St. Joseph, Missouri is an overgrown, close-minded town filled with just the sort of people that you would expect to be prejudice. That said, I grew up there and never understood prejudice until I moved away-to Columbia, an extremely diverse town. Why is that? It’s simply because our prejudices come from the society we grow up in. Perhaps in St.
Joseph minorities are so readily accepted simply because there are so few of them. Now wait, this sounds contradictory of what media tells us doesn’t it? The idea that fewer minorities make them more accepted?Could the media actually be wrong in how they portray the roots of discrimination? I think so. I’m a strong believer that you are simply a product of the culture that you’ve come to know. I myself will admit that I’m prejudice against people that act certain ways, but it has nothing to do with the color of their skin.
One of my three closest friends is black. Andre is one of the neatest guys you’d ever meet, and when I first met him he reminded me of the kind of “black” people I’d known in St. Joseph. I’m talking about the sort of people who have a different color skin but act just like anyone else.They talk the same and even trade fashion advice with white people-they just happen to use different hair products or look better in different color clothes. Andre and I became close friends and often talked about how sad it is that there are certain expectations set for us based only on the color of our skin.
He’s still a unique individual, but I have seen changes over the past 2 and a half years. He felt the pressure to act “ghetto” when other people of his own race called him such things as “snowflake.Underneath, he’s still the same sweet guy that I’ve always loved as a sibling every bit as much as I love my actual siblings, he’s just started dressing a little different and throwing in a few words that make my head spin. He hates it when I bring this up, because his morals and values are still completely intact.
His close relationship with his mom and devotion to the Lord are still his top priorities and he still can’t stand to see people he cares about cry. However, I know that there IS a pressure put on him to act a certain way.I think the big prejudice that remains in our society is one of classes that transfers to generalizations about races. There are black people who act “white” and white people who act “black. ” All races have people that are rich and poor and everywhere in between. Yes, it’s true that blacks and Hispanics have a lower percentage of people above the poverty line, but that’s changing.
They are getting more opportunities and intermixing with other races and if we just let history run it’s course eventually I think that will all even out.However, because of that, the lower class cultures are considered “black” or “minority” cultures when the simple truth is that I grew up watching multiple black students hang out with mostly white people and dress and act and even talk exactly the same way I did. If I see someone of another race, gender, political stance or sexual preference (though that is certainly still an area where there are a lot of prejudices! ) I don’t think “oh, there’s a person who’s different than me and thus is likely to act like blah blah and blah.
No, our school system set up in America has taught us to reserve judgment. However, if I see someone wearing a doo rag with faded jeans hanging down to his knees, giant gold necklaces hanging from his neck over both a big sweatshirt and faded jacket that looks a hundred years old, of course I’m going to stay a little ways away until I am better able to make a judgment about that individual. On the other hand, I work with a lot of poor people who struggle to make ends meet from month to month-about half of whom are some sort of minority. They are awesome individuals.They may talk a little differently than I do and even have some very different values, but their culture is close enough to my own that we can get along and even have a lot of fun together.
I enjoy working because we reserve judgment, respect each others differences and come from cultures that the others at least attempt to understand. In this modern day and age we try very hard to reduce the effects of discrimination in our society, but it is such a normal human reaction that we will probably never be able to completely rid our society of these preconceptions about our differences.I think as a country we’ve become a lot better at accepting women and different races, but as the world continues to evolve into a more accepting and global community there will be new battles to fight. Currently the issues seem to be religions and homosexuals. Personally, I am a Christian. However, I have friends that are everything from atheist to Muslim to Jewish. To use the example of St. Joseph again, I can’t remember a single person from around there who wasn’t some sort of Christian.
What’s it like for a Muslim in this day and age? The males have it easy because it’s harder to distinguish them from everyone else.However, the females where the mark of their religion every day that sets them apart just as distinctly as the Jews were marked many years ago. They are very proud of their peaceful religion, but they also know that not everyone understands it. They tend to make friends first and foremost with other people of the same religion and many of their peers are simply afraid to approach them because they don’t understand.
I don’t think people purposefully discriminate against people of other religions, they just have a hard time understanding their differences and becoming ok enough with that to really get to know people with very different beliefs.The other area that I mentioned was sexual preference. Personally, I’m straight as can be, as are the majority of my friends. However, I do have a couple of friends or at least acquaintances who are openly bi or gay. At first, this seems like a really big deal and we all have pre conceived ideas about what that means, but the more you get to know them the more you realize that those people are no different than anyone else. They have the same wants, need, likes and dislikes, so why do we separate and criticize them?It’s simply because people don’t understand. These haven’t publicly been issues for long enough for people to learn to accept someone who is born with such a basic difference. However, I do predict that one day sexual preference will be just like race-something that is simply different but does not define a person.
Just like you can’t “catch” blackness, you can’t “catch” gayness. There will come a day when that discrimination will decrease, however for now life is simply harder on those people which should only make us respect them more.They are sometimes afraid to “come out” and when they do they often receive harsh criticism. As time passes and society become more aware of our differences, we can only hope that our society will become more accepting of the diversity that is bound to reside within it.
I think the most important solution is for time to simply pass and for nature to take it’s course. People need to become more comfortable with those who are different. However, there are of course a few things that will help this process.First of all, we need to continue learning to understand each other better. Since 9-11 Muslims have done a good job trying to teach the average American what their religion actually stands for and without those efforts they probably would have suffered a lot more discrimination.
However, we need more of that. We need continued education about diversity and differences to help make those things less intimidating and scary. We need to have our similarities pointed out. Also, individuals simply need to be aware of their own prejudices and try not to spread those.For instance, my mom has always openly admitted to us that though she accepts people of all races, she has some prejudices against African-Americans.
However, she’s worked very hard to make sure that isn’t passed on to my sisters and I. She accepts that she may not ever be able to find a black man “attractive” but she has always tried to make sure those judgments and opinions aren’t passed onto my sisters and I. If individuals are aware of these things and make efforts to help the next generation become even more accepting, then eventually our society will become a lot more accepting.