How to Overcome Prejudice
Events in the summer of 2010, such as the recent "oops" made by Fox News and the racially motivated attacks on men in Florida and Connecticut indicate that there is currently no such thing a "post-racial America." Similarly, sexual orientation is something which many, especially African Americans in the Christian community, find very repulsive. There are accordingly been many mean-spirited comments by African American Christians related to the ruling that a gay marriage ban in California is unconstitutional. There have been many sermons in black churches to prove this. Yet there has been untold suffering due to racial prejudice and sexual orientation in this country and throughout the world. There are obviously many reasons to overcome prejudice, but it may be a difficult thing to do. Just as legalized slavery took a very long time to be erased from American culture, the idea of equality or accepting someone from another race, religion, culture, sexuality, etc, may seem scary to some since it may seem to mean that one's own culture is not as good or perhaps this other group being will become dominate. Considering history for the last several hundred years, this apprehension is somewhat understandable. Some Native American groups accepted some of the settlers that came from Europe and look what happened to them. But really these fears are unfounded. Prejudice is something that exists when there is ignorance. Ignorance, in this context, is a lack of knowledge or holding misinformation about another group of people. We all hold a lack of knowledge about other cultures but this can always be overcome by simply learning more about that culture. But in order to do this, you must be open to changing. Once you get to this point, then there are many resources to help you overcome prejudice.
First, read a book like the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Night by Elie Wiesel, How Homophobia Hurts Children by Jean M. Baker, other books that directly deal with the suffering caused by hatred. By doing this, you can see how painful prejudice can be. It may not seem to impact you at all, but it certainly impacts other people in many ways. From a more global point of view, however, prejudice can be seen to negatively impact you since it limits the capabilities of another human being. If a person is not able to achieve their full potential due to some bias against them, the positive contributions they can make to soceity do not get realized and we all suffer as a result. In spite of the great racial biases that have been historically present in this U.S., African Americans have made great contributions. Just image if that were not the case and Blacks were not able to contribute at all to American culture. There would be no jazz or blues and hence no rock music. Many things we take for granted in our daily lives may have taken longer to have been invented or may never have existed at all. Peanut butter, potato chips, the ironing board and the blood bank were invented by African Americans. These items might never have been invented if Americans of African descent were not able to contribute to American society.
After reading about the impact that prejudice can have on a culture and you personally, reflect on why you have the prejudice to begin with. Thinking about your childhood and when you first encountered prejudice in your own life may help to better understand how you developed it. It may also be the key to helping you overcome it. It may also be helpful to write down your thoughts on the prejudice that you have. Being more reflective as to why you feel this way, where it came from and how it manifests itself in your life, may help to reduce the impact of that prejudice, making you less reactionary.
Next, visit museums and historical monuments that deal with the painful history of prejudice. This will provide a visual and emotional reminder of the pain of discrimination. Therefore, if you continue to be around family or friends who are prejudiced, remembering these experiences will make it less likely that you will return to these old ways. Visit museums like the Underground Railroad Freedom Museum in Cinncinnati, Ohio or the Holocaust Museum in Washinton, D.C. There are also slave quarters that still exist in various parts of the southern United States which may be visited as well. The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Community Center in San Francisco is also a place where people can learn about the horrors of homophobia and the current problems of the gay community.
Lastly, open your heart to new experiences and new friends. If previously you never spoke to someone from a particular group, then start to do so. Place yourself in positions in which you will be able to meet new people. You will see that the people you once had a strong prejudiced against are no different than you are.