Tuesday, November 13 , 2018, 1:34 pm | Fair 72º


Harris Sherline: Everyone is Prejudiced

Despite laws and social pressures, the ugly head of prejudice pops up throughout the world.

America claims to have the goal of eliminating all forms of prejudice: color, race, creed, gender, sexual preference, financial status, age, religion and ethnicity, to name the most prominent. We have been passing laws for years in an effort to reach the goal of an ideal society, that is, a culture that is not just color blind but has absolutely no prejudices against any individual or any group, at least in theory.

Harris R. Sherline

We are supposed to celebrate our differences, and heaven forbid that we should dislike or disapprove of others because of them. 

Everywhere we look throughout the world, we find prejudice and often extreme hatred based on perceived differences between people, individually and collectively: Arabs vs. Jews, Shia Muslims vs. Sunni Muslims (because of different interpretations of their own religion), Muslims vs. Christians, African tribes vs. one another (as exemplified by the Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanada), Asians vs. Philippinos, Europeans vs. Americans, straight vs. gay, whites vs. blacks, whites and/or blacks vs. Mexicans, slim people vs. fat, intelligent people vs. those with below average intelligence, well-educated people vs. those without an education. The list is endless. 

Prejudice also exists within specific ethnic groups and may be based on a wide range of differences that cover the complete spectrum of characteristics: physical, intellectual, regional customs, etc.

Racism always seems to be in the eye of the beholder, never in the mind of the accused. When people are accused of being racist, they usually hotly deny it. After all, who really thinks they are racist? But what about the accusers? They are often racist themselves and use the charge against others to intimidate, usually for political purposes or to gain some advantage. Two prime examples who come to mind are Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, but there are countless others — in every society.

Entire cultures are often racist: Muslims vs. Hindus in India, Muslims vs. Jews in the Middle East, Sunni vs. Shia Muslims in Iraq and Iran, Hutu vs. Tutsi tribes in Zimbabwe, whites vs. blacks in South Africa, etc. Prejudice and bigotry exist everywhere, without limit.

Laws are passed and social pressures are brought to bear — in an effort to change attitudes, or at least control them. But, the ugly head of prejudice continues to pop up everywhere throughout the world. No matter how we try, it’s always there, lurking just beneath the surface, waiting to take root and sprout.

Prejudice and bigotry are not innate characteristics from birth, but are taught, either directly or by the example of parents, teachers, religious leaders or others. People are not born bigots. They are taught to hate.

This is clearly seen in the Wahhabi religious schools around the world, where Muslim children are taught to hate infidels who do not embrace the Islamic faith. An egregious example of this is seen in Palestine, where children as young as 3 or 4 are taught that Jews are pigs and monkeys and to embrace the idea that becoming a suicide bomber is an honorable and lofty goal.

People tend to associate with others with whom they feel comfortable. This is especially true among various ethnic, religious and racial groups. They have common interests, values, beliefs, customs and attitudes, which makes it easy for them to get along.

For example, I don’t imagine there is much socializing between Muslims and Hindus in India, Sunni or Shia Muslims in the Middle East, or Jews and Arabs in Israel, which has about a million Arab residents. And, I doubt that there is much if any socializing between Muslims and Christians in Europe or America.

Even the overarching protocol of political correctness in the United States hasn’t been able to blur the distinctions between the various groups that so often aggravate prejudices that may already exist, such as whites vs. blacks vs. Mexicans, Muslims vs. Jews, Mormons vs. other Christians.

We have only to look at the recent campaign for the Republican presidential nominee for clear evidence of prejudice against the Mormon religious beliefs of Mitt Romney or the conservative Christianity of Mike Huckabee, who also happens to be a Southern Baptist minister.

It’s no accident that ethnic groups tend to do business and socialize with others with whom they have shared backgrounds and common interests. Some types of prejudice are not necessarily bad, but may just mean having preferences for certain alternatives, many of which make life and the world more interesting.

Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “Judge not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” It’s a noble goal, but also may be one that is beyond the ability of many people to ever reach.

Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who has lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his own blog, Opinionfest.com.

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