By definition, prejudice is a “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience” or a “dislike, hostility or unjust behavior formed on such a basis.” Racism is defined, in part, as “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.”
Rodney Dale is a firefighter for the Elkhart Fire Department and is a native of the town. In his community blog
for The Elkhart Truth, Dale will share his musings on issues affecting the community.
I think that if we look at those two definitions and are being honest, everybody has practiced or is practicing what’s described. But when these issues are brought up, that “deer in the headlights” look appears on our faces as if we are surprised and confused that this is a problem America.
Whether it’s an African-American man assuming all elderly white men hate him; a white person assuming all African-Americans are academically slow or violent; someone assuming a Latino person is here illegally; or someone assuming people of other races are out to get him, it’s clear prejudice and racism are both still alive and well here. In a lot of cases it might be a subconscious thing, but I believe that how we perceive a person before we communicate with him or her will affect how well or poorly that communication goes.
Let’s challenge ourselves this week to openly admit the racial issues we all have and do something out of the ordinary to help eliminate them. Don’t be fearful if an African-American man with sagging jeans walks by – in fact, say a polite hello and smile. If you see an older white man, don’t immediately think he doesn’t like you – instead, ask him how his day is going and spark up a conversation. Employers, if you know your workplace isn’t ethnically diverse, hire someone you normally wouldn’t because of their race, open your arms and make sure he or she feels welcome.
Each individual should fight his or her own prejudices and give everybody an equal chance to do well, mess up and make amends. Life is too short for hate – and you might be missing out on a wonderful new friendship.