Saturday, November 22, 2008

Prejudice, Who has the Time?

I have been thinking lately about prejudice and how time consuming and exhausting it must be to put one's energy into hating another ethnic/religious/political group. A friend of mine shared a story with me the other day that really struck at the heart of this. She was recently on an airplane chatting happily with the young man seated next to her. They seemed to have a lot to talk about, laughing, asking each other questions, it looked to her like he would turn out to be a pleasant seat mate for the flight. Then he commented on her accent and asked where she was from. The reply, "I'm from Iran," caused the young man to mutter something, pull out his headphones, and sit with his backside toward her. What had started as a great human interaction was shut down by prejudice.

It is easy to blame others for problems in life. This has been played out globally in the South in our own country, Rwanda, WW II Germany, Sierra Leone, Israel, Afghanistan... there are countless examples of blame and prejudice fueled by hate, if we just get rid of or suppress this one group of people through fear and violence our own lives will be O.K. The same can be said for gay persons throughout America. Time and time again I have heard people proselytize about being anti-gay marriage. When asked if they actually know anyone who is gay, the response is often "no." It seems to be easier to hate or be against a group of people if you don't know them or interact with them personally.

Scarily enough I have sometimes found myself to be a victim of prejudicial thoughts. This was really true for me soon after 9/11. Since then I have met, interacted with, and known many Muslim people who do not endorse the 9/11 actions. As a person of christian descent, I know that my religion has been hated and persecuted in the past. As a group, the Christians have committed atrocities throughout history, although it is ancient, the crusades comes to mind.

I think sometimes that our society is learning and growing as a whole and than I hear stories like the one that my friend experienced and it makes me sad. Even given a strong, positive connection with an individual, that young man was not able to set aside his prejudice. This only serves to divide people and keep hate strong.

1 comment:

Megs said...

good post Karen!
I interviewed Hugh Mackay years ago in my journalism days - he's a famous Aussie sociologist, who thought that we humans are at heart essentially very tribal in the way we interact with others... It was interesting... I think the process of locating the hatred and prejudice in oneself leads to wisdom, yet is painful...