[Disclaimer: I want to make it known now that throughout this blog I will be referring to black people as just that, black. Now, before you go jump on some prejudice bandwagon, I want to share with you why I use the term “black” versus “African American.” And this is actually a new thing for me, because as many other ol’ white folks, I too would try to be “politically correct” in my formal speech and writings and say “African American” instead of “black.” It was only weeks ago in my night class that this great knowledge was shared with me.
Now, think about it: are all “black” people in America “African Americans?” NOPE! An “African American” is someone who came from Africa. African American is an ethnicity, not a race. Black is a race, as is white. There are many blacks in America who are not African Americans. For instance, back at my home congregation in St. Louis there was a guy a little older than me who was about as black as a black guy gets but he was actually adopted from Cuba, or maybe it was Haiti (dang, I can’t remember, but that is beside the point, he wasn’t from anywhere even near Africa). That’s right, definitely not African American.
So, think about it next time you call someone African American. And contrary to some beliefs, there is nothing negative about the denotation of “black;” it’s the same as anyone calling someone a “white” person. I have MANY black friends and am still yet to be hit for using the term “black.” ;) So, on with the text!]
Prejudice. I would define it as a form of hatred. And as derogatory as “hatred” is, I would even go as far as to say that we ALL display some prejudice in one form or another. I think negative stereotyping is a form of prejudice. Admit it; we all have these “views” of people who are different from us: whether it be people who are different by race, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, etc. Why is it that makes “different” “bad?”
Let me give you an example…
In one of my classes this semester we did an exercise where everyone went around the room and put the first thought that came to their mind in reference to a particular “type” of person that was written on a sheet of paper. Some of the “types” were: Hispanic, Black, White, Males, Females, Asian, Gays/Lesbians, Teenagers, Elderly, Handicapped, etc. People were supposed to write what came to their head as stereotypes about these different “types” of people. So here are a few of the things that were written:
Hispanics – lazy, poor, smelly, partiers
Blacks – uneducated, poor
White – successful, powerful
Males – dominate, strong, chauvinistic
Females – weak, homemakers
Asians – intelligent
Gays/Lesbians – sensitive, weak
Teenagers – rebels, immature
Elderly – bad drivers, weak
Handicapped – weak
Many of these are what I would consider to be negative stereotypes that society honestly has of these different “types” of people. And trust me, we could add more groups to the list, such as Jews, Transvestites, (or my favorite) Politicians…HA! But this is beside the point. The point is, we all fall victim to thinking some of these quick thoughts when we hear a particular group or “type” of people being mentioned. And while this isn’t good, and I don’t want to make excuses for us, I will leave it at this, we are all human, and judgment unfortunately is a human trait.
So, beyond the stereotyping, there are forms of prejudice that are more than the casual negative association toward a “type” of people. There’s the prejudice that influences actions and behaviors, and even more unfortunate, sometimes results in discrimination.
Something that “sold me on ACU” and coming to Texas for college over four years ago was the people. I’ll freely admit, I’d never met as many down-right friendly people as I did coming to my freshman orientation at ACU in the summer of 2000. There honestly is something different about Texans, especially Abilenians! Strangers look one another in the eyes and will greet one another with a friendly “hello” without thinking twice about it. And for someone who loves people as I do, this was what drove me to sign the papers to go to ACU.
While the people in Texas are some of the friendliest I’ve ever met, another difference about the people that I was quick to discover upon coming to Texas for school was the views of prejudice. Don’t get me wrong, prejudice occurs everywhere, as well as St. Louis, but it wasn’t until I came to Texas that I met so many people who would tell me things like, “My parents would KILL me if I brought home a black friend” or “If my dad knew I had a Hispanic boyfriend they would disown me.” I can honestly list several people right now off the top of my head that come from what THEY themselves would describe as “a prejudice family.”
I play the Texas prejudice thing off in my head with my own theories, such as the prejudice against blacks as the whole “it’s a Southern state” thing. All southern states still tend to have the “slave mentality” toward blacks still. And the Hispanic prejudice I say, “Well Texas had to fight long and hard to free themselves from Mexico, so they got that thing against them” and if that isn’t enough of a reason, there is the whole “well Mexicans are taking over our state” mentality, so that gives them “reason” to have prejudice against them. Whether there is any truth to these theories of mine to define WHY prejudice against these two particular races is so high in Texas, I don’t know. Either way, it shows that even the friendliest people aren’t perfect.
So, to let y’all know I’m not only “hatin’” toward Texans, because I realize prejudice is a global problem, let me bring this issue more “to home” for me…
First, I must say that while I too am guilty of the casual stereotyping prejudices, I must say on the scale of having prejudices that influence actions at all, I would say I’m strongly lacking. I was brought up in a family where prejudice was never an issue. The color of someone’s skin didn’t make a difference in my family. My sixth grade year I hung out with the “black girl group” in my class. In high school on my basketball team my best friends were always the black girls. Also, in high school, I had many Bosnian friends (many Bosnians have moved to St. Louis because of the wars in their country). In college I CHOSE (yes, I say chose, because a lot of people always just assumed that we went potluck) my sophomore roommate who was a black girl. Sooo…anyways…
For Thanksgiving this year I went back to Missouri. It was Thanksgiving eve and I was chillin’ with my mom and my aunt and we were just talking and stuff, and my mom was saying how she had just talked to her cousin a few nights earlier about Thanksgiving stuff. She was saying how her cousin was telling her how there was going to probably be a lot of talk at Thanksgiving amongst all the family because one of her daughters (my mom’s cousin’s daughter) had brought home her boyfriend from college for Thanksgiving and he is a black guy. Well, that’s all cool with her immediate family, because like my mom’s cousin said to my mom on the phone, “Susan, we’re like you and Ken are. We raised our kids to not be prejudice.” But her parents (whose house the huge Thanksgiving get together is always at) might have different views about their granddaughter having a black boyfriend.
So, to save a lot of time, I’ll just say, I never heard anything bad said while I was there on Thanksgiving Day, but who knows what people were saying behind folk’s backs, but as for me, I thought the dude was a great and fun guy!
So, I ask you, if this situation occurred in your family (someone brought home a boyfriend/girlfriend of another race/ethnicity/religion), would it cause uproar among your immediate family? How about your extended family? Maybe with you in particular?
Many times have I had my friends say to me, “I could see you dating/marrying a black guy.” I simply smile in response, because honestly, it doesn’t matter to me what a fella looks like, there’s more important things too worry about.
And along these same lines…if you have never heard my “are you mixed?” stories, let me tell you. It wasn’t until I came to Texas that I had people start asking me if I was mixed (AKA half white and half black). I’ve even had black people ask me if I’m mixed and tell me I have black people features. HA! And when I was telling one of my friends about this once (who happened to be white), she said, “Well does that bother you that people ask you that?” I just said, “No. Why would it?” I mean I don’t have anything against someone being mixed, so why would I be offended if someone thought I was mixed?
Wow, so after saying all this typing, I suppose my main thoughts are these: What’s wrong with people’s differences? Why must we consider differences to be negative? Let’s all appreciate people for being just that—people!
[WEIRD—while I was writing this blog, I have my stereo playing on “shuffle” behind me with 5 mixed burned CDs in it. And the first song that played was “We are the World” by Michael Jackson and friends. And then one of the songs that played while I was in the middle of the blog was “I Believe” by Blessed Union of Souls and now the song playing while I’m winding this up is “Heal the World” by Michael Jackson. If you know all these songs, you know how they all seem to relate to this specific blog. How ironic that they would all randomly play while on shuffle, during this writing! COOL!]