Sunday, September 10, 2017

Racism and Prejudices

I was asked recently why Jews are hated. I found that to be a thought provoking question. It led me to doing a lot of reading. Even after that I saw no clear reason. In biblical times it had a lot to do with their religious believes. Hitler hated Jews because of his time spent living in anti-Semitic, Vienna. Hitler later came to associate Jews with communism. This is likely due to the part Jews played in the Russian Bolshevik revolution.

In Poland, "Judeo-Bolshevism" was known as "Żydokomuna" and was used as an antisemitic stereotype. There has been a long connection between Judaism and communism. Some say this is a fallacy attributed to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion that told of a plan by Jews to dominate the world through communism.

At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if any of this is true or not—it's only the belief that matters. If enough people believe something, the truth no longer matters. It's no different from democrats pushing the propaganda that President Trump is a racist and xenophobe. If something is repeated enough it becomes the truth to some. Most people will not change their mind no matter the evidence submitted, their agenda is all that matters.

There is a push in the USA to label anyone voting republican a racist, or an Uncle Tom if you're black. Racism and prejudice has a long history in the world. Anyone or any grouped deemed different will likely face some prejudice, no matter if you're the one with the odd haircut in your school, or the one who cannot afford the right clothing. In either case you might find it hard to get a job.

I grew up in the 50's and 60's where racism was at its peak. I can assure you the country is far better if we never repeat that episode of history. But it seems some wish to take us back to those divided times. Today, we find people, black and white, seeking out segregation. I also believe racism isn't always about the color of someone's skin. There are many factors tied to racism. As I've said, sometimes it's simply because of the differences in how we act in our daily lives.

Let's ask ourselves, why do people hate others? As I said, being different is enough. Growing up in the south I saw a lot of prejudice towards blacks and Jews. Even after living my entire life in the south, I was clueless as to why Jews were disliked. I think it was tied to another prejudice, and that's the southern distrust for Yankees/northerners. Almost all Jews in the south were from the north and talked with a different accent.

I suppose this distrust for Yankees goes all the way back to the Civil War when our ancestors were attacked and killed—It goes back to the days of Sherman's march to the sea where he burned and looted a path through the south. Then came the carpetbaggers who wanted to transform the south into the north. Yes, prejudices are often deep rooted and not always for the reasons we believed.

Blacks have always had a tough time of it in the south, but times have changed for the good. Still, blacks face a battle because some choose to be different. Let me tell a story of my past to explain how the way a person speaks can invoke prejudices.

I have never been the best speaker. I was slow to talk clearly as a child. I developed a deep southern/country accent. That accent made people from the north think I was stupid. Once at the beach I met two guys from Massachusetts. This was in the 90's when few people used computers. At some point one of the guys and myself began talking about computers. The other guy stood stone-faced as we talked. When we changed topics the other guy said, “I have to apologize. Because of your accent I figured you were just a country bumpkin.”

I took that day as a learning experience and instead of getting mad, I thought about how I could use that information. I learned that if I wanted that promotion or wanted to be taken seriously in a phone conversation, I would have to talk better. I still talk with that deep southern drawl, but I did learn to articulate well when necessary.

No matter your race or color, how you speak and look is important in the business world. Even a traffic ticket is a business dealing and should be treated as such. How you talk and present yourself can give you great advantages. People have natural prejudices. This doesn't mean you can't be yourself or be the oddball in school or at work, it just means you might have to occasionally pay a price for that oddity.

Some think they are the only ones to face prejudices because of their race or ethnicity, but the fact is, most people do in some form or another. Studies show that good looking people often get the promotion or job. While sometimes good looking people are seen as less intelligent than the person who looks geeky or nerdy. Prejudices tend to shift around as time goes forward.

Immigration is a hot topic today and likely will be in the future. Those who are for slow and controlled immigration are called xenophobes. Yes, a diverse America is important, but those entering must assimilate on some level. They must speak fluent English and be able to handle themselves in any work environment. If you come to this country and wall yourself off in communities that speak only your native language, you're opening yourself to racism and prejudices.

As a southerner I've never understood embracing the culture and languages of another country. When asked where I'm from, I'll always say South Carolina. I never think about from where my ancestors came. I see Italian-Americans bragging about their Italian heritage. I can understand being proud, to a point. I understand and know the plight of my Scot-Irish ancestors. I understand my Dutch heritage. I appreciate that, but I am American and only American. I think there are many more mutts, like myself, out there who are also confused about an allegiance to a foreign language or culture. Those mutts, because of their confusion, will likely acquire some prejudices.

If you enter or stay in the country illegally while having the flag of another nation, you are creating racism and prejudices against people of your heritage. One hundred years ago people came to the USA wanting to be Americans because this was the place that offered liberty and opportunity. They didn't come to the country to change it to be more like the place they left. Even if you aren't wanting to change the country to be like that of your former home, the perception is all that's needed needed to create prejudices.

Even how you live can be the cause of racism and prejudices. When the alcohol plant was built in Gibson City, Illinois, a lady rented her three bedroom house to a Mexican construction worker. Within two weeks there were 27 people living in that tiny house—they practically destroyed the house, costing over $5,000 to have it restored.

A decades ago or more in a rural South Carolina town there was an influx of Mexican workers. They rented about 30 mobile homes in a trailer park. They turned on power and water for only four. They shared the facilities in those four mobile homes. Local residents were outraged because those immigrants were allowed to ignore zoning and other laws that citizens had to obey. They did this to save money so the bulk of their earnings could be sent back to Mexico. These types of things made people see immigrant workers in a different light, and not a good light. To avoid prejudices, people must abide by the same laws and regulations that everyone else must follow.

It's natural to be prejudiced. The more we can assimilate into a single organism, the quicker we can end many of the prejudices. My first step is/was to speak better and to learn proper American English. What can you do besides complain and moan to alleviate some prejudices?

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