Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Prejudice and Preception

I watched a "20/20" episode with Elizabeth Vargus last week that made me think about how we look at people. Three cases were shown-racial, sexual and body type. We all look at this in our own individual way. In each case the person or person were considered victims of prejudice. How do we come to these conclusions? Are we taught to see people a certain way?

I grew up in the Deep South in the 50's and 60's. I remember the tv news stories about the fight for integration. I remember the water hoses, the dogs and the speeches of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as Gov. George Wallace of Alabama. Until I graduated from high school, I never went to school with anyone who was not white. My children, on the other hand, always went to an integrated school.Do they see things differently than I do because of that? Maybe. We still see news coverage of crime and find ourselves looking at the criminal's race. Sometimes we say to ourselves, once again these people do the crime. We wouldn't do that, why do they? Is this prejudice or perception?

Sexual orientation has become a hot topic over the years. Some people are very much opposed to gay/lesbian relationships. Some are opposed for religious reasons, some don't understand the attraction. Some people are actually afraid of these people or say they hate them. Why? Because they choose relationships that heterosexual people think are wrong? Once again, while growing up I was never confronted with this issue. Things were always said in hushed tones but never about anyone in public.

Why do people make such a big think over the weight or looks of a person. Often we see the super-thin models and rarely give a second thought about it. After all these are the "beautiful" people. We want to look like and dress like them. What about the woman who is considered "fat". What about the man who chooses to have a relationship with a fat woman. Why do people criticize that?

How and why do we get to the point that we feel prejudice against these people? Are we taught to see people this way? Who teaches us? Is this something we witness or learn as children? Does the media or tv and film play a part in how we respond to others? We frequently say that we are not prejudiced but we don't realize that we may look at a person differently than we do ourselves.

Prejudice comes from perception. Show ten people a picture of a beautiful woman and all will like it. Show the same picture plus the picture of a plain woman, the beautiful woman will still get the vote. It never seems to matter what the inside of the person is, our perception is what matters. We all have our perceptions of what we like or think is right. How often do we dig deeper and really get to know a person? Does it really matter that the doctor you saw in the ER was of a different race. Does it really matter that your best friend's wife is fat? So your neighbor is gay? Does that stop him from being a good neighbor?