On Prejudice

Prejudice is as prevalent today as it has ever been. The recent national consensus report gives a sobering example. Although only 4% of the U.S. population are black males, they account for 60% of all people incarcerated in this country. Statistically, one in three black men will spend time in prison in his life, whereas one in seventeen white men will spend time in prison.

Why is this? What is it that perpetuates this need to oppress another? In short; fear. But of what?
And why is it that the minorities seem to be receiving the brunt of this prejudice?

"Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible."   ~   Maya Angelou

The Root Of Prejudice

When we allow our shame to influence us, we make our choices from a sense of inferiority; from a subconscious belief  that we are not deserving of love and success in our lives. If we don't recognize that we are being controlled by our shame, we externalize it by transferring it onto someone else. We assign them the place of inferiority, while we assign for ourselves the place of superiority, in an attempt to feel our worth. But as long as we externalize our shame, we'll continue to see ourselves on a self imposed scale of deserving - not deserving, superior - inferior, worthy - not worthy, good - bad, acceptable - not acceptable.

We have repressed our shame on a collective scale. Globally, we play out this "shame scale". Imagine a group of people who are controlled by their shame, getting together and conferring about their need to be superior. Although, this group could be any demographic, given that I am a white male, and am acutely aware of how white males have discriminated, I'll assign these people that color and gender. "How shall we do this"? they ask. "Well, we have to have a common enemy, people we can all agree are inferior to us. It should be people who are easily identified. We'll then come up with 'evidence' to prove how inferior they are." Through having identified this other group, they now have a false sense of bonding; they now have each other to validate their illusory sense of superiority.

Since their common "enemy" has to be someone they can always spot, their easy choice was women and other races; a  kind of default choice, as on the surface, women and other races appeared so different. This speaks to the fragile nature of prejudice.  Prejudice is just a collectively agreed upon belief, which has no basis in reality. There's the story of the woman who when she goes to bake the roast, cuts the ends off and throws them away.. When asked why, she has no logical answer other than to say "that's how my mother did it". When asked, her mother said the same, all the way back to the great-grandmother who started the "tradition" of cutting the ends off the roast for the simple reason that it was too long for her pan! It started as a reasonable step and became a tradition; an assumed way to think and act. Like this tradition, prejudice has no logical basis. It's roots are plane and simple; insecurity.

"The less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice.".  ~  Clint Eastwood

It has been a century and a half since the Civil War and  racism continues to this day. In contrast, the gay rights movement got under way in 1976, with Harvey Milk being elected as the first openly gay city commissioner in the country. In these relatively short 36 years, the "gay" issue is now nearly behind us.

So, why is it that gay rights have moved along so quickly while minority rights move so slowly? I suggest it's because gays are harder to "spot". As simple as that. How fragile prejudice is! "If we can spot 'em, we can judge 'em". Gays have always engaged in every area of life, through the entire spectrum of social experience: economic (from poor to wealthy), political (from red to blue), and religious...you name it. "Coming out of the closet" was the best thing they could have done for themselves and so in turn for all of us.

"If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and color, we would find some other causes for prejudice by noon."   ~ George Aiken

We're All Prejudiced

We can drop this painful drama by simply acknowledging that we're all prejudiced. We all have shame-based feelings of low self worth and at times, try to compensate by attempting to be superior to another, whether through developing a skill, a degree, a big bank account, a fancy home or car or most prevalently, an "attitude".   Through the lens of shame, we go through our lives comparing ourselves to literally everyone to determine whether we are either more deserving or less deserving than they are. We then get to the work of either becoming "superior" or keeping "superior" to them.
This mechanism is "alive" in all of us. Let's be honest, we're all afraid (to some degree) of each other.
We're afraid of their judgement, which is rooted in our own belief in our lack of worth.

An Exercise

Within the first moments of meeting someone, we develop a story (albeit subconscious) of this person's activities, preferences, even their beliefs.. I invite you to look at a picture of a person you or don't know (or preferably, sit with someone) and ask yourself the following questions, taking note of what comes to your mind.

What is this person's income?      What are they good at?       What do they do for work?
Are they mechanically inclined?    What type of house do they live in?    Do they rent or own?
What is their religious affiliation?   Are they a vegetarian?          What is their sexual preference?     
Are they competitive?                  Do they like sports?             Are they introverted or extroverted?              Are they superficial or "deep"?     Are they creative?  If so, how?        Are they intelligent?        
What are their "blind spots"?        What kind of relationship would you have with them?

Once you've written your answers, take a moment and share this information with them. This can be very revealing for both of you and therefore, very intimate, which I find interesting because you have just told them all your judgments about them. Yet you feel closer to them and they to you!!!
Once we acknowledge this previously subconscious story (that was determining our choices regarding our relationship with them) it no longer controls us.

The genesis of prejudice is "other" thinking; seeing ourselves as different from other people. When we move beyond prejudice, we move beyond seeing ourselves as different.

The Worlds State of Affairs

Humans Growing Up; A Story

In the 50's we were like children. We lived with "Father Knows Best", both in our lives and on t.v. The male authority was God and we accepted that. We might have felt angry, scared, or alone. But, for the most part, we tried to put on a happy face, to give the impression that all was always fine. In the 60's we grew into our "teenage years" and rebelled. No way were we going to go along like sheep and say "yes" to our governments desire to kill and oppress. It was a time of acting out our anger and fear that had been building throughout our "childhood".  During the 70s and 80s, we grew into "adulthood"; we were waking up. We started questioning others motives. Reality t.v. became a hit, along with talk shows that dug deep into peoples personal lives. Gossip had come out of the closet. We took a long look at people we thought were different from us and realized that they're not so different. They have the same feelings as us, the same needs as us.

As we grew up, we went from blaming others to questioning our choices and our very existence. For decades we had avoided politics, accepting that all politicians were corrupt and since we told ourselves that we were not, we let them do the "dirty work". But we realized that we had abandoned ourselves by letting others legislate our lives. Because we did not hold them accountable, the politicians were enjoying the freedom to legislate how they saw fit. Not needing to listen to "the people" they were in bed with those who would further their agenda, while receiving lots of $ to further their insider friends agendas.

In the 90s and early 2000s, we brought what had been expressed in the streets in the 60's to politics and corporate America. Today, we continue our search "down the rabbit hole". We are digging deeply to understand just how far we have gone in relinquishing our own freedom of choice. We see the deceit and oppression of those to whom we have abandoned our free will and we don't like it.

As we dig deeper into our search for Truth, we see just how complacent and in denial we have become.  We now are taking a good look at who we are. We are hearing "not in our name" more frequently. We are reclaiming the power that we had relinquished so many years (if not millennium) ago.
We are hotly debating every aspect of life, with the underlying themes of justice and equality. Every issue that had been in the "closet" is now center stage.

Every aspect of our existence is being examined as never before. From equality to environmental stewardship, to the birth rite of each person to choose their path. I believe that we have chosen to recognize that we are one people, one family; in truth, one mind. We have chosen to awaken to this truth at this time, concordant with the massive changes we see everywhere on the planet.

The Catalyst For Change

The times in my life when I have awakened the most are the times when my survival was most at risk. In fact, to the degree that I was on the "edge" was to the degree that I recognized the beautiful gift that is my life, this world, and the people in it.
Beyond war, deceit, oppression, and our perceived differences is the very environment in which we live. The balance of our planets air, water, and soil has been trashed as we have abandoned ourselves. We are in a process of returning fully to being the stewards of our planet. As we are aligning in this one focus, greater creativity is being released. As we move seemingly closer to the "precipice" of environmental destruction. we are stepping out of our fear and isolation into Love. The call to return to our Oneness has never been louder and our aligning in Oneness has never been faster.

We are realizing our deepest dreams on the canvas of our entire planet.

In the "big picture", remember that even our bodies and this planet are transitory. This will all cease to be at some point. That we are One in Consciousness; this is eternal. I believe that we are here to return to that awareness. I believe that we have chosen to use this "play field" of Earth to come Home.
Welcome Home.

Still we see our human sisters, brothers, and our children being brutalized. This brings us to our knees. It breaks our hearts. What can we do, how can we "deal" with this reality?  I do my best to put myself in their shoes; both the perpetrators and the victims. As I "walk" in their shoes, I imagine what they may be experiencing and become clear as to what needs they may be trying to get met. No matter which side of any conflict someone is on, in the end, they want love. The sooner I understand what is motivating them to their fight or flight stance, the sooner I understand them, and have compassion for them .

Consider these few lines from the song, The Rose;

"It's the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance.
It's the dream afraid of waking that never takes a chance.
It's the one who won't be taken who can not seem to give.
And the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live."

When I have walked in the shoes of another, I understand what needs they are trying to get met. The beauty of this is that by assisting them in getting those needs met, I find mine met as well. I feel fuller, more satisfied. If you want to receive compassion, offer it.

 "Be the example you want to see in the world." 
~Mahatma Gandhi