Thursday, December 4, 2014

How Do We End Prejudice in our Society?

Every prejudice in human existence—racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, hobophobia and any other phobia or –ism you wish to name—will not end when we see all people the same as us.  To see all people the same is to grant power to those who already have power, to maintain the current prejudices.  To claim racism and classism doesn’t exist is to say that the status quo of killings and people sleeping in the snow and rape and war is an acceptable cost for our society and culture.  But our society is deeply broken. 

So how do we change?  I'll talk about a couple of ways. There are many more, but these are two that seem anti-intuitive in our society.

First, we must stop seeing people as just as good as us.  We must not look at the African American and say that he is as good as a white man.  Rather, we need to see the black man with all of his cultural differences and irritating habits and recognize that he is better for being black.  In many ways, he is better than a white man, and we need to admire those qualities and thank God that he isn’t the same as a white man and so give him unique opportunities that whites couldn’t get because he’s better than that.  We need to look at a woman and give her opportunities that men couldn’t get because she’s better than he is.  We need to look at the homeless and the Latino and the transgender and the mentally ill and rather than forcing them to fit in as “normal” we need to see their uniqueness and recognize that they deserve an equal place because they are of unique cultures and see things and respond to things differently than we.   We need to stop demanding that these “minority” cultures act “normal” in order to get a seat at the decision-making table.  In a multi-cultural society we need to hear from all cultures to make the society work.  This does not mean fitting each cultural group into a set role—our society tried that and it didn’t work.  Rather, an international corporation needs to hire a black CEO because he is  black.  A church needs to ordain a woman because she is a woman.  A city council needs to invite a homeless advocate to vote because she is homeless.  We allow our children to marry people of other races. Not because they have learned to be “white enough” or “male enough” or “middle-class enough” to be heard.

Second, to end the prejudice of our society, each minority culture and community need to make their own decisions about their communities.  A majority culture leader, or group of leaders, should not be deciding issues for a minority community.  A mayor in the pocket of the business community should not be making decisions for the homeless community.  Yes, the business community’s concerns should be heard and worked with, but they cannot be the deciding factor in a city’s actions to the homeless.  Rather, the leaders of the homeless community should be the loudest voice as to what happens to the homeless community.  The reason for this is because any “solution” handed to a community will never be successful unless they have  bought into it themselves.  And they will never buy into it unless they have the loudest voice in creating it.  Changes in community must come from the community, not from a culture that does not understand the community.  The Hispanic community should be allowed to make their own choices for their community.  Whites shouldn’t be making decisions for them, or for the Black community, as if they “know what’s best for them.”   They don’t.  The rich don’t know what’s best for the poor.  Men can’t decide what’s best for women, nor the other way around.  Groups should be allowed to speak for themselves and to determine their community’s destiny.

We live in a society where all these cultures should be equal.  This means equal opportunities, equal rights, and equal power.  Unfortunately, it is human nature to not give power or opportunity if it means that one’s own person or culture loses opportunity or power.  This is where Christ’s call to humility comes in.  Humility isn’t thinking less of oneself, according to Jesus.  Rather, it is taking a lower station than one deserves.  It is time for those of us who naturally can take a powerful place, whose voices are naturally heard, and give our place to others.  Once we have gained the status and power of this world, it is time for us to step down and surrender it, so that others can have it.  No, they will not use power in the way we thing is best.  In our opinion, they might screw everything up.  But it will be their opportunity, their choices and our society, in the end, will be better for it.

Let us who have control learn to lower ourselves to give others the opportunities we had.

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