Friday, April 3, 2009

Leftovers Again? (Are We Inherently Prejudiced?)

The following was orginally posted on July 19, 2008. Since I had a following of approximately 9 readers back then (on a good day), I figured I would republish it and get some new feedback. Helen wrote a response post about it, and I would appreciate it very much if she would post a link to it in the comments section. Anyway, happy pondering!:

The following is the closing argument from the movie "A Time to Kill". If you've seen the movie or read the book, you know how it ends. If you haven't, please take a few minutes to view this scene.


Based upon personal experience, I would answer the question, "Are we inherently prejudiced?" in the affirmative. I consider myself very open and accepting of other nationalities, races and even people of faiths outside my own. I think I can honestly say that if one of my children fell in love with, and chose to marry someone of a different race or nationality, it truly would not bother me. However, born of a caucasian father and a Japanese mother, I believe my experiences and my viseral reactions are colored by my heritage.

We've all seen commercials asking us to help feed, clothe, save the children of the world. Based on your own heritage, is your reaction the same regardless of whether the children are filmed in Africa? South America? Asia? North America? If I'm being honest, my emotions are triggered more by seeing the starving Asian child than the other children in the same circumstances. It's not intentional, I'm not unaffected by the other children. But something is stirred in me on a deeper level because I sense a connection.
What about the news story about the child that was abducted, missing and/or murdered?

Does your heart ache equally for this child:
As it does for this one?:
This is not intended to be a "Guilt" post. I'm honestly curious if you have similar experiences.
If man is made in God's image, then what exactly does that mean? If Jesus were to return to earth tomorrow, would it matter what He looked like? I'm certainly not a biblical scholar, but I'd be willing to bet a dollar that the historical Jesus didn't have blue eyes and sandy blond hair. I imagine he looked very much like someone you would think twice about sitting next to on an airplane.
I guess my point is, if we're to love one another as we are commanded to do, perhaps we need to take the time to learn from each other's cultural experiences. I will never truly know what it's like to be discriminated against because I am black or latino, but I do understand what it feels like to be treated differently because of the color of my skin and the subtle differences in my facial features. Does this make me more sensitive and empathetic to the injustices inflicted on others around the world? I certainly hope so....

9 comments:

sherri said...

I loved this movie.

I live in a very predujice town that is mainly all-white. Some pathetic racial remarks are made daily here.
(Even from so-called Christian people who always begin their racial comment with, "I'm not prejudice, but...")Puh-leeze.

I can't stand this sort of thing.Directed to anyone.
Not much will get me to speak up and start a fire,( I like peace) but rude and mean-spirited racial remarks will cause my red hair to FLAME!

I've been known to have a heated "debate" or two about such things.

I'm glad you brought this up. Again.

Billy Coffey said...

I'm glad you decided to post this again, since I'm a little late to the party.

Are we inherently prejucided? I don't know. I know my kids aren't. To them, a child is a child. It doesn't matter what color they are, because they all play the same. Still, I've heard people much smarter than I say that we're all prejudiced in some way. Every time we see someone, we automatically size them up-first their sex, then their color, and so on. It's instinctual, they say. And I would agree with that.

When I see the pictures of those two children, I see want rather than color.

Helen said...

My response to Katdish's question on inherent prejudice. Six months later, and it is still a hard thing for me to read......I wasn't, nor am I now happy with the dirt dredged up from my soul. But I am glad that Katdish asks the question. Racial healing is not going to happen in this country with people hiding their real thoughts, and only sharing them with those who will reinforce them. I think we really need to examine our own consciences and face our prejudices, no matter how minor we think they are, in order to bring about healing.
Thanks Katdish, for getting me to do that yet again. No, really....I mean it.

Nick the Geek said...

I don't believe people are inherently racist. People are taught how to be. My parents were born and raised a certain way. They were from a part of the South that is extremely racist.

They left and become exposed to a whole different world through the military. I was never raised to be racist and had many friends from different races, even a couple other nationalities when stationed abroad. I even dated girls from other races and my parents didn't seem bothered at all despite how they were raised.

I do think most prejudice is driven by fear rather than hate. Fear is based in ignorance so getting to know people helps with racism. I remember one time I flew into LAX, which is not in the best part of LA. None of our friends or family would drive down there so we had to take a bus to the metro to union station then catch the metro link to the valley. I learned tow things. My friends and family are afraid and let that drive them. People in "that part of town" are actually very friendly. We had to find the right bus to start with and a 20 something Latino looking like he could be a banger helped us get on the right bus and off at the right stop. I chatted with him and he was very nice. Then at our second transfer a black guy (sorry I'm not racist but I'm also not very PC) saw us with luggage and guessed we were headed to Union Station to head out of the city. We were on the wrong side to catch the train going the right way so he took us to where we needed to be.

There were several other things like that and it left e with the feeling that most people are interested in helping others out rather than taking advantage of them. Sure we could have run into some real punks because those exist but I honestly believe they are the minority by a long shot.

Beth said...

Story time...sorry...this has been on my heart...

I remember when I came to Terre Haute as a student and was kind of excited that it was "racially diverse." I told someone that and they LAUGHED at me....compared to some places it's really not that diverse. But compared to where I grew up (WHITE!), it is. And I don't know about other areas, but around here, racial tension between black and white is still a very real thing.

I also remember my Dad going to a Promise Keepers conference when I was a teenager. When he came back, he said it weighed heavy on his heart that racially, the Church stays very separated for the most part...and that he felt he couldn't do much to encourage togetherness because of where he lived...but I happened to be helping at a camp for inner city kids that week, and he said at least maybe I could reach out to other races, especially blacks, where he couldn't. I don't know why...but that has ALWAYS stuck with me way past the camp that week.

I will be the first person to admit that sometimes I'm am a little scared of approaching adults outside my own race. I fear the unknown and that somehow my ignorance of their culture will be exposed and I will say something really insulting or perpetuate my race as hateful even though I don't mean to....ug.

But I had to come to a point where I decided that I had to work past the fear and just put myself in situations where I knew it wasn't going to be just white people. The youth center I worked at has a much higher ratio of black to white than the rest of the city, and working with kids let me get to know a lot of the black families in the area. You know what I found out? 99% of the time, they liked me for who I was, and I liked them for who they were. The black teens and I especially had a certain repoire, and I always felt like I was the last person on earth that they would think was fun to hang out with...but I loved them and they loved me back! I found out there are racist white people. And there are racist black people. Many times I found myself as the facilitator to have some really open and honest conversations among the kids about race. It wasn't pretty, but we did what we could. I'm glad there's kids out there who don't see race, but at the youth center it was a battle to un-do the racist things that parents/family/media had already taught their children.

I am proud that my church now and my former church have been a part of events that bring traditionally black and white churches together, because that doesn't happen very often in our area. Honestly, it's not easy to do and I think there's a lot of trust lost between the two. Hopefully we can be a tiny part of building that trust, but there's a lot of awkwardness to work through for sure. I have fun stories about trying to coordinate music for a city wide day of prayer...have you every tried to blend two styles so different you don't even know where to begin?

Okay, now I don't have time to write my own post today...thanks, Kathy! ;)

And just so you know...we have a very small Hispanic population unlike much of the country, and we also have a very small Asian population. What's up with that???

Ok, I'm really stopping my epic comment now. Really.

jasonS said...

I think you're right that we are often drawn to people "like us" whatever that may be. Then the burden comes back to allowing God to open our hearts to see like He sees and feel like He feels... great post, by the way.

katdish said...

Thanks for everyone's comments. I really appreciate honest feedback. My friend Christine left a comment when I first posted this that has really stuck with me. She wrote:

"I don't think we are born prejudiced because toddlers will play with each other no matter the color. But then, as we grow, we start to notice things about ourselves that are "different" and we aren't so sure about the world anymore. Fear enters in and, with our sin nature that IS inherent, we begin to blame our problems on others. People always look for a blacksheep so they don't have to face their sin. I don't think prejudice will ever be eradicated until we all see that Christ was THE blacksheep for us. The ground at the cross is completely level, and we are all the same.

(Except that, as Kris told me this morning, I have great hair!)"

Steph at The Red Clay Diaries said...

What Christine said.

Seriously, I was gonna get all philosophical, but Christine said it better than I would. I think prejudices do come out of our sin nature. We fear and blame "other."

I do get a special kick out of going Barbie shopping with my girls and watching them pick out dolls that DON'T look like them, turn to me, and say, "Isn't she pretty? I think I want this one!"

Sometimes it's the little things.

Annie K said...

I grew up in a white working-class town, but I never learned to be prejudice. My best friend was Mexican (who is now married to a black man) but I never saw a different race - I was just always a part of the family. Just last weekend her mother threw a baby shower for her and all her familia was there and it was like old times. It wouldn't be any different if my Hungarian or Romanian family got together.

I see the pictures of the girls and my heart breaks equally for each of them. Like I said..I never learned to be racist...