IS PREJUDICE A BIG DEAL?
“Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible. “- Maya Angelou
Amongst the many things that we are born with, prejudice isn’t an inherent trait; it is a learned one. These preconceived notions tend to be the master key of ignorance and most often unshakeable which leads to promoting dangerous environments.
Piercing yourself and resurfacing through this is yet another challenge. Let’s get down to the anatomy of it.
Roots of Prejudice
From the younger years of our lives, you and I, we learn to categorize people. Fat from thin, fair from dark, men from women, et al. We then tend to do this more because it is convenient and keep things ‘simple’ and ‘crystal clear’.
Gradually, we are taught to associate these categorizations with certain behaviours and within some time, these notions become rigid and leave their mark in our minds.
For instance, with prejudice, you assume that a certain category of people would respond in a certain way. Maybe you have learned subconsciously that all women are bad drivers/all men are bad cooks?
So now, your preconceived notion maybe that every woman or man- whom you may not even know — are incapable of parallel-parking/cooking a homely meal.
Is it bad being prejudiced?
From my experience, I’ve noticed that an unwelcoming experience with a certain group of people can make one feel uncomfortable and perhaps prejudiced against the whole group, and also against each individual in that group.
It’s not much of a problem as long as these thoughts shoot up in your head time and again, because nobody can hear the dabbling opinions in your head.
However, many people are unknown to the prejudices that they firmly believe in and say out loud and clear. If you and I let our prejudices guide us and turn a blind eye to the absolute facts, then this can become quite obnoxious.
Have you ever been a part of a group/wanted to belong to one but the fear of being treated with prejudice stopped you? Hurtful and insulting remarks can certainly cause a great impact on your self-esteem.
When does prejudice become vicious?
Prejudice can become seriously negative if it is spread on a wider and larger scale. Mediums like social media, TV, radio, newspapers can cause more harm if a particular group is shown in the bad light over and over again.
The impact on the group that is being targeted is also severe as it hits their self-image and they could also turn their back on the society. History is witness to a lot of mishappenings in the hands of the people that we elect to serve us.
For instance, when political leaders take steps to cater to their selfish wants and deploy measures against a particular group on the basis of prejudice, that is when this becomes extremely disruptive.
What can you do against prejudice?
The way I see it, it’s a three-step process. Let’s chime in, shall we?
The first and foremost step is to recognize that prejudices exist everywhere and you’ve most definitely faced it at some point in life. Recognizing mistreatment and acknowledging the same is the biggest step you can take as an individual.
Secondly, you need to learn to wrap your head around the fact that your beliefs are not equivalent to reality, and thus should not cement your perception about their behaviour. Do not react/respond to your own prejudices.
Point three: Respond consciously. If someone around you spews out black clouds of negativity about a certain group of people, oppose it sternly! But wait, how do you do that?
In a couple of ways! You can ask them to tone it down, politely. You can perhaps discuss the issue and make your point heard in another way. You do not need to be an expert on a certain subject to raise your voice against prejudices. You do not even need to know all the facts, figures yada-yada. Do you know what you actually need?
Common sense and empathy would work just fine. Sprinkle it with some humor, of course.
Ask questions. In fact, this could also make the other person’s statements sound illogical.
Thanks to freedom of speech, everyone is allowed to say a lot, but this freedom comes with a lot of responsibility and should be handled with care.
Hopefully, in the upcoming days and years, people learn to instill a sense of belongingness in all ways of life with each other and end up being patrons of humanity.