Thursday, February 20, 2020

Overcoming inborn prejudice and bigotry requires intention

During this vacation week, I have read and watched many stories that include tremendous prejudice and bigotry. Prejudice and bigotry have caused horrible hardship throughout history--as the saying goes, people are quick to judge, and that judgement causes so much unnecessary hardship, pain, and lost potential.

I watched the films Harriett and Malcolm X. It was unbelievable to see how the inequity, oppression, and violence of hate and prejudice influenced these individuals' lives from their earliest days. I also watched Ken Burn's documentary, The West, which demonstrated the courage, adventure and the great prejudice that marked our country's westward expansion. The movie, Sweet Land, exemplified that too.

Prejudice, hate, and violence have been a mainstay of human history--prejudice has occurred within groups and amongst groups. Many, many innocents have lost their lives and faced incredible hardship due to this prejudice, hate, and violence. To hear stories of massacre, murder, oppression, and exclusion is heart breaking and painful.

As I think about this tremendous challenging and painful thread in human history, I wonder how we can move beyond the obstruction to potential, promise, and best living that prejudice, hate, and violence create. What can we do?

First, we have to recognize the prejudice that has been part of our culture and upbringing. We have to intentionally work against the long held words and actions that promote prejudice, oppression, and hate that we've heard and experienced since our earliest days. As the world evolves, people mostly notice, and work against, long held bias and bigotry. Yet, this movement is slow and too often violent.

Next, we have to speak up and out when we are faced with prejudice, hate, and violence towards ourselves and others. We can't stay silent in the face of prejudice, hate, and violence.

We also have to continually educate ourselves by learning the stories of the past and the perspectives of the diverse peoples in our world. We have to make time for this education so that we know more and can be better. Schedule reading that book that will teach you more, watch good movies about this, follow people on social media from diverse cultures, and expand your boundaries so that you experience the wonder and brilliance of cultures, religions, and lifestyles different than your own.

And, we have to listen. For some of us who have been apart of dominant cultures, we often talk more than we listen. We have to make sure we make time to listen.

We also have to share the power. Prejudice often takes people's power away, and that's why we have to actively work to share any power we have--power that's related to wealth, privilege, geography, and opportunity.

As educators, we have amazing opportunity to work for greater respect, equity, and unity in our world. Via good education, people begin to understand the ignorance that prejudice and bias is, and via education, people can learn how to live better together. Also via education, people will be better able to choose good leaders, act against oppression, and see ways to live life that elevates all rather than just a few.

There is much we can do. Just today, Theresa Lee prompted me to think about all the amazing women that lead on social media--women who have shared countless awesome ideas and support with and for me as I will to be a better mom, educator, and citizen. Women are often overlooked or under-valued on social media, and simply by making the time to think deeply about the women I follow and learn from, I took a positive step today towards less oppression, prejudice, and lost opportunity.

In the days ahead, I'll commit to doing more in this arena. I'll think deeply with colleagues about our curriculum to make sure we are working against prejudice, hate, and violence in all that we do. I'll commit to reading White Fragility in the months ahead to better educate myself about racism in our culture. I'll grow my follows on social media with regard to diversity so I can hear more stories and ideas from multiple perspectives. I'll also think about ways that I might share my "power" as I make choices, spend money, and live my life. And, I'll work at listening more.

Overcoming prejudice and bigotry requires intention--what will you do in this arena to raise awareness and lessen the hate, oppression, prejudice, and violence that has been a destructive and dangerous mainstay of human history?