BJ's Viewpoint

On Prejudice

Life’s journey is a paradox. A paradox where one is both valuable and vulnerable: vulnerable to frail choices; capable of noble ones. Choice is our tool; bias, our condition. Genetic predisposition, unique experience and environment set the personal prism, a sole birthright through which we see life. Each different. Each similar. The amalgamation of personal prisms forever creating a changing kaleidoscope of mankind, his story: history.

Choice shapes character-an individual, a group, a state or a country. Expanding experience in new environments, using the strength of self and others creates synergistic new worlds. Vulnerable and blind within cloistered prisms, devastating choices create stalemates, decay or worse, war. Ignorant of past mistakes, blind to future possibilities, the quest for control renders chaos. Unchecked bias yields prejudice. Harbored prejudice leads to discrimination. Active discrimination begets bigotry. Bigotry perpetuates injustice, fueling hatred even holocaust.

European, African, Asian, Australian, Middle Eastern, North American, South American or any combination, we see through our own prism. We remain vulnerable. We are too often blind to our own prejudice. Across cultures and within cultures, differences arise, similarities persist. Stereotypes develop lumping all of one group together.

Prejudicial blind spots kick us from behind and catch us unaware at the most inopportune time. For the politician, such blind spots can be lethal. Ann Richards became governor of Texas because her opponent, ahead by leaps and bounds just before the election, publicly told a joke castigating women. John Kerry let his Ivy League aristocracy lose a close race with one wayward remark about the men in the military.

Perceived bias is a double edge sword. If I see you as biased through my prism, then each action can be perceived in that manner. You may actually be genuine, yet I will see you as disingenuous. I discount any noble action on your part. My own bias blinds me to your worth and the joy of possible friendship.

If one’s goal is equality, discourse and mediation serve. If the ultimate is domination and control, the battle never ends. It continues from generation to generation. No matter who wins today, tomorrow will be another battle.

It is easy for me to see your bias; it is cathartic to see my own. The recognition of man’s common heritage, unique value and vulnerability, effects respect for self and others. The patterns of our choices tell the story, create the history of frail indecision, blind bias or noble character.

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