I know we got into this topic a little bit the other day, and then birthdays and comic conventions got all exciting and distracting, but it is something I would like to revisit. When I think of prejudice, I automatically cut to white, pointy hats and burning crosses, completely taking me and my own personal prejudice out of the equation. But, if I am to live a truly responsible life, I would look at all the areas in my life where I limit my own experience of myself and the people around me because of my own prejudices that I never question.

I will share a little story with you! I was walking through a neighborhood in downtown Vancouver and this particular part of town does not have the best reputation. In fact, I think at one point in time it had the highest rate of HIV infection and heroin addiction per capita in North America. Give you a little bit of a picture?

Now because of this there are many people without homes on the streets and my general assumption when I am walking through these streets is that I need to put my head down and walk quickly. It’s “dangerous”. Now is there some truth to this? Absolutely! I don’t want to act like a moron and walk down the street the way I would my parents neighborhood, but I also want to be sure that I don’t begin to look at the people around me as less than human.

So, I am barreling through this block just trying to get from one stoplight to the next so I can relax, and I see a man crossing the street to come towards me, and I freeze. I put up my guard and immediately thinking he is going to ask me for money. Not one minute after my steel-wall of “safety” was firmly in place, did this man say to me, “I just wanted to tell you I like your dress.”

Done. No, “Spare change miss?” No, “Fucking rich bitch.” Nothing but a sweet comment from another human being.

I saw a wonderful Tibetan Monk speak a few months ago and he stated (now I am paraphrasing so bear with me) that, “The problem with the world comes from the fact that we don’t trust ourselves, therefore we don’t trust each other. We spend all our resources building stronger locks and bigger walls to lock ourselves in.”

So, when does it end? When does the fear caused by prejudice become so debilitating that we forget to live our lives? When does our fear of death become so powerful that we kill our selves prematurely out of an attempt to elongate something we aren’t even utilizing? Our time here on this earth is precious. We get one go at this.

Now I am not saying to be ridiculous, as I said in previous blog posts, it’s all about balance, but I challenge and urge you to look at where you prejudices lie and attempt to challenge or reverse them. See where you ride an invisible horse shrouding yourself in the white sheet of assumption.

It is a really interesting experiment.

Ciao
Allison

Add yours Comments – 73

  • David w

    on August 1, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    I am a white male so I personally don’t have that much experience with people hating me because of my skin though I have had people judge me for the area I grew up in (a city about an hour north of detroit) and for my age (I am 22 at this moment)

    I went to a private school a half hour from my house while growing up I am part of a family you would call middle class of the economy. When the Rich kids and I don’t mean uper middle class really rich kids found out what city I lived in they all asked me how many times I have been shot or stabbed to this day the answer is none but because they had more money and grew up in a “better” city then me they thought they had to be better themselves. Then while I was 16 shortly after mmy nephew was born me, my mom and my sister took my nephew and met the neighbors who we have known for years at a small restuarant. Me and the neighbors daughter sat in one booth while she helf my nephew and my sister sat with the rest of the adults in another booth. When one of the waitresses walked by she didn’t say anything but she gave me a dirty look for being a teenager holding a kid she assumed it was mine and the neighbor girls instead of paying attention that the baby was my adult married sister’s kid. Since then I have made it my goal to never judge anyone about anything unless they tell me all the facts.

    We all need to remember to never judge a Book by its cover.

  • Torias

    on August 1, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    I live in the greater Los Angeles area. I don’t even take out the trash without my folding knives, much less go farther. Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean somebody isn’t following me home.

    It’s narrow-minded and it’s stereotypical, but frankly, some prejudices exist for a reason. I’ve never been assaulted by a laughing white or asian person. But I have been sucker punched without a word. And it was done by exactly the ethnicity of person I’d have expected it to come from. Then, when I went home, what do you think I said? And what do you think my family told others?

    Sometimes hispanic people hit you for no reason. That’s what I said. And that’s what my family told everyone else. You can’t deny it to me because it’s a matter of record. And minor ear damage. I never knew who they were, so I can’t say “THIS hispanic person hit me without any cause.” Guess which stereotype I encouraged for the next few years? And the worst part? They seem to want that particular stereotype encouraged. They must. They’re the cause of it. If they wanted to irritate me without succumbing to prejudicial methods, they could’ve just made me watch a lot of Richard Gere movies.

    Instead they decided to start hitting people. Just what I would’ve expected from “someone like that.” Why they so want it that way, I’m sure we can never know. I guess some stereotypes exist simply because they’re true.

  • paul

    on August 1, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Some years ago, I had a similar experience. A shabby, unshaven man shuffled toward me on a subway platform, I gave him the hairy eyeball that told him whatever it was he was sellin’ I wasn’t interested. In fact he just had an innocuous question to ask. Picking up on my none-too-subtle body language, he just smiled, put his hand on my shoulder, and said “I’m good people.”

    I was thoroughly ashamed of myself.

    About a year ago, not fifty yards from where I work, the 20-something manager of a drugstore followed a homeless man out of the shop suspecting the man had stolen tubes of toothpaste. The man dropped the bag, pulled out a knife, and stabbed the young worker to death.

    I simply don’t know the answer.

  • Becca

    on August 1, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    this topic has been on my mind all summer. Several people that I am close to have been making very close minded comments mostly antigay ones. The emotion behind what they said and the actual statements really upset me. I have many GLB and Q friends. Unfortunately, I do not know many trans people.

    My personal experience with prejudice well I have two. The first time I learned about it I was in pre-school. I was playing at my house with my friend whose parents were an interracial couple. We got all mad at each other in the way that little kids fight over a toy or something. (most likely cranky and in need of a nap) She said “I hate you and your family” so in my litttle kid nature I said the same thing back. She ran up stairs and told my parents. I got in sooo much trouble. I had to write an apology card and apologize to her parents. My parents lectured me about prejudice and how we need to be accepting of others.

    More recently I attended a GSA conference. After the conference there was a dance. We were cleaning up the main room so they could set up the dj. A bunch of us were moving chairs. One trans guy and I went for the same chair. I was uneasy around him because I really didn’t know what to think. He was really apologetic and really sweet. I felt so horrible for being so guarded around him before because he was just an average teenager like me.

    thanks for starting this discussion because it is such an important one to have.

  • Carol UK

    on August 1, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    I’m sure that balance is the key but it seems as though it’s so difficult to get that balance right. There is the bigotted kind of prejudice that can never be justified – this is so often based on lies, misconceptions and ignorance. Then there is the cautious kind of prejudice which is based on fear and sometimes just can’t be avoided. When I first started teaching I worked as a supply, or substitute, teacher all over the south of London. I was teaching pre-school then and it was easy not to feel any prejudice towards the children, who came from all kinds of different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. I also felt entirely safe with their parents and carers. But I was in the secure environment of a school and there were always other people around. There are some areas where I happily taught that I would not feel comfortable about walking the streets, especially in the dark. They were not ‘safe’ areas for a lone woman. I don’t think that is prejudice – it is just being cautious.
    Where I live now, in Sussex, the streets are generally not scary places. Even the ‘rough’ streets aren’t really that bad. Crowds of young people are sometimes a little intimidating, particularly, I think, for some of the older residents. But on the whole here it is quite easy to smile at people.
    However, the situation you describe, Allison, is more like some areas of London. I think that sometimes you do have to be careful. I really don’t think that’s prejudice. I guess all we can do is try to assess our own thoughts and actions – are they reasonable or are we overreacting in any given situation?
    Carol x

  • Bouroux

    on August 1, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Hi Allison.
    I agree with Jo and Ron.
    “Self preservation is not prejudice.
    There’s a difference however between ‘prejudice’ and an informed judgment. Prejudice is to pre-judge, to think or act without knowledge or something virtually unknown or perceived as known but ultimately not.”
    prejudices prevent us from committing many mistakes.
    Have prejudices against white hats has the advantage that it stands away from them. If they are frequent, they may convince us that their actions are good.
    Living with people who have problems with alcohol, smoking or taking drugs carries risks. How many people were influenced by them.
    The people you are going have an influence on you, good or bad.

    Because of the influence factor, I think it is desirable to have as friend ,people who have good values. It’s the wish of all the mothers and fathers of the world when their children are friends.

    The prejudices are the first security fences. After analysis, The prejudice should go through the stage of the judgement as soon as possible in an ideal world.
    Have judgement allows us to reduce our prejudices.

    Move someone who smokes is not having prejudices against people who smoke, it is simply not want to breathe the smoke.

    Yesterday I saw a fantastic film about the Prejudice . It’s a french film.
    Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis (2008) “Welcome to the Sticks ” It’s a prejudice about the life in the north of the France by peoples living in the south.
    It’s a film deeply human. It’s the same kind of prejudice that some people living in USA have about the life in Canada.
    It’s a great comedy.

    Have a good day.
    Bye
    Claude

  • Harry

    on August 1, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    The first time I saw the KKK was a black and white photo in my history book. It scared the crap out of me even though I didn’t fully understand – I knew it was something evil. A few years later I was going for a ride down the highway on the back of my dad’s truck. I looked to my left at The Waffle House and there were four or five men seated at the main counter eating, still wearing their robes – Their hats sitting on the table next to them. Some people think this is kind of funny when I tell them – Maybe because it’s out of context – But I didn’t find it funny at all. Actually I cried myself to sleep that night.

    People are always enforcing freedom of speech, speaking against censorship, and promoting man’s right to practice whatever belief he chooses. But hatred is not a freedom – nor is it something anyone can believe in – It is the very essence of living a lie. No matter what your belief, we can not exist as hateful beings.

    Love makes our hearts beat – keeps us alive so to speak – I’m not meaning to spout cheap aesthetics – This is something that everyone knows in their soul – Many choose to ignore it – but in the end they’ve committed a spiritual suicide.

  • Robin Hebert

    on August 1, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    I like what you posted. And I still believe there is a difference between prejudice and discernment. Like you said, there is a balance. “those people” are people like any of us and but for the grace of God, we would be just like them…..at the same time, we separate their who and their “do”…..as a person, they are precious, what they choose to do in life, well that’s another thing….so with that said, we just have to be led by love….in whatever we do. And just because we dont go to a particular neighborhood at night, doesnt mean we dont care about the people there….we just choose to be in a “safer” area….

  • Rafael

    on August 1, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    ALLISON!!…..

    I visit your blog every day!!

    WHY DIDN`T YOU ACCEPED ME ON ‘ORKUT’ YET??? =/

    I added you in FEBRUARY and into today you don`t acceped me……what`s going on??? you don`t opne your ORKUT??? please accepd me there!! ^^

    I aways comment here but you never answer me….let me give some info about me:

    -BRAZILIAN
    -LIVE IN TAUBATÉ (São Paulo state)
    -I`M 15!!
    -HAVE MOTHER…FATHER…BROTHER…
    -EVANGELIC
    -SMALLVILLE FAN
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    -LOST FAN
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    answer me…please…..my e-mail is:

    rafel_lopes@hotmail.com

    please…=D……I hope you answer….even if you gonna say HELLO…xD….say it!!!…..CHLOE ROCKS!! \o/!!!

    I see the videos os the COMIC CON….it`s my dream go to an COMIC CON someday…..I hope this happen one day ^^……..well….the comment is getting large….and I don`t wanna be an idiot here….=P…well..bye bye then..kiss!!!

    RAFAEL!!!

  • Lori Bennett

    on August 1, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    Hey Allison, you have the right to feel bad for thinking he was going to ask for money, but in all realness you were being smart and causious, not prejudice. You knew you were in a bad neighborhood, where drug addicted people lived. To not assume you wouldn’t be asked for money there would be like not praying in a church. Someone needing a fix and seeing someone who appears to have money-the fact that you looked down and walked fast may have gave the impression of not wanting to be bothered, but it was smart. You didn’t know he was going to complement you. You’re compassionate, so you feel bad, but I think the guy understood why you acted the way you did. I probably would have reacted the same way, it’s hard to putting up defenses when so much of the world is unsafe. I agree though that we should fight passed the fear (not so much that it puts us in danger) and make our world more open and less prejudice. -Lori Bennett

  • Kevin Pratt

    on August 1, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    Unfortunately Allison there will always be prejudices because people are ignorant. Do I wish that prejudices did not exist absolutely. If we were not prejudice I don’t think there would be any wars today. Take me for example I have to live with prejudices every day because I am in a wheelchair so I deal with them on a daily basis no matter how small they may be. Being disabled you automatically get put into a box or you’re judged before people even get to know you. Yes they want asked questions because there curious for example little boys last me what’s wrong with my legs and you have to say nothing is wrong with my legs even though there are times where you would like to say something else but you take a higher road in the end and you just tell the child he used the wheelchair to get around from point a to point B. so prejudices should never exists at all we would live a happier society if they didn’t exist we could all live in harmony like Martin Luther King wanted us to come together as people instead of fighting all the time. I wish we lived in a happier society. Respectfully yours Kevin Pratt Jr.

  • SmallvilleRulz

    on August 1, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    i watched apocalypse the oda day and can someone tell me wen lex and lionel found kara because the only reason she was 18 wenclark found her was because she was in suspernded animation which mean if lex and lionel found her then she would b 18 so she shouldve bn round 36 so they made a mistake unless someone can tell me that was the case y??

  • Asim Ramay

    on August 2, 2008 at 12:56 am

    Prejudice and cautious are different but regardless of whether you are in a good town or a bad town you can get mugged or asked for money, i live in rural australia so i usually don’t see homeless people or in an area with a bad reputation but most of the time an area has a bad rep for nothing i got to a school called Wyong High and all of the people i know that leave in the surrounding area said it was a bad school with ill mannered people,lots of fights etc , i still ended up going to the school because they had the best IT labs in the area and all the kids there were really nice and in the past 4 years i’ve been there there have only been 6 fights in total and 3 of them, were verbal, this makes you think how did it get such a bad rep even tho its a nice school,its usually due to information that isn’t relayed correctly or words used differently.

    for example in the news there were 2 different guys (Real life example)
    they both committed murders , one was muslim the other was christen ,
    but for the christen guy they used his name , but for the muslim gut they said a muslim person committed a murder,
    so for the christen guy you think his a bad person
    where as for the Muslim guy you think muslims are bad people
    just cause they used the name of his religion instead of his name

    this lead me to there are always bad people buy you shouldn’t judge people because they live in a certain area because seriously Alison if your going through a bad area looking down and putting up a “wall” it’s just gonna make you and easier target and more Vulnerable because, your less aware of your soundings and regardless of wether you have your guard up or not if someone’s gonna try and mug you there not gong confront you like they do in Hollywoods movies there more likely to come from behind or from a blind spot and bring a weapon with them so if we were really afraid of getting hurt in a area we would take a detour through another street or place.

    although fear does lead us to prejudice the main reasons for prejudice in my opinion is:
    – information people know that is not true
    -its harder to relate to people that are different because you don’t or may not have anything in common personalty wise and it becomes easier to focus on the differences
    -combine this with a humans endless greed it lets us makes excuse to ourselves because we don want to do something or we are driven by money etc and the people who are the ones that get hurt by prejudice end up becoming prejudice because it makes them feel safer.

    And i know what it feels like to be prosecuted, i went to america 3 times and every time i had to sit a in a room for 5 hours waiting for customs to process information about me just because i have a beard and my passport ( Australian) says i was born in pakistan i say this because each time my cousin who went before me ( both of us went to america together each time) didn’t have a beard and his passport didn’t say were he was born didn’t get “randomly” checked and no one after me did either cause the whole time i was in waiting there was no one else there 🙁 and 2 out of 3 times i was going to canada but had to go via America so i was late for my flight and had to literally pay for having a muslim appearance (BTW i am Muslim)
    i mean sure its a “safety measure” but really i don’t want to be sitting in custom for 5 hours every time i go there, just cause miss-informed people suspect all Muslims are terrorist witch isn’t helped by terrorist and don’t say muslim terrorist’s cause that be a contradiction:
    1. islam means peace
    2. in the Quran it says anyone who kills innocent people will burn in the hottest part of hell
    3. suicide in islam is a Major Sin

    sorry for the long winded post but i tend to think deeply and thoroughly into things,
    and i apologize if any of my remarks offend you in anyway
    BTW
    i’m 15
    i love Smallville i hope it doesn’t end in season 8 (reckon it should go all the way till clark has donned the tights and married either lois, chloe or lana cause its there own version and sure they should stick to the mythology but they should listen to fans more then being concerned with the DC mythology
    (and there i go again blabbing)
    TYm,
    Asim

  • George

    on August 2, 2008 at 3:22 am

    He didn’t go on to say “I bet it was really expensive”?

    Or “It would look better on my bedroom floor”

  • Jo

    on August 3, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    Ron….Thank you. You said it exactly the way I wanted to say it but in a much shorter, clearer way. 🙂

  • Brittany

    on August 3, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Hey Allison, I can totally relate to your experience. Whenever I go downtown and I’m in the car, watching the people pass by, it scares me to see them like that and thinking what they would do if I was outside on teh sidewalks myself. Even when I’m in a familiar place I’m scared of what people think of me, the way they stare like I don’t belong or how they think their better then I am. People are scare of what they don’t understand. Prejudice leads to that I find. Well bye! Much love, Britt.

  • Desert Demon

    on August 4, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Hey Allison,

    I had an opposite but similar experience. I live in Dubai and went to the US to study. I think that although the US was a nice place to be, explore and understand yet, I feel that prejudice plays an important role in this country and my hometown. Taxi drivers in Dubai give preference to whites when picking up their customers as they go for long distances and tip the drivers (something that is not there in the culture of 60% of the population). I think this racial discrimination has gone to such an extent that when these cab drivers do pick me up they think Im Arab and so I will pay them extra. But I am not. Otherwise these guys never pick me or any other non-white up.

    I am not here to discriminate between races but to highlight that such countries face problems with racial discrimination within races and inferiority complexes that their race is inferior to another. I think that all races are equal in the way science and biology prove it so.

    Getting back to my US experience – well, my roommate in my dorm was not in right shape. What I mean is that he was influenced by people around him. In my second semester I realised that due to people around him he thought that I, since muslim was a very introvert kind of person who ment harm to someone. I too keep a beard and to date I have never been questioned by US authorities on basis of random checking. But my roommate was another story, he had no ethics or anything. He and the people on my floor did not respect my way of living. They thought that just because I have a beard means that I cannot be open minded and always am stuck up. They harassed me to no end. Of course they got what they deserved (police intervention) but I then found that there were people who were not prejudiced also (my resident adviser) and were very supportive and very understanding.

    I think that eventually in every place in the world, we have good people and bad people. We must never listen to the common motto and experience everything ourselves. Not everyone is a saint but yet not everyone is Hitler.

    Sorry for the long post but Id just like to say that one must be open minded and never listen to common media as we all know does distort reality to no end!

    Allison, I think you do a really good job by letting others voice their opinions and discussing such issues. I am patiently waiting for the next season and I’m sure it’ll be brilliant as usual.

    Thanks and have a great day!

  • David Hayes

    on August 5, 2008 at 12:27 am

    This may be posted a little too late to be read by many of the visitors to this site, but I wanted to give a little feedback here anyway.

    There was this scientist being interviewed by Tom Snyder on the “Tomorrow Show” many years ago. He held college degrees in several diverse subjects. Asked about what motivated him to reach such academic heights, he told of a very vivid dream in which a UFO landed and the aliens picked him to take a test to determine in mankind would be allowed to survive. He woke up in a sweat knowing that he was sadly lacking as a human being and that, if the fate of the human race rested on his shoulders, we would all be lost. After that, he worked like a madman to make himself the absolute nest best example of humanity that was possible.

    This may seem off the topic, but I don’t think so. It came to mind reading Torias’ comment “Sometimes Hispanic people hit for no reason.” I do agree that people as individuals, by their actions, train others how to perceive them … but also that the perception is usually clouded by a lot of other information people use to make judgments about others. Anyhow, what follows is my take on the idea that Hispanics must WANT to be known as the people who hit for no reason because they keep doing it and therefore re-enforce that stereotype. First off, this gives me a flash back to a cartoon character that represented “Hawaiian Punch” for years. He wore a loud Hawaiian shirt and hauled off and punched people that asked for a Hawaiian punch. I certainly hope the repetitive airing of that commercial didn’t label overweight white men in Hawaiian shirts as random hitters. But more to the point, let’s say 1000 Hispanics in LA decided that it was cool to build a little fear of (and respect ? of) the Hispanic community by sending a message “Be aware of us and fear us because we may strike without reason at any time!” How many Hispanics are there in total? Even if there are, let’s say 100 million Hispanic people in the world, that thousand people in LA would represent one thousandth of a percent of all Hispanics. Although EVERY Hispanic that Torias may have ever encountered may believe in random hitting (and that may or may not be true depending how much Torius gets around), that sampling of experience is a very narrow sampling to make a judgment on an entire group of people – although it might justify how Torias prepares to face a day among the 1000 that may surround him.

    So here’s the question, if you identify yourself as a member of a specific race or group, who would you want to represent your people in the public’s mind if being pre-judged is inevitable? Would you want it to be you? Are you a “credit to your race?” Another question: Should a group have the right to choose which 1000 or 100 or 1 represents how the public views them? If we are to be pre-judged by an unfairly small sampling, shouldn’t we be the ones that get to choose the sample? There are certainly 1000 clansmen still around. I don’t want to be judged as holding views like theirs. There were at least 1000 people in Hitler’s regime taking a hand in the Holocaust. I certainly don’t want to be thought of as being genetically bound to behaving like they did. I would probably lean to selecting Nobel Peace Prize winners and Pulitzer Prize Winners and volunteers who sacrificed themselves without seeking notoriety. But would I pick me to represent me? The individual is the smallest unique “group” there is. Theirs my left brain and my right brain, … which represents me better? Right now, the only thing I know for sure is that I want a body double. But I’ll have to think on the people I want to represent me and the specific traits in each of them that I want to be known for.

    So, these comments approach the topic two ways. One, I believe that any large racial or cultural group is far too diverse to be fairly pre-judged by a sampling based on any individual’s personal experience. Two, I challenge you all to consider whether or not YOU are the person you want to represent the groups you belong to … and to make an effort to be the person that you would want to represent your group.

    I got up at 3:00am to write this, so I hope it makes sense in the morning. I’m heading back to bed.

    Take Care!

  • Pepe

    on August 5, 2008 at 1:20 am

    So many of your brilliant readers have already pointed out that being cautious is not the same as being prejudiced (actually, it kind of is, but I guess there is a good kind and bad kind of pre-judging). Oh well, we know what they mean and it’s a good point. You are a petite, young woman. It is better to be safe than sorry in these cases.

    But here is something else for you to chew on: why did God make things so difficult for humankind by making people of all these different colors? Why didn’t He just make us all the same? I think it has something to do with whatever is the opposite of prejudiced…

  • David Hayes

    on August 6, 2008 at 1:04 am

    Why not all the same? Unless we were identical in every detail, I’m sure we would find enough differences to judge one superior over the other. But, let’s say we were identical. Any bacteria that would effect any of us, would take us all down. Anything that an individual was incapable of would be true of everyone. We achieve our strength as a species through our diversity. Gene Rodenbury talked about celebrating “IDIC” — infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

  • David Hayes

    on August 6, 2008 at 5:37 am

    … Like the Fried Egg Philosopher said, “Without a little yolk or anything else to spice it up, the whites alone make a pretty bland omlett.”

  • Daisy

    on August 6, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Hey Allison thanks for sharing your story. Your blog was very interesting. I personally try my hardest not to judge someone I don’t know before I actually meet them. I think it’s stupid to do so because you just don’t know them and it really is unfair for both of you. This blog was very interesting and know it’s got me really thinking on the subject.

  • Therapeutic Ramblings

    on August 10, 2008 at 11:17 am

    You should check out: “Destructive Emotions: A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama”. Experts in eastern and western philosophy come together and discuss how positive/negative emotions effect our society, and how we as individuals contribute to many of our challenges in the world: prejudice, intolerance, etc.

    I am still in the beginning, but I can’t put it down and it has made me think deeper and longer than almost anything that I’ve read in the last few years.