Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Prejudice

This is the 7th entry in my This I Believe series.

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I’m going to preface this by saying that I had something that we’ll pretend was brilliant all pecked out and not saved on my laptop before I put it to sleep so that I could attend to the feeding circus with my favorite trick pony, Abby. When I came to turn in back on…nothing. Here it goes again.

I’ve been wanting to write another entry to my This I Believe series, and haven’t had any genius moments of insight into any of the remaining topics on my list. But yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which made me think twice about the topic of prejudice. Here’s what I see in one very specific part of my life.

I teach high schoolers…big, egotistical, arrogant, deceptively intelligent, hilarious, loving, frustrating teenagers. The curse about my job is the seemingly never-ending grading that crosses my desk. The joy about my job is the same thing. I have a special insight into some really cool, special, and scary places when I read teenagers’ writing, a trust that I don’t take lightly. It never ceases to amaze me that a student allows me access to their secret life when they intentionally illustrate their story on paper. Yet, it also bothers me to a great extent when I have to read prejudicial, hurtful, hateful writing. How do I flippantly mark what I know is inherently wrong?

Who teaches prejudice? And who decides what prejudice is acceptable and which is not? It is so frustrating to feel completely helpless in dealing with an attitude that will not be swayed. Such was the case when I graded the final installment of the assigned This I Believe portfolios from my senior Composition classes. Twice. Two young men who were unabashedly demonstrating unequivocal and unapologetic prejudice. Because that is the environment in which they have been implicitly taught.

There is still work to be done. There are still young minds who are being shaped by the wrong mold. There are still adults who don’t care about who is affected by their own (wrong) opinions.

I’m convinced that prejudice is manifested as fear more often than ignorance.

But Ben and I have the sobering task of most directly shaping Abby’s perceptions of the world. I’m deeply aware of this, not only in regards to her perceptions of race but also of gender, intelligence, and such. As with all babies, she is a beautiful example of non-prejudice. May we all be so.

1 comment:

Sara said...

no idea who you are, but i'll comment.

I grew up in a small town in Arizona. I believe Arizona was the last to enact MLK day. And primarily only because we wanted the superbowl that year and the players were going to boycott because we didn't have the holiday.

I never went to school with a black person (or other race) until my last few years in high school and even then the kid was from a bi-racial family.

Was I raised prejudice? HELL YES. I am not so sure that I was raised that way out of fear rather than inferiority.

However I truly believe that as an adult or even a teenager that one can change the beliefs they were taught.

I went to college in Kentucky. So little to say my first true interaction with a large group of blacks was my freshman year at college. And it was during that first day in the coed dorm that my beliefs changed from bad to good.

All the beliefs had been taught up to that point went out the door when one black man turned to another who was cussing up a storm and said "there is a lady in the room stop your cussing". I realized they were just like everyone else in the world---a person.