Prejudice and you
A prejudice is a preconceived belief, opinion or judgment especially toward a group of people characterized by their race, social class, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or religion. Also, it means a priori beliefs (without knowledge of the facts) and includes “any unreasonable attitude that is unusually resistant to rational influence.” Although positive and negative prejudice both exist, when used negatively, “prejudice” implies fear and antipathy toward such a group.
For several years now, I have been getting into conversations more and more about how people respond to prejudice behavior. As a mother with an interracial family, I have talked with other parents with similar families across this country about their experiences and their attitudes. With the topics of race and gay marriage again and again being in the headlines for quite some time now, everyone is joining in.
I think that several things affect your view about how to deal with people who say ignorant, ugly things about groups of people. As individuals we are certainly shaped by the attitudes of our family and community. Negative situations fuel fear, anger and impatience. But a person’s basic attitude in life changes their perception of what other’s people’s intentions are, how to respond, and how effective you are at making an impact on the person who said or did something prejudice.
I have often told my own personal journey from being defensive and suspicious to being objective and optimistic. It greatly changed my experiences. When I assumed the staring at my family was from non-acceptance, I was angry and closed off. As soon as I dropped my own attitude and smiled and spoke to the people staring, the response back was people wanting to connect to me by complimenting my children or making small talk. I made wonderful friends and wasn’t burdened by the anger. The prejudice people are there. They will always be there. I just stopped worrying about them. They fell off my radar.
But we have all been in situations where someone has said something that you believe is prejudice. The older I get, the more I think about what is the most appropriate and effective way to handle that. The natural response in never effective. Pulling out your soap box, lecturing, calling someone out of their name, or shaming them will not get them to suddenly see that your point of view as valid. Their defensiveness will just make them dig in deeper, even if they were not all that committed to the belief in the first place.
Most people agree that no response is condoning it. Laughing at the inappropriate joke or walking away to allow the remaining people to escalate the conversation is saying that you are OK with the behavior. This ends up where you are upset and fuming and they are at the water cooler giggling over the nonsense being said. You are selling out so you can go back to your quiet, non confrontational life.
I call my response passive-aggressive. My husband calls it manipulative. But he says that with love. I join in the conversation, and then I find something to say that stops someone in their tracks. Example- One day at work a group of nurses were talking about some children. One of them that I didn’t know, started down the road of how all biracial children …(you fill in the negative stereotype). My co workers obviously were uncomfortable because I was standing there. I whipped out the latest picture of my adorable kids and slid it across the table for a friend, and the person I didn’t know, to see. “Proud mommy moment! Aren’t they perfect!” I exclaimed. The stranger forced a grin, walked away and never was never heard from again.
I am aware they many times a person who is making a prejudice statement has no clue it is prejudice. They may be shocked when someone points it out to them. They may appreciate that someone helped them to see how other people hear what they say. I never assume that I will change everyone opinions. But, I do make it clear that everybody around them may not share their beliefs. I don’t fight ignorance and patheticness. I expose it. I use a rational approach that lets the other person know that I may not be the person they want to get into this conversation with. I find a flaw in their silly logic. If possible I find a way to get the person saying the statements to think about what someone in that group would feel if they heard it. They are more likely to replay it in their head and learn something new. If I cannot find a way to nicely stop the behavior, I would clearly state that I will not tolerate the behavior. I have never been in a position to have to do that.
Are you confrontational or do you pretend you didn’t catch what they said?
Have you ever changed some one’s point of view or got an apology?
Do you assume that every time race is mentioned in a conversation that someone must be saying something racist?
Do you call out everyone, every time for a prejudice statement, or do you consider the source first?
Even if you don’t agree with a subject(IE Gay marriage), do you take people to task when they say something prejudice against that group of people?
Are you part of the solution, part of the problem, or blissfully ignorant?
Posted by Laura from I am the Glue