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Showing posts with the label prejudice

How Doth She Bigotry? Let Me Count the Ways

    I left a conversation yesterday wondering how many ways one person can offend another in three minutes. I was outside sweeping my sidewalk when a woman I know slightly grabbed me by the arm. (Offense #1: Assuming she had to hold onto me to get me to listen.) “I met that new woman,” she said. “She came over and offered me a bottle of wine.” (Offense #2: Referring to our neighbor as “that new woman.” She has a name. And she brought you wine.) I said I’d met her too, and she seemed nice. “You have to watch them, you know.” (Offense #3: Lumping people into a shapeless “them” category.) I’m slow with bigots sometimes, because I can never believe they’re for real, but I was starting to get it. “Who is them ?” I asked. “Them! You know, the Asians or the Mexicans or whatever she is.” (Offense #4: I’m not explaining this one. If you don’t get it, you’re part of the problem.) At that point, the best I could do was, “What?” “Bob says they’re always looking for something. (Of

The Ubiquitous--and Erroneous--"They"

A friend told me the other day she'd started a new British mystery and found it had tons of swearwords and name-calling. Her question to me was "Do you think they really talk that way over there?" Talk of "they" bothers me. Yes, "they" had different beliefs than ours in 15th century Europe, but I don't for a moment think everyone believed they'd go to hell if they had sex on Sunday. If those people believed everything the Church said they shouldn't do, there wouldn't have been any sinfulness, but murder, theft, fornication, and other sins went on, as they do now. It simply paid to keep quiet about what you did, what with the Inquisition and all. I once hosted a teacher from Moscow who was disappointed by our small town. In Russia, she'd been told that in America "they" go shopping every day and night-clubbing every weekend. Spending a year in a county with no mall and not even a stoplight wasn't what she'd pictured

What You See Is What You Expect

We "get" what we're told, shown, and subjected to over our lives, but in the best of times, changes come along that make us think. Thinking is good. When I was a kid in the '50s, it was perfectly okay for my school to put on a Minstrel Show, where kids in blackface acted (usually overacted) their perceptions of black people. Few in our rural area had met anyone unlike ourselves, and I recall watching as older kids had a great time shucking, jiving, and acting stupid--the way they perceived black folks. My mom was once given a box of books, and being an inveterate reader, I worked my way through them. One was a joke book, and I enjoyed the anecdotes about Goldfarb, Wisenstein, and other city dwellers with odd names. They were all self-absorbed, bossy, and overly concerned with money. It wasn't until years later I realized the characters in those "jokes" were all Jews, and the laughs were meant to come from the assumption that all Jews were conniving c

The Cruelest Word of All

Yes, those are sharks! I won't keep you in suspense. It's they-- the little pronoun separates you from others. They means "those not like us." They marry their children off at nine. They don't value human life. They believe they'll go immediately to heaven if they take non-believers with them when they die. Let's turn that around. We go to clubs every night, where we take drugs, drink prodigious amounts of alcohol, and hook up with strangers. We think all women should strive to look like Gigi Hadid, no matter what their body type. We believe the more guns we have in our homes, the safer we are. We anticipate a heaven where we'll walk around on streets of gold, singing hymns and playing the harp. That's not what you believe? But that's the impression those in other cultures have of you, based on songs, cartoons, sermons, media, and speeches. If it isn't you, maybe you aren't a typical American. Or maybe there's no s

Why Do I Read These Books?

I finished Kristen Hannah's The Nightingale on Saturday. It was amazing. I wish I'd never opened to page one. I do this all the time. Someone tells me a book is good, so I get it and read it and hate myself halfway through. You see, it makes me emotionally sick to read how awful people in groups can be to those they decide to hate. I had my fill of reading about it long ago, with The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and Mila 18 and all those beautifully horrible books that show what happens when a group is targeted for something like their religion. I don't need to be reminded, I tell myself. I learned all that long ago, and I hate getting involved with characters who aren't going to find a happy ending. You can call me overly sensitive (my husband does), but for me it isn't just a story if things like that really happened--still happen. It's a reminder that people can get together and decide one part of society is somehow not deserving of being treated