Several days ago I realized that there is no end to the kinds of prejudice we all experience. I was talking to someone at work about some of my customers from New Jersey, how they seem like crooks, and how they can be hard to deal with. It was a very mean and callous thing to say. I realized that when this person became hurt and said "Don't say that, I'm from New Jersey." I quickly apologized for this. It wasn't true either, there are plenty of nice honest people from New Jersey, its just the bad people are so memorable.
In an episode of karmic fair-play, I was on the receiving end of the same kind of prejudice just lately. I found myself offended when someone started talking about how ignorant rednecks are. I'm not ashamed to be labeled a redneck, I probably define it differently than others, though.(Click here to read my definition of a redneck versus white trash) This person did not mean to hurt my feelings. They had some bad experiences with people identifying themselves as rednecks.
Just the same, both of us were prejudiced against different groups of people. There's a sociological term called outgroup homogeneity that explains that we fail to see the distinctions of people outside our own group. The most common example is when one racial group says that people from another group "all look the same to me". But it goes farther than that, this sense of indistinctness causes you to be unable to recognize personality traits as well as physical characteristics. Unconsciously, we label this group of "others" as possessing all of those negative stereotypes that have become ingrained in our national psyche.
We all like to think that we have become so politically correct. But we have just traded prejudices and redefined which groups it is permitable to judge wrongly. We have built up a library of regional prejudices that go beyond harmless jokes. All rednecks are bigots, all people from the North East are arrogant, all people from the West Coast are flakes and all Southerners are ignorant.
One of the reasons for all these labels is that we have a need to explain why what we believe to be right is not recognized as right by the others in the world. Sometimes it bothers us when we hold a truth as universally true, and yet other people mock it or vehemently disagree with us. There are several options, we could be wrong and they could be right, or both of us are wrong. Or it could be that our perceptions of the issue are so different that both of us are right.
Instead of searching out why these people see things differently, we so often take the easy way out. The other group must be wrong. Whether its gun control, abortion, religion, all of the other hot button issues, instead of trying to at least understand why they think the way they do, we find it easier to just define them as all wrong.
Don't misunderstand me. I'm not calling for the sacrifice of truth on the altar of tolerance. There are absolute truths in the world. But your view of truth won't be less true if you take the time to understand exactly what it is that others believe. It will either make your own sense of truth stronger, or it will help you redefine what is true.
Ultimately, any of us could be wrong. There's no need to add rudeness to ignorance.
Thanks for reading,
Purgatory: A place of suffering and torment with an unknown duration. In Roman Catholic Theology-the place where the dead are purified from their sins.
By Rage Against The Machine