13 Comments

PREJUDICE


It’s a big subject. Too big for a simple blog, but we encounter it in some way each day in our private and public lives, so it needs to be addressed.

Conducting an interview with myself, I wondered when I first became aware of the mean spirited effect of prejudice. The strong Yankee-bred women in my family were ardent Republicans who thought the last best hope for the country had been Herbert Hoover. They gladly overlooked the Depression which was consuming the country; possibly as a result of Mr. Hoovers’ miscalculations.

Without knowing or caring who Franklin D. Roosevelt was, it was apparent from their conversation that he was the devil incarnate, and his busy body wife was a disgrace. My father, away at sea most of the time, did not participate in the conversations, so I had no idea on which side he dwelt.

Somehow, listening at dinner tables and eavesdropping in nearby rooms, I felt uncomfortable with the negative conversations. Surely this man was not as bad as they thought. I often differed from authority, and this gave me one more reason to determine my own path. When my father returned from a voyage, I found that he had voted for this same Franklin D. Roosevelt, which made me feel validated.

Prejudice touches so many facets of our lives. Politics and religion always draw the most heat, making them the most interesting of subjects. Due to my Grandmother’s dynamic leadership, we attended the Christian Science church, at least my Grandmother and I did. My mother and aunt, though believers, were usually busy on Sunday mornings. My father, needless to say, had no interest in the study of Christian Science. Auntie and Uncle Phil, with whom I lived occasionally, followed no religion, and we usually spent Sunday at the movies.

I never determined why, but overheard conversation told me that the Catholics, and possibly a few other religions, were not appropriate friends. I knew no blacks, though there were a few Japanese living in Long Beach in those days. We were a strong Masonic family, with various relatives holding office in the organization. We were a proud flag waving, Anglo-Saxon Protestant family. Not that any of these things were talked about; they were simply there, and you knew.

I had exhibited a few minor talents from an early age. I had a pleasant voice, I could dance, and I could draw a straight line. Grandma was convinced that I was a winner, yet I knew many other girls who surpassed my efforts, so it seemed uncomfortable to take any credit for anything I produced.

My feelings of being at odds with the accepted beliefs sent me on solo trips around town exploring various churches and the lone synagogue in Torrance where we were currently living. It was a marvelous education in the various views people held in the acceptance or non-acceptance of Jesus as the Savior. I realized that I had no opinion either way, which was no surprise. In fact, I took offense to the words of the entrance hymn which entreated the Christian soldiers to keep marching on to war.

On my first trip to the Southwest with my Indian friend Georgia Oliver, I immediately tried to fit in with the locals by identifying which village someone came from by the way they wore their hair. I whipped off a small sculpture of a woman’s head with something which looked like a Dutch cut, Georgia just smiled and said that I missed the back style. I smugly identified a man riding by on his horse as a Navajo. With a curled lip and a sharp retort, Georgia shot back “He’s a Mexican.” Clearly here lived prejudice, even in a country comprised of people who lived rather low on the totem pole.

Yes, there is prejudice wherever we look. It lives in small children and in the very old who should know better. Give it a chance, recognize it when you see it, and speak up to make a change.

Advertisements

13 comments on “PREJUDICE

  1. Good article, Kayti.
    I admit to prejudice when it comes to political or religious choices and try and speak up.
    It is often thought as being rude, but better rude than indifferent.

    Like

  2. I’m not sure about prejudice in small children. They may be biased against broccoli, but religious, racial and political prejudice is learned rather than innate, I think. Children parrot their elders.

    Like

    • I don’t think anyone is born with prejudice. It has to be taught. Both religion and politics are too complex subjects for children to understand if they need to take a side, so yes, they generally repeat what they hear. I think I was such an obstinate child that I automatically took the other side from what I heard, before I knew anything about the subject. But I know I was a compassionate child who seemed to take the underdogs side. I was also a curious child who took pains to find out what the fuss was all about before making a decision. I think I rather enjoyed being on the other side rather than joining in.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I took the underdog’s side, too; but I didn’t really start thinking for myself and taking “the other side” until I reached my teens. Or at least that’s my memory of it. As you said at the beginning of your post, it’s a big subject.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I find I can easily slip into prejudice if I am not alert to the danger. This makes me wonder whether prejudice might be a combination of nature and nurture. The evolutionary imperative for survival must have written into our DNA a suspicion of the unfamilar or different. Only progress and enlightenment teach us to be more discerning as to real and imagined threats.

    There is deep in our natures, too, an unpleasant drive to victimise and exploit the weak, eccentric or naïve and to enjoy the suffering of others – a drive often observed in little children, innocent though they may be – an instinct they have to learn for themselves or be taught to resist and subordinate to bettter instincts such as friendship, help and love and to reason and tolerance.

    Wikipedia tells us that “Onward Christian Soldiers”was written in haste for a children’s procession from one parish to the next and that there were a number of revisions. The familiar tune is by Arthur Sullivan.

    The imagery is that of soldiers of Christ as in II Timothy. It is not meant as a call to a war to destroy our neighbours or enemies. The mission for soldiers of Christ is to teach us to love our neighbours and also our enemies, to turn the other cheek. The words I know are ” … marching as to war… ” not “… on to war… ”

    Yours is not a simple blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think if we are all honest we can admit to prejudice of some sort. We are privy to so many encounters in our daily lives, and while we may absorb one as natural, the next may trigger an unwanted prejudice. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that we are more alike than we are unalike. Children are often perpetrators of unpleasant prejudice, resulting in bullying
      On my first visit to the Southwest Indian country I remember the amazement when I realized I was living with people I had only seen in a Western Cowboy movie and they were just like me.

      Interesting story about “Onward Christian Soldiers”. I realize that i miswrote when I used the word “on” instead of “as”. Having sung it as part of the choir each Sunday, I should have known better.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Children do parrot their elders, which makes it extremely difficult to change the course of prejudice. Some are more questioning than others, as you were!

    Like

  5. On the other hand… If prejudice is learned, it also can be unlearned. For more than a week now, a lot of people here have experienced the joy of living in a world free of prejudice, and it’s been wonderful.

    When the boats went out to rescue people, the only requirement was that you needed rescuing. Black, white, Hispanic — it didn’t matter. White men rescued black mothers and babies, and big, burly black men rescued elderly Hispanics. No one asked about a person’s political beliefs or sexual preferences before handing over a life jacket. No atheist refused to go to a church for shelter, and no one at the churches demanded adherence to dogma before help would be offered.

    Somehow, everyone seemed to have come to agreement without any need for a committee meeting or the development of a bureaucracy: if someone needs help, you help. And it’s still happening. Even the government and the agencies managed to do what needed doing without grandstanding or stupidity.

    It probably won’t last — certainly it won’t last perfectly — but there are hundreds of thousands of people who have experienced “it” now, and they will remember. It’s one of the most stunning experiences many of us ever have had.

    Like

    • Your opening sentence says it all. The past week has been a lesson for us all. I’m sure that living through it is something none of you will ever forget. What an uplifting surge of compassion. To even see it on TV must have given the country pause to see the selfless cooperation of strangers. You are also correct in saying it may not last–somewhat like Christmas–but it won’t be forgotten.

      Like

  6. I have come to believe that at some point we all come to see “the other.” I am no exception. We are products of our experience and our education. What we often fail to identify is that prejudice always runs both ways.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This is such a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece, Kayti. Prejudice can be so subtle that many times we, who would never be blatantly prejudiced, don’t know it lurks in small ways in us. Thought and speech patterns we were reared with and have long disavowed can pop up in our minds unbidden. There is a deepness and a darkness to prejudice in our country that is alarming, but I think most of us fight the good fight and gradually the climate in our country improves despite occasional setbacks like Charlottesville.

    Like

Thanks for reading. Please leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: