5. PREJUDICE AN INVITATION FOR SELF-EXAMINATION

 

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Prejudice. Defined as a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience. A word with countless applications but a word that touches all of us. We all have natural biases that often times we forget, so it’s interesting to me that we can make comments or statements with such certainty (i guess i also to do this myself).

I would like to think that accepting that you are a product of your environment would also mean we acknowledge that we all have biases. 

Our views about politics, especially those who lean towards the right or the left often have generation old preconceived notions about the other side. We forget our own biases and stop seeking or even listening to the other side (this has become particularly evident in the past year). Our views about being religious or unreligious have been tainted with heavy brushstrokes on both sides, even the views we hold about different religious beliefs are often founded on deeper prejudices that we are often unaware of, but I should also ask if we are consciously choosing to ignore them?

We have come up with different theories and ideas aiming to explain prejudice, discrimination and bias, but still it festers in all of us and some of us see no shame in spouting who we are and what we believe without seeing that we too are inherently biased. The saying that you are the sum total of your environment is too often forgotten. We should use it as an invitation to reflect on who we are and who we would like to be.

Our views about: the rich and the poor within our society, the educated and the uneducated, homelessness, masculinity and feminism. I guess I’m trying to point out how prejudice is all encompassing. When we hear the word ‘prejudice’ the immediate assumption is that something negative is attached and as a result jump on the offensive. We should aim to see that prejudice is more than one thing. Prejudice maybe an innate component in who we are with its positives and negatives. As a result it might be time to re-evaluate our own perceived stance on the seemingly divisive issues. Prejudice seems to have a lot to do with identity and perhaps our self-identities should always remain in flux.

It’s also important to note how prejudice is constantly changing, for example peoples views about another race may not outwardly appear to be racist though may in deed have an undertone of prejudice or discrimination it has changed from simply using a racial slur. Thus the discussion should focus on introspection and who we are and what we think about those around us.

Too often I have seen myself how people have expected me to act or behave in a certain way, perhaps it was what I was wearing at the time or how I had presented myself, their own ideas of who they think this young black woman is, where she comes from or her socio-economic background has affected how they have treated me. How I carry myself, how I speak, how I think is often contrary to this expectation. For me it has become a mission to rise above the expectations and biases of other people, to live my life free from the constraints of fitting into someone else’s neat little box but also acknowledging that biases are part and parcel of human nature and provides a lens to try and understand other people and also to reflect on what I think and believe about the world.

The legal definition states that harm or injury results or may result from some action or judgement. This to me is of particular interest as it suggests that our unintended prejudices often bring harm to other people often without us realising, this is why i believe it is always important to think about who we are and what we believe but also how we relate to other people.

 ‘The discovery of truth is prevented more effectively, not by the false appearance things present and which mislead into error, not directly by weakness of the reasoning powers, but by preconceived opinion, by prejudice.’

Arthur Schopenhauer 

‘There is no prejudice so strong as that which arises from a fancied exemption from all prejudice.’

 William Hazlitt

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