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Prejudices: Everybody Has Them

Updated on May 10, 2012

Discussing what is a part of human nature

Back in the mid-1990s, a friend and I went on a field trip of sorts to this place in an affluent part of Los Angeles, CA, just a block or so south of Beverly Hills, called the Museum of Tolerance.

This was a unique museum in that rather than merely displaying artifacts, it focused on issues dealing with racism and anti-semitism, with a particular focus on the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement, featuring things such as videos on those two historical periods, a tour that included seeing a replica of a gas chamber that the Nazis used to kill Jewish people during the 1930s and 40s, and a card that was given to you at the beginning of such tour that featured a young Jewish person from that time.

At the end of the tour, after you saw and sat in the gas chamber replica, you put the card in a machine and it would tell you what happened to that young person; the vast majority of the time - roughly 90% I reckon - the card would say that the person died in one of the death camps.

Powerful stuff, to be sure.

Another aspect of the Museum of Tolerance, which I have been to twice since that first time, that really made me think and realize how things are was when you first entered the place, there were two doors for you to enter: one door said prejudiced, and the other door said non-prejudiced, and you were instructed to enter the door of what you thought you were.

Most eveyone tried to enter through the door saying non-prejudiced, and guess what?

That door was always locked, which forced everyone to enter through the prejudiced door and gave, in a way that was crystal clear, this message:

Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, has prejudices - there's no such thing as a person who has no prejudies whatsoever, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or is unaware.

I suppose some folks who may be reading this are saying right about now,

"What? How can this be? I don't have a prejudiced bone in my body, and I'm certainly not a racist! I don't have anything against anyone, so how dare you accuse me of being prejudiced?!"

I think that those who may be reacting this way are assuming that I'm accusing them of being Ku Klux Klan-style bigots, which is definitely NOT the case - at all - as there is a significant difference between being prejudiced and being a bigot.

I'll try to explain this difference as plainly and straight-forward as possible...

Unlike flat-out bigotry, being prejudiced doesn't mean that you are going around saying the "N-word" and other derogatory epithets, as that is merely an extreme version, and it definitely doesn't necesarily have anything to do with race or religion. Here's an example:

Imagine someone who's going out on the town for a night. He's walking down a busy street when he sees some young girls - teenagers really - who are dressed in rather skimpy outfits; micro-miniskirts that barely covered their bottoms, tight tops that push up and showed off their breasts, and wearing more makeup than they should.

That someone may well think, "Hmmm, they sure look like prostitutes (or, to be more politically correct, "working girls")," when in actuality they are merely kids out for the same reason he is - to have fun - and are not "working girls" in the slightest.

That's what I mean by being prejudiced - he is prejudging those girls.

This, I hope, explains how while this person who was prejudging those young females didn't outwardly call them sluts or anything like that, his brain was telling them that they looked like sluts, and he was making a prejudgment without getting to know those girls; for all he knew, they could have been going to a costume party.

That's what I mean by prejudice being a part of human nature; not necessarily the best part of human nature, but a part of it nonetheless.

Another obvious example of prejudice is one that has induced protests and riots: racial profiling of African Americans and Latinos by the police, illustrated by the recent killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, who felt threatened because Trayvon was a young black male wearing a hooded pullover sweatshirt, or a "hoodie".

And let's not forget the anniversary of the riots that gripped Los Angeles two decades ago, sparked by the acquittal of four white cops who were filmed beating black motorist Rodney King in a brutal example of prejuding; I dare anyone to tell me they couldn't have simply held him and handcuffed him instead of nearly bashing his skull in that night.

I'd like to give one more example of this notion that we all have prejudices, which is a personal one and which I feely admit I still have (though I'm not proud of it)...

As I want to do my part to be green and to help the environment out, I don't have a car and use buses and metro trains to get around, which necessitates me waiting at bus stops.

Every so often, when I sit on those bus benches, a young person, who looks like they are in their teens or early twenties, sits down and lights a cigarette, not purposely trying to make me ill with that most foul of odors, but which causes me to cover my nose and mouth and move away from such smoker.

Being that the young smoker has undoubtedly been indoctrinated in the evils of smoking - how it's not only bad for him/her but also bad for everyone around him/her as secondhand smoke is just as lethal - and should more than know better than to dare start that most obnoxious of habits, I can't help but to have this thought go through my mind:

"There's an ignorant piece of stupid, scummy kid."

Now as I don't know the circumstances of such young smoker - maybe he/she's mentally ill or is regretful of his/her habit, but is finding it too hard to quit - I know that I shouldn't judge him/her, but my brain just can't help it as it is following human nature, the challenge being to be aware of prejudging people and to look beyind the surfaces.

Which is not easy to do.

Anyhow, as for my feelings regarding young smokers, I'll close by saying this:

That's my prejudice. What's yours?


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    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      6 years ago from sunny Florida

      I agree that everyone has prejudices. People come to their beliefs about others sometimes by what others have said about or think about a group of individuals. It is learned behavior.

      However I do believe we can overcome this way of thinking if we reprogram our thinking and judge each person on an individual basis. That is hard to do but it may help us to think more clearly on this topic. I would hate to think that today as an adult that I inflict hurt or pain on another for any reason.

      Thank you for sharing this with us. We need to consider and think about these matters.

    • Guitarforlife profile image


      6 years ago from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

      Interesting read. The fact is, that that people's character will be profiled by the way they look, talk, dress, and act. It's the way the human mind works. Usually when we first meet someone, that is the only thing we have to judge them by. Once we get to know them better, a lot of that goes out the window. Far too often this profiling is just passed off as racism or hate.

      I myself have noticed, that I think negatively of people who smoke. Almost as if I see them as less intelligent or trashy, but my mind tells me this isn't necessarily true. I think one thing that influences my prejudice in this area is that, growing up and even now I didn't and don't have any close relatives or friends who smoke. This profile of smokers probably comes from the kind of people who I usually see buying cigarettes in line in front of me at the convenience store late at night.

      I think one thing to keep in mind is that often we aren't as good at profiling others as we think we are.


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