Coping with prejudice! But how?

It was a long time ago. A close Turkish friend of mine and I had decided to review our prejudices. Both of us were going to share our memories on the subject. The subject was an extremely painful one for both of us and we were searching for a solution.

He started talking first. He was at a meeting in America. He was a valuable scientist. As he was talking to an elderly American friend who also was a valuable scientist, the conversation turned to Arabs. He suddenly found himself saying things like “I don’t like the Arabs!” “They eat with their hands!” “They are ignorant!” “For years they have been under the yoke of their Sheikhs but don’t do anything about it” etc. etc., when the elderly American scientist broke his long silence and in a totally calm and distant manner said: “prejudice!”… My friend felt like he is falling down a cliff. Confronted with this simple, cold and distant word he had no foothold left. The only thing he could do was to accept it. “Yes” he said, “I am prejudiced…” He attempted to continue with the word “But” when the American man said “Once upon a time the whole of humanity went through dark times” and with this the subject was closed. My scientist friend is still unable to forget the impact this event had on him.

Again in another story he told me that in the institution where he worked once there were tutors who could not speak English, who were what we call ‘children of Anatolia’, about who he used to think thoughts like: “the moment they cross the country borders they could not even work as shoe-cleaners!” He told me that during a psychoanalysis session he shared his thought with his analyst, and that his analyst immediately responded. His analyst said: “What do you know about them? Do you know with what great difficulties they came to this point? And on top of that you allow yourself feel superior by putting them down. I see that you still don’t understand that if the oceans were made of ink and the trees were pencils, you could not finish writing science down…”

And the experience analyst added: “Don’t forget the world is large enough for everyone”…

In short, as we know, humans have good and bright states or bad and dark states. What is important is that one is aware of the state one is in. Have there not been times when even someone who greeted you was met with prejudice and you suspected an ulterior motive? When a wise person noticed your prejudice and said: “Did you split his heart open and look inside that you are able to say he means ill?” did you then not feel get flustered?

So what should be done in order to be tolerant and destroy prejudices one by one? Maybe we should listen to close friends, and like my friend and I go over these damned prejudices one by one and, in one word: get rid of the “shame”…

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