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Prejudices: Good or Bad?
Think about how you usually choose your outfits in the beginning of the day. Most of us always want to look better in other people’s eyes, from our outfits, to our faces, from our thinking, to our attitudes, from our appearance, to our inner beauty. Don’t you love or feel proud when your parents or your teachers or anyone commend you for how you look or what you do? In fact, everyone I know has experienced the feeling of being too different, in a negative way, from everyone else, the feeling of not fitting in with society, or the feeling of being ignored by those we want to impress. Of course, we love the feeling of being important, of being different from other ones in positive ways. We also love the feeling of being comfortable and confident in front of people. And to reach these positive feelings, to combat our fears, we often choose to act in ways similar to other people that are within our own comfort zones.
So what are our own comfort zones?
I am Vietnamese, an Asian girl. Therefore, I prefer talking to other Vietnamese; I prefer making friends with Asians.
Mexicans usually hang out with Mexicans. Blacks usually talk with Blacks. Whites usually love to spend time with Whites. Why? Easily, it’s because we feel more comfortable when we are in groups in which everybody is the same as or similar to us. We feel safer, more confident, familiar, more like we fit in. The fear of being negatively different affects how we feel, how we think, how we choose our friends, and also how we act. For me, I feel it is fine to choose to be friends with people similar to myself, and sometimes skip or ignore the people that are different from me. It is fine to like someone, and dislike someone else. You may have a reason for what and who you like or dislike, and you may not have any reason. I prefer hanging out with Asians more. However, I still have many friends who are Mexicans, Europeans, African Americans, Native Americans, etc. I choose friends simply because I love them! I love my friends!
Sometimes when we randomly or accidently start talking to someone we don’t know anything about, they give us a comfortable feeling, a good feeling in that first conversation. We just love them, ignoring everything else that we can see in them at the moment. On the other side, we can easily have a bad feeling about someone at first sight or first conversation, and so everything we see about them is all bad. That is when we start to judge them based only on our feelings, or our early thinking about them. Some people call that prejudice.
But let me tell you what I’ve learned.
I learned that prejudices are not that bad. We may have prejudices. In fact, all of us have at least one prejudice about something or someone in our life. That is totally fine, because no one is perfect. We may have a hidden story behind our feeling. We cannot control how we feel. But, we can control how we express our feelings; we can control how we act. We are responsible for our behaviors toward other people.
Many of us think racism is so bad, and prejudices are not good at all, because it is against equality, and it makes us treat others badly. I think that is not correct. Prejudices are just thoughts. And thoughts cannot hurt anyone. Racism is just an idea. And an idea cannot put equality down. According to John Langon, the author of the great book Spreading Poison: A Book about Racism and Prejudice, what is wrong here is the way we turn our thoughts and our feelings into our behaviors and our attitudes toward other people. We could not like our teachers, but we should not be disrespectful to them. We might hate our classmate; it’s normal, but it’s not and never is ok to hit him or her. Even though someone did something that we consider is not good to us, our reaction shouldn’t become disrespectful or aggressive to them. We’re not them. We need to learn how to control our behaviors toward even the worst person. According to Houston Kraft, a professional speaker and leadership trainer who came to my school - Highline High School in Burien, “Fear makes us do dumb things. We may not control how we feel, but we totally can control how we act.”
Right now, slogans like, “My attitude is based on how you treat me,” or “It’s my life, my feelings, my right to say what I think, to act how I want,” appear everywhere on social websites like Facebook or Twitter. It is how youths nowadays think and act. This is not always right. Yes, we have the right to express our own opinions and our own feelings about issues that are important in our life. But we have to make sure that the ways we express our thoughts can be accepted, and that they don’t hurt anyone or affect anyone else negatively.
We never know how much we could hurt someone with just one of our small and simple actions. We never know how our words or our behaviors could change someone’s life. So even if we have prejudices, even if we feel bad, even if we are scared of not fitting in, we can’t let that become the reasons for our actions. We have the remote control; take it and switch to the good channels we want to see. If we don’t like people treating us disrespectfully, we can’t treat them disrespectfully. Before we want to say or do something, we should think carefully about whether we are going to hurt someone or not.
So would you rather hurt someone and maybe lose a friend, or treat everyone respectfully and maintain many great relationships?
It would be a better world. If only we all made the right choice.