A very concerned woman asked several questions about her parenting goals. One of my answers seemed to make her angry. “How can I raise my child so he has no prejudice what-so-ever? I feel bad for people who are forced to live with prejudicial treatment and I don’t want my child to participate in that kind of thinking.”
I smiled and softened my voice. “What you want – doesn’t exist. It can never exist. Humans make hundreds of choices everyday and most of those choices are based on prejudice. If you force your child to never consider consequences or even possible consequences, you will put him in danger.” After a few minutes of protest, she calmed down.
The facts are…..
By the time a child is a month old, his/her baby brain has already engaged in prejudice. The meaning of the word prejudice is to have a preconceived idea, preconception or prejudgment. In other words, when situation “A” happens…..you have been trained that situation “B” will follow. Harmful prejudice happens when our assumptions are not based on fact or even our personal experiences, but rather on presumption. All parents have experienced a tough situation when their toddler won’t go to great-grandpa because he doesn’t know him. The toddler assumes that the frail body, wild hair and prickly cheeks couldn’t possibly be as safe as young familiar daddy.
A baby’s first day begins with training. He learns that if he cries….he will receive attention. Therefore, his preconception builds on his assumption that anytime he needs food, a diaper change or holding……all he needs to do is cry. He’s also becoming prejudiced to pain. When his stomach growls, he cries with pain. We could therefore say – he is prejudiced to pain. Or…in other words….he doesn’t like pain.
Over the course of a lifetime we build all kinds of prejudgments and preconceptions about our lives. If your family has a lot of anger issues and everyone in the family has red hair….you may have an internal feeling – or prejudice – that red heads are actually hot heads. If your experience with loan officers has been difficult, you may develop the prejudgment that all banks and their employees are greedy.
The operative word to deep prejudice or harmful prejudice is “all”. We haven’t met all the bankers or all the red heads in the world and yet we assume that they “all” will react the way we have experienced.
Preconception “Will” invade every area of your life. If you’ve been hurt by a Christian, your ability to talk about Christianity without being prejudiced will be difficult. If you had violent stomach issues the first time you ate broccoli, it will be difficult for you to try it again.
There is no way to avoid prejudice in your life. In order to navigate and live our lives, we must make decisions and those decisions will be based on our experiences. It’s totally impossible to react to life with fresh new eyes for every situation. It won’t happen.
The best we can hope for is to understand this human trait and do our best to prevent violent prejudice. I call it the “I like vanilla and you like chocolate” test. What we have to teach our children is how to form their own set of opinions without imposing those opinions on others. Teach them to look at another person’s opinions as just that – an opinion, not a fact. In other words….”I like vanilla. It’s not based on anything I can point to and say for a fact that vanilla is the only flavor anyone should eat….but I still only like vanilla.” I should be able to say that to my friend and hear her respond. “Really. Well, I like chocolate. I’m sure it’s not a fact for everyone else to consider, but I don’t like vanilla because it tastes bland to me. I like the pizazz of chocolate.” This exchange should happen with thousands of issues and never disturb the friendship or send either party into fits of anger.
Violent prejudice is when one person decides their opinion should be universal – whether it’s based on fact or not. A truly free society will make room for varying opinions while creating laws that keep society accountable to a higher standard. In other words it should be perfectly fine for me to talk about God, to read my Bible in public, to read my Bible at school, to invite people to my church and to exhibit Christian values in my life. As long as I don’t “force” those words or values on anyone else, I should have the freedom to express them. By the same token, an atheist should have the same right. All this political nonsense about whose words are correct will lead us to a restrictive, harsh, prejudicial society. It will strip this country of our freedoms.
Parents must realize that in order to help their child view others in a good light, we have to make them strong enough to withstand another person’s opinion. They must be strong enough to hear an atheist say there’s no God and sweetly smile and say, “I believe there is a God.” Both children then must accept the opinions of the other child. By limiting the Christian child we actually make the atheistic child weak. If the atheist’s child can’t stand hearing opposing words, how can he/she ever stand up for what they believe? How can we have a free society when simple words become our enemy?
When a beautiful Valedictorian Christian woman asks my opinion of her high school drop out boyfriend, I’m quick to point out the problems they will face as a married couple. Because of prejudice? Not really. I do have a deep seated prejudice against laziness and stupidity….but my advice for her would be more factual based. They may love each other but they will have huge problems to overcome and the marriage will be on rocky footing because of their great differences. (More on those issues later.) Those same issues cause problems when people think they can maintain a specific lifestyle that doesn’t fit with their moral or personality traits. At some point the pot will boil over and people will be hurt.
I’m sure this mother’s question was fueled by the news. News stations love to interview prominent figures who are angry about prejudice. As Mr. Obama said, “it’s hard to walk down the street and listen to door locks click because people are afraid of you.”
That’s true. I’m sure it is hard. One of the hardest things on the planet is to be misunderstood because of another person’s action. Unfortunately his statement isn’t fair. Those door locks didn’t click simply because Obama was black….they clicked because those women, parents or teens had read articles or seen news stories and determined that there was a “possibility” of danger. I’ll bet the door locks would have gone off even faster if they had seen a biker dude on a speeding motorcycle swinging a large stick while rushing toward their car.
The problem wasn’t the assumption that you need to lock the doors to protect yourself. Blacks lock their doors too. The problem wasn’t Obama. The prejudicial problem actually started when other black men months or years before attacked stopped cars in that area. The first criminal gave every black man in that area a negative label.
I have to deal with the same type of prejudice! I am a Christian. Because some people who can’t live the Christian life hurt others (getting worse I’m afraid) – I’m judged on their behavior. In fact, the Christian faith on the whole is being judged harshly because Priests, pastors, evangelists, and pretend Christians – have touted the name Christian while being anything but Christian. They have hurt others and given all of us a bad reputation. I’m nothing like them. I wouldn’t cheat, steal, engage in sexual sins, or even be mean to gays. Yet….I’m judged on their bad behavior.
When I hear prominent figures fuss about Christians, do I get on a soapbox and yell back? NO. I agree that pretend Christians are wrong. Instead I beg for a chance to prove that I am not like “pretend” Christians. I’m real.
Prejudice becomes violent when we are overwhelmed with bad behavior from a specific source. Race in this country will never be solved until parents unite and determine that they will not rest until every household has been educated and every child has a supportive home. When poor mothers decide it’s time to stop screaming about “give me…give me…” and instead grab a broom handle and go door to door insisting that lazy families get up, get out and get to work – this country will change their view of poor slums. When we see gangs of parents and their children spending the day picking up the trash in their neighborhoods and learning how to fix their homes – we will change our view of their values. When aliens unite together to work with family members so they can go through the immigration system properly – we will see them in a different light. When mother’s groups flood into drug infested neighborhood homes and run teen gangs into the waiting patrol cars, I’ll personally get on board and do all I can to help.
If the majority of people of ethnic backgrounds looked and talked like Allen West, Ben Carson and Michelle Maulkin there would not be a prejudical problem in this country. I am personally ashamed of my race when I stop for a second on a reality show that promotes some white mother flaunting her lack of clothing while screaming cuss words at her family. If I saw her on the street I would not only lock my doors but I would get out of that neighborhood fast.
Too many people are prejudiced about races and situations in this country because we do see the problems within those communities. We’ve given lots of money but haven’t seen results. We drive down ghetto streets and see men passed out drunk, teens fighting, mothers cursing and fathers fighting. All you have to do today is turn on your cable and watch a few cop shows or reality television and you can feel all kinds of mistrust and prejudice.
The real problem with racial prejudice is that no one is screaming about the roots of that behavior. I don’t have a problem with race. I’ll put my arm around anyone, any color or any status. What I do have is a strong prejudice against laziness. I can’t stand it. Don’t come crying to me if you are too lazy to get a job. If you need money – work for it! If you need a little help I’ll try to help for a bit – but you must take responsibility for your life.
I am enraged with prejudice against stupidity! If you want me to look at you with admiration, learn the language, read books, get an education and be able to hold a reasonable conversation with me. Don’t be destructive. Don’t lie to me or steal my stuff. Don’t push me around or demand that I become you. Instead, get busy making your life a life of worth and I guarantee prejudice against you will improve. Most people will give a clean, well mannered, hard working person a chance.
I have a list of people I would like to meet someday. Alan West is on that list. I would love to have lunch with the man and listen to him talk on a wide range of topics. I would feel totally safe if his face appeared in my rear view mirror. (In fact, I’d probably get out and chase him down for an autograph.)
My point is that where ever people “feel” prejudice there is a reason. To conquer prejudice three things need to happen.
1) Make sure that you (the prejudiced person) don’t allow yourself to engage in the assumption that everyone fits the same category. Not all black teens will hurt you. Not all Christians are mean. Not all businessmen are greedy.
At the same time you must build preconceived judgements that will protect you in a crisis. When you see someone approaching with a gun cocked and pointed at your face – run! Don’t stand on railroad tracks – trains won’t stop in time! Don’t put your hand in a fire and don’t give the con man a chance to rob you. If someone is banging your head on the cement, you can safely think that he’s not going to stop until you are dead or at least out cold. Protect yourself. Be wise with your decisions and build preconceived judgements that won’t abuse others but will keep you out of trouble.
2) If you are the object of prejudice – ask why? Has your company, political party, social agenda or some other affiliation caused you to be judged by evil doers within your social group? If so, don’t blame the offending party for their actions. They have been trained to not trust you. Instead, work hard to build trust. It is your responsibility to change viewpoints – not the responsibility of those around you. Work hard to weed out the offenders in your social group. Join forces with those that have a prejudice against you by saying, “I know most people of my faith, race, etc…has not acted properly. Give me the chance to prove to you that I’m different.”
3) No matter what side you are on, if you are a parent you have a huge responsibility in this. You have the choice to raise a child that will be a credit to society or one that will not. Their future depends on you. Someone reading this may say – yeah but…we live in the slums or we don’t have this or that – so we can’t get out.
Not true! Read the stories of poor African-Americans like George Washington Carver, Ben Carson, Herman Cain, Frederick Douglass, Star Parker, Condoleezza Rice, Clarence Thomas, Booker T. Washington, Sojourner Truth and hundreds others who grew up in poverty or slave like communities and yet found a way to improve their lives and to succeed. Poor people from all nations weave through this country’s history like fine threads of gold. They refused to accept their station in life and instead worked long hours to make their lives successful. Join the “I like History” gang and try to find every example you can of people who should have whined and quit – but didn’t!
You must read Your Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic. He has no arms and no legs. He had every right to quit and be a burden on his parents. He was the subject of many prejudicial remarks from people who didn’t understand who he was. Yet, he refused to fuss about prejudice and now is one of the most successful speakers in the world. He surfs, he swims, he’s married and is the proud father of a beautiful new baby. You don’t have to live a life of despair – no matter what your circumstances. All you have to do is determine that you will succeed.
It is an undisputed fact that anyone, Anyone, ANYONE can improve their life and find a measure of success. The question is, do you have the determination to do it? Do you prefer to live in a whining state of mind that feels the world owes you or have you determined to take responsibility for your life and make it the best you can.
And for those of you who have had a great start at life from the beginning….maybe it’s time to take a look around and see where you can give back to those that need help. I’m not talking about simply providing current needs for them, but rather teach them how to make their life better so they can join you at the top.