are a woman walking alone in a parking ramp and a man is coming toward, following you, or sitting in the car next to yours, it would be for your safety to prejudge that person and take steps to protect yourself. Likewise, American leaders must form prejudices, usually based on information from the defense and intelligence departments, and take what might be perceived by some as discriminatory actions to protect our country and its citizens.
Curbing Prejudice & Discrimination
Given all of this, do you throw up your hands and think there is nothing you can do? Hopefully not because there is something you can do. Curbing prejudice and discrimination doesn’t mean changing the world but instead starts with becoming a leader that influences change in your corner of the world. Becoming this type of leader includes:
- Learning all the information about someone before passing judgement or making a decision: In my opinion, we have too many people in our world, communities, work places, or homes who are prematurely passing judgement on other people and situations before having all the information. Find out another person’s story or get all the information about a situation before passing judgement.
- Giving respect. Expecting respect: Respect means to hold someone in high regard for his or her personal qualities or accomplishments. It is interesting to me, that some people do not give respect to another person until that person has earned respect. Why is that? Isn’t that a little pessimistic not to mention judgmental? By doing this, are we not saying to that person, “You are not good enough; prove to me you are worthy”? To be a leader and influence change, give respect to everyone until you have a reason to discontinue that respect and expect the same in return.
- Showing interest in others through active listening: Developing good listening skills and being interested in others will accomplish three things: a) You will show respect b) You will be able to receive all the information the person is telling you c) You may learn something new.
- Maintaining your integrity: Integrity is a demonstration of your core values and beliefs. Integrity comes from having good self-esteem and confidence. To be someone who others will want emulate and who influences change, you must say what you mean and you do what you say you will do.
In my humble opinion, prejudice and discrimination, although wrong most of the time, will always exist on some level and while you cannot change the world, you can influence change in your corner of the world. You can cause a ripple effect in curbing prejudice and discrimination that leads others to do the same.
P.S. Tell me, in your humble opinion, what you think can be done to curb prejudice and discrimination.