Prejudice, bias, bigotry what ever we call it, exists in most of us. It might be racial, cultural, gender based, generational, religious or a combination.
It became obvious to me when I arrived in Canada that the common prejudices and biases here were very different from those I had experienced and helped perpetuate in Africa.
Suddenly, I was criticised for being a White African. Generally by people who had no idea about the realities of Africa. People with their own brand of prejudice. People who did not show a moment’s concern for the treatment of indigenous North American people, but automatically condemned White Southern Africans. A prejudice fomented by liberal politicians and fed by the left leaning media.
People who had no idea that by almost every single measure except having the vote, indigenous people in Southern Africa had benefited from European immigration far more than their North American counterparts.
But that’s the way the world is, every nationality, tribe, family, religion, organisation has a culture, that culture allows prejudice to exist.
It is a necessary evil. To protect our own culture, we resist the influence of other cultures that threaten ours. Even if that threat is purely imaginary. We naturally suspect people from groups different from our own. The greater the difference, the greater the suspicion or fear.
Until we have to confront our prejudice in an unusual context.
Prejudice against homeless people.
In my younger days, I had always thought that all homeless people were in that condition because they were stupid, lazy, afraid of work, irresponsible, alcoholics or drug addicts. An attitude shared by many people. That may be true of some, or possibly many of them, but I now realise not all.
Here is a link to an article in Mashable about great example of how one woman’s attitude towards homeless people changed dramatically when she was forced to confront her prejudice in an unusual context in London, England after missing the last train home.
She was rescued by a homeless man who took her to a place where she would be safe for the night, then went to escort her back to the train station the next morning.
An experience that has softened her prejudice against homeless people.
The politically correct culture in much of the West assumes that all and any prejudice or bias is wrong and unhealthy. That assumption breeds intolerance and creates a new set of prejudices and biases against any one who does not buy into a perceived and media inspired crusade. Global warming, same-sex marriage, and accepting floods of illegal immigrants being three examples.
How do we keep our prejudices and biases in check?
As in most things in life, exercising discernment, finding a balance between protecting our selves, our families, our culture and our values and accepting that sometimes our lives and those of others will be enriched if we can overcome those biases.
Even if we need to have out of normal context experiences to discover that.
My life for the 12 years I have lived in Canada has been completely different to the earlier 50 years. I have been forced by circumstance to face many of my prejudices and biases, some I have overcome to a degree, some have been re-inforced, I have found new ones to embrace.
Through that journey, I have met many interesting people whom I would not have met in my old life. My life is certainly richer for that.
How do you handle your prejudices and biases? Leave a comment.
Graphic by Stuart Miles / freedigitalphoto.net