And why is it that the minorities seem to be receiving the brunt of this prejudice?
Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible. ~ Maya Angelou
The Root Of Prejudice
When we allow our shame to influence us, we make our choices from a sense of inferiority; from a subconscious belief that we are not deserving of love and success in our lives. If we don't recognize that we are being controlled by our shame, we externalize it by transferring it onto someone else. We assign them the place of inferiority, while we assign for ourselves the place of superiority, in an attempt to feel our worth. But as long as we externalize our shame, we'll continue to see ourselves on a self imposed scale of deserving - not deserving, superior - inferior, worthy - not worthy, good - bad, acceptable - not acceptable.
We have repressed our shame on a collective scale. Globally, we play out this "shame scale". Imagine a group of people who are controlled by their shame, getting together and conferring about their need to be superior. Although, this group could be any demographic, given that I am a white male, and am acutely aware of how white males have discriminated, I'll assign these people that color and gender. "How shall we do this"? they ask. "Well, we have to have a common enemy, people we can all agree are inferior to us. It should be people who are easily identified. We'll then come up with 'evidence' to prove how inferior they are." Through having identified this other group, they now have a false sense of bonding; they now have each other to validate their illusory sense of superiority.
Since their common "enemy" has to be someone they can always spot, their easy choice was women and other races; a kind of default choice, as on the surface, women and other races appeared so different. This speaks to the fragile nature of prejudice. Prejudice is just a collectively agreed upon belief, which has no basis in reality. There's the story of the woman who when she goes to bake the roast, cuts the ends off and throws them away.. When asked why, she has no logical answer other than to say "that's how my mother did it". When asked, her mother said the same, all the way back to the great-grandmother who started the "tradition" of cutting the ends off the roast for the simple reason that it was too long for her pan! It started as a reasonable step and became a tradition; an assumed way to think and act. Like this tradition, prejudice has no logical basis. Its roots are plane and simple; insecurity.
"The less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice.". ~ Clint Eastwood
It has been a century and a half since the Civil War and racism continues to this day. In contrast, the gay rights movement got under way in 1976, with Harvey Milk being elected as the first openly gay city commissioner in the country. In these relatively short 43 years, the "gay" issue is now nearly behind us.
So, why is it that gay rights have moved along so quickly while minority rights move so slowly? I suggest it's because gays are harder to "spot". As simple as that. How fragile prejudice is! "If we can spot 'em, we can judge 'em". Gays have always engaged in every area of life, through the entire spectrum of social experience: economic (from poor to wealthy), political (from red to blue), and religious...you name it. "Coming out of the closet" was the best thing they could have done for themselves and so in turn for all of us.
"If we were to wake up some morning and find that everyone was the same race, creed and color, we would find some other causes for prejudice by noon." ~ George Aiken
We're All Prejudiced
We can drop this painful drama by simply acknowledging that we're all prejudiced. We all have shame-based feelings of low self worth and at times, try to compensate by attempting to be superior to another, whether through developing a skill, a degree, a big bank account, a fancy home or car or most prevalently, an "attitude". Through the lens of shame, we go through our lives comparing ourselves to literally everyone to determine whether we are either more deserving or less deserving than they are. We then get to the work of either becoming "superior" or keeping "superior" to them.
This mechanism is "alive" in all of us. Let's be honest, we're all afraid (to some degree) of each other.
Our fear of the judgement of others is rooted in our own belief in our lack of worth.
I begin many of my workshops/groups with this powerful and freeing exercise.
Within the first moments of meeting someone, we develop a story (albeit subconscious) of this person's activities, preferences, even their beliefs.. I invite you to look at a picture of a person you or don't know (or preferably, sit with someone) and ask yourself the following questions, taking note of what comes to your mind.
Once you've written your answers, take a moment and share this information with them. This can be very revealing for both of you and therefore, very intimate, which I find interesting because you have just told them all your judgments about them. Yet you feel closer to them and they to you!!! No matter what we share, if done openly with respect, we deepen our connection.
Once we acknowledge this previously subconscious story (that was determining our choices regarding our relationship with them) it no longer controls us.
The genesis of prejudice is "other" thinking; seeing ourselves as different from other people. When we move beyond prejudice, we move beyond seeing ourselves as different.
We see all people as having the same needs as us. We all need food, clothes, shelter. We all need loving attention. We all have the same basic feelings of sad, mad, glad, and scared. Each person has strengths and weaknesses. Each person has beautiful Gifts, that when nurtured, contribute to the well being and happiness of everyone.
"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." ~ Nelson Mandela (From Long Walk to Freedom, 1995)
If you are a man looking to connect with other men, join me for a 6 week dive into authentically relating and the bonds that arise when we do. For more information, contact me.