Are We All Guilty of Prejudice?

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Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

The last year has been eventful, to say the least. We’ve argued about the confederate flag, legalizing gay marriage, and pretty much everything else under the sun. But that’s not what I’m talking about today–at least, not directly. I’m asking the question in the title and directing it at the people who fight bigotry.

There are two reasons for this. First, over the summer I read Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. Midway through the book, I stumbled on a paragraph that mentioned Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Here’s what Scarlett Butler–I mean, Scarlett Kennedy–I mean, Scarlett Hamilton–I mean, Scarlett O’Hara–had to say about people from the North who read the book:

“Accepting Uncle Tom’s Cabin as revelation second only to the Bible, the Yankee women all wanted to know about the bloodhounds which every Southerner kept to track down runaway slaves. And they never believed her when she told them she had only seen one bloodhound in all her life and it was a small mild dog and not a huge ferocious mastiff. They wanted to know about the dreadful branding irons which planters used to mark the faces of their slaves and the cat-o’-nine-tails with which they beat them to death, and they evidenced what Scarlett felt was a very nasty and ill-bred interest in slave concubinage. Especially did she resent this in view of the enormous increase in mulatto babies in Atlanta since the Yankee soldiers had settled in the town.”

As much as I despise Gone with the Wind, I started thinking about that paragraph a little more. It’s no secret that a lot of people have misconceptions and stereotypes for people of different ethnic backgrounds and/or beliefs. So that made me wonder if the unprejudiced have just as many misconceptions as the prejudiced.

The second event that brought this subject to my blog happened a week and a half ago, when I saw a confederate flag hanging in Michigan. Surprised and disappointed, I expressed my feelings about it on Facebook. Less than twenty-four hours later, my comments sparked an interesting conversation about people who have the flag hanging in their homes, what it means as a symbol, and whether or not it is/should be legal in the first place.

Those two events seeped into my thoughts and traveled repeatedly around my head until they formed the question in the title: are we all guilty of prejudice? Or, more specifically, are we prejudiced against the prejudiced?

Like I said earlier, a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes exist due to the habit of judging people. I’ve seen a lot of notes across the web saying things like “I’m Cuban, therefore I must love swimming,” or “I’m a cheerleader, therefore I must be a slut,” or, my personal favorite, “My favorite color is black, therefore I must be suicidal.” It’s impossible to be a human being without people judging you based on what they see. The thing is, these common stereotypes aren’t always accurate. In the words of Lemony Snicket in The Bad Beginning, “first impressions are often entirely wrong.” Bottom line, you only see half of the truth. It seems like everyone who fights prejudice would know that.

Or…that’s what it looks like.

In the last several hundred years, we’ve argued that discrimination is wrong. And if that’s what you’re fighting for, chances are you’re fighting a lost battle. Thing is, some of us still fight for the right to single out people of different skin color, gender, sexual preferences, etc. We can talk all day long about the people we come across who do that. Heck, we’ve been doing that for years. But are we making misconceptions about those people? Are they victims of stereotypes and discrimination just as much as anyone else?

I’ve heard arguments that groups like KKK (or people not quite as violent) are prejudiced simply because they’re evil. And while it’s true that KKK is well known for its violent history, I have a hard time believing that one sin makes some people more evil than others. We’re all fallen, and therefore we’re all capable of turning to sin. That’s how it’s been since Adam and Eve, and that’s how it’ll be until the second coming. We just have different tastes in bad habits.

I don’t know why I saw the confederate flag hanging on a balcony in Michigan. I don’t know if we’ll ever manage to purge the country of prejudice for good. And if we can, I don’t know how. I can only speculate like everyone else. All I know is that the true enemy is sin, not the sinner.

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “So long.”

Photo source: http://sites.bu.edu/ombs/2013/10/16/why-are-people-sexist-racist-and-judgmental-behind-cognitive-bias-and-prejudice/

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