Milt Hankins: Test yourself for prejudicial behavior
In the WiseGEEK, Jessica Ellis defines racial discrimination in the following terms: "Racial discrimination occurs when a person or institution alters its actions or behaviors based on race." She continues, "Understanding the signs of racial discrimination can help identify situations where racism may affect outcomes or results."
I didn't do as well on this self-examination as I would have liked, but it was enormously helpful as I identified areas where I fall short. Take a few moments to reflect on these questions ... and the next time you are tempted, think twice before saying, "I'm not prejudiced!"
Do you sometimes use derogatory language or terms when talking about people of a different race, nationality, religion or sexual orientation than yourself?
Do you show disdain for and go "out of your way" to treat people of other races, nationalities or sexual orientations in a negative way?
Do you have negative thoughts about a "different kind" of individual or family moving next door to you? Have you expressed that you would support "illegal" actions to exclude other races or nationalities from your neighborhood?
If you are in a position of leadership, do you show favoritism toward individuals of your own race when hiring or promoting? Are you jealous or angry when someone of a difference race or nationality succeeds to a greater degree than you?
Must you admit that you occasionally use stereotypical gestures and vocal inflections to make fun of people of another race, nationality or sexual orientation? Do you listen to and/or pass on jokes about people who are different from you?
Do you take special notice of or show disdain for interracial, mixed nationality or "same-sex" couples?
Do you assume or state that people of other races or nationalities are, generally speaking, less capable, intelligent, industrious or attractive?
Do you dislike and speak out against activists for other races, nationalities or sexual orientations who, by necessity, feel they must stand up for their own?
Do you assume, when a crime has been committed, that it was perpetrated by a person of a race or nationality different from your own?
If we are truthful and respond "Yes" even to some (but hopefully not all) of these questions, then we must admit to some personal prejudices, bias and discrimination. Unfortunately, it is true that all of us are guilty to a certain degree. And, yes, those folks of other races, nationalities and sexual orientation are guilty, too!
Isn't it time we seek ways to identify, acknowledge and leave behind our prejudices, biases and discriminatory behavior? After all, the Bible teaches us that "God has made of one blood all nations of [men]." All of us are who we are because of where we were born and who our parents were.
We are a global society. We are no longer, in the 21st Century, separated by geographical barriers. Will the time soon come when we will no longer be separated by the bondage of discrimination? I certainly hope so.
Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.
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