Wednesday, February 22, 2006

subtle prejudice

If you haven't seen the movie "Crash" then tonight go to Blockbuster and rent it. Its worth it. It is a challenging tale of multiple lives in LA dealing with the reality of racism. So what of racism these days? Is it still around? Do we still feel it?

I thought a little bit about this as I flew down to Houston on a plane filled primarily with black people. I am going to use the term black instead of African-America because it is more correct. Some of those on the plane were sure to have decendents from Jamaica and other parts of the globe other than Africa. Also, most of the black people on the plane probably see themselves more as American than "African-American."

So there I am, a white person, with a few other white, Asian and Middle Eastern folks on the plane. I wonder if racism isn't more prevelant towards folks of Arab decent when we are all on planes together. We white folks have been taught our whole lives not to be racist. Or at least, don't show racism even if you feel it. I don't think blacks have been taught the same thing. It was pretty funny watching some of them stare with suspision at the Arab people that came on the plane. I wonder if that is how blacks were treated back in the 50's. I wonder if the blacks who were eyeing up the Arab dude even knew what they were doing.

But I am sure racism is alive and well in all forms. Prejudice has no barriers. Blacks are prejudiced towards whites and assume that all whites are racist and prudish. Whites are racist toward blacks and wish that "they" wouldn't move into the neighborhood. Media, after all, tells us that most criminals today are black males. And how about the Asians and the Arabs. Asians are all smart and good at math. They all will be doctors one day. And Arabs, of course, are all somehow connected to terrorists. But we don't believe that do we? That is too obvious. Prejudice doesn't like the light. It prefers the dark. And prejudice this obvious gets too much exposure. No, I think our real prejudices are barried deep. They are in the caverns of our minds just waiting to come out.

I will just speak for myself. My prejudices don't care about color. I am not sure racism is really the problem these days. But classism seems to grow stronger every day. If we are honest with ourselves, we would rather sit next to someone on a plane who is of the same socio-economic status and education level than someone who is not. Black, asian, white, arab, really doesn't matter, as long as they seem to be educated, articulate, dressed in middle-upper class clothes, and seem to have a nice job. If I can talk to you about what college you went to and can chat about your degree, we will probably be ok with each other. If we can share stories about our homes and our cars then I don't have a problem with you. As middle class America, we share values and concerns about our families and possessions. I promise not to prejudge you.

But if instead of nice casual clothes you wear hip-hop gear and gold everywhere, prejudice will rear its ugly head. If you speak with an accent that reveals your immigration or if your grammer is so poor that its clear that you aren't educated, our conversation will be stifled. If you smell as though you don't wear deodorant or appear to be "kin" to the slack-jawed yokel from the Simpsons, we probably won't get along.

As a follower of Christ, I will fight all of these tendencies. But the reality is that they are there. Your skin color doesn't bother me. I rather like diversity in that form. Its the fact that you aren't like me that bothers me so much. I wish that simple solutions like "realizing that they are like you" would work. But the truth is that we all aren't like each other. In fact, people can be very different in a variety of ways. Pretending that "we are all really the same" is just a falsehood that tries to put a bandaid on the gaping wound of prejudice.

No, the healing must go deeper. We must learn to love those who are not like us, all the while realizing that they will never be "like us." Where we all find common ground is in our humanity. And maybe that is enough to start from. Maybe we can learn to love the humanity in another because God loves them. Maybe we can see that person through the eyes of God rather than just through our fallen lenses. I hope so. Until then, we will all wrestle with the half-truths that feed our minds and give birth to the subtle prejudices within.


At 4:00 PM, Blogger Rick said...

Hi Mark.

I saw CRASH this past summer with my wife. I literally sat on the edge of my seat. (I now know where the phrase comes from)

It is the most powerful movie I've ever seen.

I cannoy understand why the Church has not jumped all over this movie.

Unlike the Pasiion of Christ, Crash may have been the best tool for evangelism in 2,000 years for it certainly addresses the core of what Jesus addressed.

Powerful stuff.

At 3:43 PM, Blogger Christy Merry said...

Really great post.
So true.

I haven't seen Crash yet.
But I will.

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