Sunday, March 4, 2012


Prejudice: 1. an adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts; a preconceived preference or idea. 2. The act or state of holding unreasonable preconceived judgments or convictions. 3. Irrational suspicion or hatred of a particular group, race, or religion. 4. Detriment or injury caused to a person by the preconceived, unfavorable conviction of another or others. (Definitions taken from The Free Dictionary)

Most of us are familiar with the blatant forms of prejudice--racism, sexism, etc. Some of us don't realize that we have prejudiced ideas and thoughts until we are confronted with certain situations and circumstances. Almost all of us have some ideas, opinions, and perspectives that are rooted in prejudice based on our own race, socioeconomic class, religion, sex, life experiences and influences. Subtle forms of prejudice can be harder to recognize or even admit. Challenges to our preconceived notions about others who are different from who we are can make us angry, flustered, and defensive. However, almost all of us are capable of changing that if we're willing to look beyond our own lenses. It doesn't mean that we're going to change our own journeys and our own dreams, but we can at least get to a point where we can acknowledge that there is more than one reality. And those realities are neither better or worse than the others. Each one has its value. Each one can co-exist with the other.

Subtle forms of prejudice are sometimes hidden behind "statistics," "facts," "old wives tales" and similar notions. Differences can scare people because they don't know how to control what they don't know. So we put a name on it, blame the person rather than the real cause, and isolate them in "punishment" for their difference, in a misguided attempt to control rather than understand, change, and heal. And god forbid that we ourselves should be different or go against the "culturally accepted norm." We might find ourselves alone and having to think for our own selves, rather than being "an engine that simply adjusts to the driver's choice of gear."

Subtle forms of prejudice exist everywhere in our world society. Some of them have become accepted theories, ways of life, or "just the way things are." Like the belief that an introvert can't possibly be a good leader or a good salesperson, because he/she must be "timid," "afraid of people," "unable to communicate," "unintelligent," and "not willing to be a team player." Or the belief that a sexual assault victim/survivor/conqueror must have placed herself/himself in that situation, "asked for it," was dressed "inappropriately," "should have known better" or "should have expected to fulfill his/her partner's sexual expectations."

There are more forms of subtle prejudice, such as the belief that someone with a skin disorder doesn't have "good personal hygiene habits," when in reality he/she just got the "bad gene card" and may be on many prescription medications that simply either don't work or aren't as effective as promised. My personal favorite is the preconceived notion that people in bad circumstances or who come from bad circumstances are to be ignored, looked down upon, will turn out to be "delinquents," are "harmful to society," "mental," "in need of serious intervention," etc. One thing that growing up with a social worker taught me is that we're all one paycheck or one step away from those "bad circumstances" and that each member of humanity is more alike than different. Each of us has our own unique value, whether we are homeless or royalty. Each of us has our own set of wounds. Some of them are obvious. Some of them are hidden. But each of us has the power and gift of potential transformation. Sometimes we need a little support in getting there, but anything is possible. And no one is untouchable. The person that ends up rescuing you may be the one who was once in need of rescue.

Instead of talking to each other, we assume. Instead of attempting to understand, we either attempt to push people in our own directions or we push them away. We don't want to confront the fact that our nice little outlines of what life should be may, in fact, change when we explore what's beyond the dotted i's and the crossed t's. Because then "right" and "wrong" don't exist, and external validation and exaltation become crutches that no longer stand. We ignore freedom and growth in lieu of fear, resentment, expectation, segmentation, and limitation. We fail to realize that differences are the true path to completeness.


  1. Beautiful article. Personally I have found being different an extremely difficult interpersonal hurdle,

    I like what you said about how we are all one paycheck away from "bad circumstances". I wish that awareness was reflected in our cultural discourse.

  2. Thanks Maria! I have also "found being different an extremely difficult interpersonal hurdle." Something that my current writing mentor is surprisingly pointing out and (in her way) being supportive of. Not only am I a "different" person, but my "writing ambitions" are "different" from most. Now I have an articulate "answer" to my feelings of discomfort with my MFA program/peers. I was seeing so many parallels between my former company and the MFA/"serious writing" world that I didn't quite realize it is because what I view as most important is not what many others do. It's something I'm going to have to learn to live with and yet still keep going in the direction that I wish to.

    Yes, I wish too that more of our society was aware that divisions (in whatever form) aren't "real." We are all human and equally vulnerable.