Sadly, we’ve all heard them – the words that we coin to disparage others – whether because of their religion, race, sexual orientation, national origin or political beliefs. The contents of that list is too long and distasteful to include here.
Prejudice is defined as a state of mind which is formulated prior to having the facts necessary to make an informed decision. It is a convenient though limiting way to look at the world – allowing the person holding to the prejudice to pigeon-hole people into convenient slots. Having dismissed the individual as a part of some particular group, there is no longer the need to deal with him or her as a person.
Archie Bunker of “All In The Family” was the poster child for the prejudiced mind. But over the years that the show aired, Archie’s attitudes began to evolve. There was one reason that occurred. He began meeting people who belonged to the groups about whom he had formed his prejudices – and found that those people did not conform to the stereotypes in which he believed.
When I was in my employment business I made a point of seeing every salesman who came to my office. In part that was because I myself was in sales and I knew the sense of rejection that people in that business experience. And it was partly out of respect for my dad who had spent his entire life in the same career. But the main reason was that I wanted to hear what they had to say.
One day my assistant came into my office and sat down. She said, “I don’t understand why you see all these sales people. You never buy anything from them.”
I said, “You’re almost right. I don’t buy anything from ninety-nine percent of the sales people who come through here. But the reason that I see all of them is that I know that one person in a hundred is going to have a product or service or give me an idea which will be extremely valuable and could give us a huge boost. The problem is that I don’t know which person that is – so I have to listen to all of them in order to get to that one great idea.”
We live in a world of infinite diversity filled with all sorts of interesting people. We can either choose to meet them and hear their stories – or we can allow our prejudices to limit our experiences and live our lives in cultural poverty. How we travel on our journey is up to each of us.