If you have been anywhere but living under a rock over the last few months, you can’t help but notice how prejudice and racism has been coming up in the consciousness of the entire planet more and more, and how things have become more volatile. But, believe it or not, this isn’t all bad. As I’m looking at all the stories coming in and watching what is happening in the world, I’m seeing how people are willing to have these conversations, and for the first time acknowledge that we may have a problem. There is a purpose to all this, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
So, while today’s video deals with a seemingly heavy topic, prejudice and racism, my aim is actually to offer a perspective that will give you hope and open you up to solutions. Watch the video below to find out more.
Today’s topic is a big one! We are going to be talking about prejudice and racism. If you’ve been anywhere but living under a rock over the last few months, you can’t help but notice how prejudice and racism has been coming up in the consciousness of the entire planet more and more, and how things have become more volatile. As I’m looking at all the stories coming in and watching what is happening in the world, I’m seeing how people are willing to have these conversations, and for the first time acknowledge that we may have a problem.
Racism and prejudice of all kinds still exist, which is a very uncomfortable topic, and yet you still see it shut down in various ways. One of those ways is when people get very offended about this topic because they think that just by having the discussion, you are calling them prejudiced. They want to say, “No, no, no, I’m not a hateful person, I don’t hate anyone”. They want to shut the conversation down so we can’t even really talk about it. I want to talk about that today, about how we can open up more so that we can have these all important discussions about what exactly is happening in the world and how people are actually feeling, and from that point of view find actual solutions to what is going on. I’m not saying that I have all the solutions; I’m just here to help us open up so that we can find them.
I’m going to make a very controversial statement that may be very uncomfortable for people to hear, so I’m going to ask you to just bear with me for a few sentences after you’ve read it, to see if I can offer you a perspective that will ultimately feel better and open you up to a very different way of thinking. So here it is:
“We are all prejudiced” Every single one of us is prejudiced. I’m prejudiced, you’re prejudiced; we cannot help but be prejudiced.
How prejudices are formed and what prejudice actually is
Prejudice is simply a belief system that is based on very one-sided information, which causes us to have assumptions about people that keep us or prevents us from connecting with those people as a one-on-one human being. Any assumptions that we have about a group of people where we are judging them in any way based on any characteristic other than our one-on-one interaction with that specific person is a prejudice. Not all of those prejudices are going to become active in our lifetimes; not all of them are going to become problematic. Some we will never become aware of – they won’t come into play; but many of them, we are aware of. Not all of those prejudices are going to necessarily be about race or religion. They can be about people who live in a certain part of town, or have a certain social economic status, or wear certain clothing (hipsters for example), or it can be about politicians (all politicians), a certain breed of dog (all Pit Bulls), all Catholics, all Christians, all white people, all black people, all Chinese, all Germans, all cops, all whatever!
When you start to make a generalization about any group of people, again when you’re not just looking at the individual, that’s a prejudice. These prejudices form very naturally because our minds like to group things together, and when we don’t have enough data to actually look at each person individually, our mind is going to group them together based on what it can see and what we have learned. It will do this unconsciously, so the only way out of that is to become conscious of that process, but not in a way that blames us for doing it. Dissolving into self-blame or thinking you are a terrible person because you’ve harped some kind of prejudice, believe it or not, that doesn’t really help! Becoming aware of it has to be done from a place of non-judgement as well.
Prejudices form if you are, for example, born into a white family, in a white part of the country, where you don’t know any black people or any Hispanic people, and nobody who you know has ever known any; you’ve never had any personal experience because it’s not part of your personal reality at all, and any information that you get about these groups of people, you are going to assume the information is true. But it’s always going to be incomplete because how can you know everything there is to know about this entire vast group of people? If you recognise that, then there is prejudice already built into that. Prejudice isn’t necessarily hatred. Hatred only shows up if you’ve been taught to “fear”, if you have been told many bad things about this group of people and you now fear them. In an attempt to empower yourself (as fear feels very powerless), it’s going to swap over into hatred. Prejudice is not necessarily the same as fear, although all fear comes from prejudice, and hatred always comes from fear. Prejudices don’t necessarily have to lead to such extremes, but they are always going to be limiting because you are making an assumption that’s not going to allow you connect with a person, because the assumption you are making about that person is based on whatever you’ve heard about them, what you think you know about them, what they remind you of, what you’ve read about this group of people, and so on. It is never going to be about this specific, particular unique individual.
How do we release our prejudices?
The first thing that we have to do is to become aware that we actually have them and again not dissolve into self-blame, but by understanding the mechanisms of how prejudices are formed, so that we can surpass them. As prejudices are formed by incomplete information (usually very one-sided information), the way to do it is to inundate yourself with contradictory information that allows you to create a more balanced perspective. I’ll give you an example from my own life to really illustrate this:
In the last few months I’ve been reading all the stories of police officers in the United States shooting unarmed, predominantly black men and women, and as the body count has started to pile up (I was reading more and more stories although I was doing my best not to inundate myself with them, but I was drawn to reading them, plus it was almost impossible not to get this information), I started to develop a prejudice against police officers in the United States. I wasn’t just getting angry at those individual police officers and their departments who weren’t prosecuting them or their prosecutor and their judges; it was against the entire police force in the United States. I found myself becoming very afraid for all black people (not so much for myself, because I have the unbelievable luxury of being born white, so I don’t have to be afraid of walking down the street, and I’m not in the United States anyway…), but I did find myself becoming very afraid for the entire black community. I was putting my focus on the idea that all police officers needed to be feared and that all of them are potentially dangerous. Of course that’s not logically true and yet the fear was developing. That was a very uncomfortable fear for me, so I wanted to go out and deliberately find information that would contradict that. Not information that would contradict that this was happening, not information that would contradict that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed, but simply to contradict the prejudice I felt against all police officers because believe it or not, in order to solve this, we are going need the police officers too – the good ones.
I wanted to give my energy to them, but I had to be willing to see them in order to give my energy to them. I went on You Tube and I found a series of videos showing police officers in the United States doing acts of kindness and I watched them back to back, which took about half an hour, and I felt my heart opening; then I was able to create balance within my point of view. Again, not a point of view that negated what was happening, just one that allowed me to not hold prejudices against any one group of people.
We can do this whenever we find prejudice against anyone. For example, if you are afraid of refugees coming into Europe, if you are living in Europe or even the United States, start researching and look for information about what it’s really about and look at the other person’s point of view. Start looking at some individuals and what their stories are, or even connect with them and talk to them. When was the last time you talked to somebody from Syria and got the real story? If you are afraid of Chinese immigrants coming in if you are in Australia for example, go and talk to some Chinese immigrants and find out what their stories are. Give yourself a chance to get that information so that you can lift the prejudice, because your prejudice is just an assumption based on incomplete information. You want to get a bigger part of the story. If you have never met a black person and you are afraid of black people, go out there and meet some black people.
You can do this on the internet; we have the ability to get information from any part of the world about any group of people, even on an individual basis from people who we could never normally physical meet, get information from them, and meet them on a one on one basis. You can actually deliberately shift any prejudices that you find within yourself. It will feel better, and by doing that you open yourself up to real solutions. Eradicating an entire group of people or incarcerating an entire group of people or just deciding they are all bad, that’s never the solution; that has never worked; not in the history of the entire human race has that ever, ever worked! The only thing that truly works is the win-win, which means it’s never going to be you or me, or us or them. The solutions always lie in the you and me, the us and them; it’s all of us TOGETHER. Ultimately when it comes right down to it, we all want the same thing: we all want to be free; we all want to be happy; we all want to be validated; we all want to be free to be exactly who we are. We all want to feel safe; we all want to feel joy; we all want to connect. We all want to feel safe. That is inherent to every being on this planet, and we are all in this together.
If we want to change the world, we always have to start with ourselves and look at how we are blocking anyone out. A good way to do that is to look at our prejudices and our assumptions about an entire group of people. Prejudices will always limit us, they will always block people out, and when people can’t come in, we cannot connect with them, which is all we really want to do, if we are not afraid.
I’d like to ask you to share this post with as many people as you can, because I think this is a really big topic that needs to be out there. I know it’s an uncomfortable one, but I think a lot of people are ready to hear this. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been inspired to make it.
If you want to join the discussion, please leave a comment below, and since this one of those volatile topic, probably one of the most volatile ones I’ve talked about, I’d like to ask you to keep the discussion respectful. Add to the discussion, open the discussion up, open yourself up and speak about how you feel. Don’t add to the prejudice and the fear, because if you get a bunch of people together, all focusing on the solution, all focusing on connection, all willing to work on themselves, it won’t take us long at all to change the world. In fact, we don’t have to really change the world, we just have to step into the new one.