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I write verbose posts about polyamory, love, lust, and self-discovery on my other blog Victoria's Imaginarium.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Stop Prejudice!

Prejudice has been accepted for centuries as a normal or even desirable element in a social structure. Take Malaysia as example. It is often that the non-Malays consider the Malays to be in favor of bribery and lazy. Besides, from my own observation and the real experiences of my international friends, people always think Pakistani and Yemeni are all having terrorist mindset, whereas Africans are mostly alcoholic and love to fight.

Not just in terms of race, religion or culture, prejudice can be built on a person’s appearance, academic results, financial status or family background. It refers to the pre-judgment on anyone or anything based on incomplete knowledge or no knowledge at all.

I’ll start by telling you the need to eliminate prejudice.

Prejudice hurts both party which exert and suffer it. As we have prejudice against certain people, we develop hatred and jealousy. We feel guilty but at the same time we reject any piece of truth that might prove us wrong. We become even more dangerous when we try to spread our prejudice. We distort reality and stretch facts just to make our claims stronger. As we do this, we fear if these people get stronger and will one day threaten what we possess or do horrible things to us as a payback. It’s obvious that the first ones we hurt are always ourselves.

On the other hand, when people have prejudice against us, we tend to feel bitter and inferior. We might lose confidence in life or even try to revenge. Unconsciously we will develop prejudice against these people who think bad about us. It becomes a bad cycle.

Prejudice leads to discrimination. Gary Grobman states in his book that women’s capability has not yet been recognized to the same degree as their male counterparts. Women are often excluded from high positions in government, business, and the professions.

Besides, he also points out that people of certain races or nationalities are more likely to be accused of committing crimes. This is not just on the level of mere accusation by the society. It actually causes serious injustice. According to Death Penalty Information Website, the raw data of death sentences in Philadelphia between 1983 and 1993 provide the evidence that race discrimination may be operating. The rate at which eligible black defendants were sentenced to death was nearly 40% higher than the rate for other eligible defendants. Other than that, we can always see on newspaper how prejudice and discrimination drives teenagers to suicide.

Now that you know about the need to eliminate prejudice, let us look at how to do it.

In most situations, prejudice is learned from the elder generation without questioning those biased values. We need to apply critical thinking on this issue. According to Keith Melville’s conference paper in Doctoral Competencies Seminar, we must first admit our prejudice and recognize the lack of our understandings. Next, we must evaluate arguments by examining their logic. Think. Does it make sense? Is there any proof about what we believe? We should refuse to accept at face value of any existing claims that are without supporting evidence. We must examine the credibility of our sources, when we collect information. Finally, when we are forming our conclusion, we should identify logical lapses. Avoid fallacies. The hardest part throughout the whole process is to fight against the habit of rejecting facts contradictory with our long-established beliefs.

You’re probably thinking that this is not an easy task, but let me show you, the elimination of prejudice is possible and can bring benefits. History has shown us the successful removal of global prejudice. Women have always been considered inferior to men over centuries, but nowadays, it is so natural for women gain the right to vote, get education, be employed and own properties. When African-Americans were being oppressed in the United States, who would ever expect one of them to make it to the White House? Today, Barack Obama has become the US president.

As proven in many studies, inequality and discrimination can be effectively reduced with the reduction of prejudice. Due to the success to remove prejudice in many schools, Equality and Human Rights Commission in United Kingdom funded many similar studies, including this report itself. The group being studied was asked to practice critical thinking. As they carry out the process of getting credible information, they open up themselves to people they dislike or fear, and they start to know better and realize that their prejudice was built on unreliable basis. This eventually promotes equality and respect among the students.

Now that my post is coming to an end, I would like to do a small experiment with you.

Once upon a time, there were two boys, A and B.
A’s mother died when he was 9, then his father remarried. His family had never attended any churches. He had only gone through 18 months of formal schooling.
B came from a perfect family. Both his parents were Catholic. When he started schooling at 8, he became the top in class.

I would like you to answer this question quietly in your heart. My question is: Who do you expect to be a successful leader when he grew up?

If you cannot give out an answer because of the lack of information and unsure credibility source of information, congratulation, you have put critical thinking in practice. Guess what? A was Abraham Lincoln while B was Adolf Hitler.

So now you know how prejudice works. It creates psychological burden to both parties; It leads to discrimination, injustice and inequality; It is undesirable.

If the major prejudice against women and African-Americans can be removed, If they managed to remove prejudice in schools in UK, Why can’t we? After all, it is just the pre-judgment based on incomplete knowledge or no knowledge at all.

Regardless of age, gender, race, nationality, appearance, dressing style, family background, academic result, we all want the same thing, that is to be treated equally with respect. If we do not play our parts in eliminating prejudice, one day we might become the victims of it.

Let us make prejudice an unjustified practice in social norms. I believe that we hold the power to eliminate it.

Time for change.

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