Am I Prejudiced In America?

Am I Prejudiced In America?

“People who insist on dividing the world into ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ never contemplate that they may be someone else’s ‘Them’.” Ray Davis

Donald Sterling said he was not a racist after making racial slurs. This made me wonder how you decide if you are a racist. I took some online tests. According to the internet, I am not. But I already knew that.

The more serious question for me as a“tolerant” liberal is, am I prejudiced? And if so against who? There was a period in my life where I would only have pretty friends. Was I vain and shallow or prejudiced against ugly people?  My daughter told someone I would never have a fat dog. Does that make me a bigot where fat dogs are concerned?

In Germany, I loved the beer, sausages, pretzels, art and scenery. But I did find myself looking at groups of older Germans picturing them in Nazi uniforms saying Heil Hitler. Do I discriminate against old Germans?

Growing up in New York City, I was surrounded by different immigrant populations.  I heard many foreign languages daily.   In fact, my friend and I would often converse on the subway in a made up language and watch people try to figure out what we were speaking.  I have lived in LA and Miami so I am very comfortable around Spanish-speaking people. But how would I feel at Anderson Cooper’s family reunion (according to not reliable Wikipedia his ancestors have been here for a long time)?  Does that qualify as a prejudice against non recent immigrants or people who were here before the Civil War?

I think I would probably be fearful visiting a small town in the South or Middle America alone.  Would that make me intolerant toward Americans who don’t live in big cities?

I love intelligence, hate math, like creative types, dislike politicians and hate divorce. Does that make me biased against stupid people, people who leave their families, mathematicians, people with boring jobs and the government?

Many Americans have a bias against the elderly. Was I one of them? My mother once told me that people talked down to old people so I try to be aware of that.  I’m getting older. Now I look at them and think which one am I going to be? I’m definitely nicer now that it concerns me.

What about unconscious prejudice? Those are cultural lessons that we have learned over a lifetime. They can be passed on by mass media, parents, peers and other members of society.

Children as young as three can pick up prejudice without even knowing what it is. When my son was six he brought a New Kids On the Block lunchbox to school. Some of the older kids teased him and called him a faggot. He came home crying. I explained it as a very unkind word to my six-year-old. My three-year old daughter heard all of this. A few days later, an adult friend who she adored said he couldn’t come to her birthday party . She was upset and angry. She thought of the most unkind word she could think of, the one that made her brother cry and she called him a faggot. He happened to have been gay and though I tried to explain it, he never spoke to us again.

As a Caucasian person, I see racism in America as much better than when I was growing up. But the African-American , Latino, Gay, and Muslim communities say different things. So I listen, read and learn more. I try not to walk in their heads with my dirty feet as Leo Buscaglia would say. I keep traveling. The further out of my comfort zone I go, the more tolerant my world becomes. The tolerance along with education and understanding, is the beginning of acceptance.

Fly Safe,

JAZ

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17 thoughts on “Am I Prejudiced In America?

  1. I think the difference is that making decisions and having opinions based on your own life experience is not the same thing as prejudice.

    I feel that prejudice would be making decisions and having opinions based on second-hand information. Information of which you have had no partake in.

  2. Beautifully written, Jayne. Thanks for your openness.

    We all have prejudices. The main issue is whether or not we act on them and discriminate against people. I love the Museum of Tolerance, especially the ground floor. Might be the right time for another visit there. Also — you said you took a bunch of on-line tests. The best of those are Harvard University’s Implicit Associations Tests (the IAT’s.) Google and find them if you haven’t yet.

    When I was working at Hastings Law School most of my work was around unexamined gender bias. Bias and discrimination again people of color, women, older people, gays/lesbians/transgendered people — It’s all rampant. But currently it seems to be more out in the open, which is allowing a discussion.

    • I think I took the Harvard one. I figured it was a good one. I agree. talking is always better than not talking. thanks for the comment. dont beat me again.

  3. Wow, Jayne I remember u Asking me why I didn’t have pretty friends. I never heard the story of kyley and your friend Really good honest writing You have grown a lot, my friend Xo Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Ive noticed that your friends on fb have gotten prettier. You either have new friends, they are very photogenic or they have had good surgery. (ha ha) I knew that you would remember this and I thought about that while i was writing it. Thanks for reading this.

  4. I admire the fact that you are not afraid to leave your bubble. We all live in a bubble and have very limited experiences outside of our own culture groups. I live in an African American community with some expose to AA who are financially challenged because of my work. I have tried to our reach to my Jewish neighbors with little success. It is great and indeed necessary to have racial, cultural and religious pride to be a healthy. But it is too bad that people do not get to know each other better outside of their comfort zone.. I do believe it is different and easier for the younger generation.

    Elaine

    • i agree. I think the next generation has been brought up in a more culturally diverse way. Thanks for commenting and we became friends so Im sure that there must be something wrong with your neighbors!

  5. And now that I think about it, the fact that you are outwardly asking if you are prejudiced is probably a sign that you are not!!

  6. Hi Jayne, A brave venture outside of your usual comfort zone … and yes, I believe we all carry some baggage of prejudice, the trick is dumping it. Harv

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