PREJUDICE IS A HABIT – THE KEY TO REPLACING IT ~ ISSUE 217 ~ NOVEMBER 1, 2016
By Diane Gold
Prejudice is a habit, if we agree that a habit is a routine caused by repetition or an acquired pattern of behavior. As with all habits, they can become dormant when replaced by a new one. Some take a moment, others takes what seems like a lifetime. Our habits, for better or worse, are always with us; but we can shuffle them to the background.
So how is prejudice a habit when it is supposed to develop from preknowledge or opinion, not based on experience? I contend that the preknowledge came from some repetitive behavior (which developed a habit), the most common is that
OUR PARENTS TAUGHT US that a group of people of certain race, religion, nationality are inferior, bad, are to be shunned, are damaging to our worth or reputation.
To this, I say,
“We are all exactly the same (to quote Luis Guzman on Chicago Med when coaching a transgender woman’s lover on how to react to the news that her lover was trans) – except for a few tiny differences. Long live whites and ambers, tans, greens, reds, browns, blacks or whatever word people use to describe their skin color or the delineation of their choice. Can we please get it together and work to replace prejudice, already? It requires humility and hard work, but we can do it! If we don’t evolve, we might as well live underground with the worms (with all due respect to the worms).”
When I think of my own childhood, I was brought up in a home that was free of prejudice, for the most part. I say for the most part because I have discovered some. I can understand about 10 or 15 Yiddish words (Yiddish is a language derived from German that some Jewish people in Eastern Europe speak or spoke) and one of them is a word for “black person” that, back in the day, was a Yiddish speaker’s probable racial slur of an African-American. This is alarming to me and something I just recalled at age 67. I am not sure whether I heard it from my grands, my uncle (not the one who was like a second father to me) or, and this would be disappointing to me, in the home of my loving parents. If it were in my home, which I am leaning to doubt, it might have been said once, and I recognized its meaning having heard it outside from another family member. This is bad enough. What was the motivation to use this word? How could I have missed this prejudice in my own family? Why would they think it was OK?
This kind of racial slur reminds me of the expression, “the chosen people” to refer to Jews or Hebrews, not sure which. I very definitely did not learn this in my home, although I have a cousin, also to my dismay, who said this.
TRANSFERRING OUR BAD EXPERIENCE TO OTHERS WITH THE SAME ETHNIC, RACIAL OR RELIGIOUS GROUP
Sometimes people who are bullied or attacked, find an ethnic or racial component to fault. Though a childish concept, it is easy to see how we can transfer this one bad experience to an entire group.
BROUGHT UP BIGOTS
WE MAY HAVE BEEN BROUGHT UP BY PEOPLE, who were brought up by people who were raised to think that the best way to success was to raise themselves above others because of similar or different appearance. This home-bred prejudice leaves out the truth that we are all the same. If we are not taught equality and our home training includes hearing prejudicial language, we may develop prejudice from an early age. And, the older the habit, the more work needs to be done to replace it.
The key to replacing prejudice has nothing to do with admitting we have it and everything to do with doing work to replace it. Just as I don’t believe we have to have a positive mental attitude to get it done, I believe we can do the work, even if we do not admit our prejudice. Look at this example: if we are scrawny or overweight, we don’t have to admit either of those. If we change our diet, do exercise, rest well, have interactions with others; we will change without ever having had to allocute to our particular body type.
THE WORK – THE ACTION STEPS
This set of action steps gives one fabulous technique based upon The Parents Circle, Family Forum, one of my hero groups. This group takes two sets of people on “opposite sides” of an issue and brings them together to talk. It’s Palestinians and Israelis whose family member has been killed by each others’.
The Prejudice Club takes elements from this. Its purpose is to answer questions that show us how we are almost the same as human beings.
Here is the Prejudice Replacement Technique, carried out in community meetings of The Prejudice Replacement Club.
1) Get together with a group of up to 10 people who are willing to be respectful, non-violent and follow the rules of the Club.
2) Come in to the session knowing you will answer a set of questions honestly, to be heard by your 5 minute partner at whom you will not look.
3) Pick a number out of a hat upon entering, and go to the appointed side of a center line.
4) Take the seat that corresponds to that number.
5) Do not look around or turn around to see your partner.
6) Everyone will use numbers as names. You will not call your partner by her/his name. You will not remain the same number for more than one session.
7) Be as honest as possible, not answering based upon determining your partner’s ethnicity by voice or colloquialisms. Just tell your truth.
8) If you find you are getting nervous, uncomfortable, angry, sad; tell the coordinator, who will help you.
9) Notice the differences; notice what is the same. Uncannily, scientifically, we are almost all exactly the same.
Prejudice is a habit, and as with any other habit, can be laid to dormancy like so many of our habits. It can happen if we choose to talk and express how we feel. It doesn’t always work right away; it usually makes changes. So, let’s become members of the Prejudice Replacement Club and get peace done.
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DIANE GOLD, PUBLISHER AND AUTHOR
Diane Gold, Founder of Warriors of Weight, Turning Habits Into Health, has been a mentor in tai chi, kung fu and meditation, has been a music, fitness and stress expert, dedicated mom, studying peaceful conflict resolution, habit replacement and has been certified in plant-based nutrition.
She believes in freedom – for all people, not just the strongest, the most beautiful and most popular. She says,
“I am the same as you. My skin is not the chosen skin. Neither is yours. I am not more deserving than you. And vice versa.
“It is my duty to be a kind human. That doesn’t mean I have to buy you a house. It also does not mean I have the right to discriminate based on my habits. And, if I do, I want to change myself, evolve myself. How about you?
“I always have this idea to ask TV script writers to come up with peace scenarios: how we can live together with all sects and religions that aim for human good, which are all the major religions of which I am familiar. A belief system cannot create terror. Only a human heart can do that.
“Let’s talk to each other, yes. Let’s talk until we see ourselves as reflections of our sisters and brothers. Did you ever come together during a strong earthquake, tornado, hurricane? Did you care who saved you from the brink of death?
“Look for The Prejudice Replacement Club nearest you. By passing on the idea, we care for and love our fellow beings at all costs – and we are all always worth it.”
EXERCISE OF THE WEEK:
BE PART OF THE PREJUDICE REPLACEMENT CLUB.
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