All of us carry prejudice in our being. Most of the time I am not even aware of the bias escaping my lips until someone else points it out. I do admit to preferential treatment for my grandchildren who are the most beautiful people in the world. I may be forgiven for this opinion. Other points of view may be more damaging than helpful.
Travel opens prejudiced eyes
Maybe I have an advantage to seeing more clearly our nation’s personal prejudice. My introduction to living as a foreigner in a foreign country came at an early age. As a result it opened my eyes to the diversity of the world. I also learned my way may not be the only way. A brush with poverty also taught me how I may enjoy a privileged position in the world.
Positions of privilege
Positions of privilege come in many forms. My husband is often annoyed by the fact a sweet smile helps me avoid minor traffic infringements. I suspect at the bottom of this phenomenon lies the prejudice: females are the weaker sex. I chuckle and take advantage of a belief I know to be false. It helps with the finances and I try to avoid further infractions until I fall back into old habits.
Prejudice is insidious
Yet, prejudice is insidious. It lurks under our best intentions. Acts of charity may have a superiority complex as its foundation, for example. Much of the work done with the poorest of the poor and the marginalized has a colonial look about it. As a white, financially secure upper middle class we assume we know better than the other and it feels good to give. It is good to give. However, we might ask the other what it is he or she needs most before we do anything.
Walking in solidarity demands respect
Walking in solidarity requires putting prejudice aside. Instead, we take a stance recognizing the other knows better than we do. As a result, we walk together toward a solution which benefits everyone. It is not about money. Often the problem lies in a lack of respect. Generally, women may understand this better than men because we encounter many forms of missing respect. Add colour or economic status to the equation and the problem deepens.
Prejudice dissolves with listening
Our present dilemma focuses on the prejudice of colour. In Canada we have turned a long-standing blind eye to the lack of respect for our native peoples who fill our prisons as a result. Lately, with an increase in a refugee population, this lack finds its home in other races as well. The choice is to continue in our biases or embrace the differences by befriending the stranger. It is only through the act of listening, real listening, that we come to understand and respect the other. And it is time to change.
As a reminder: AIMAE is still on in Vancouver. I have a wall all to myself at the FCA gallery. Do check it out.