I cannot claim I am or ever have been completely free of prejudice, but perhaps I am lucky in the family I lived in and in how I have lived my life.
I just read The Price of Hate: $85 + ? (which if you have not read I strongly recommend that you do) and it got me thinking.
When I was growing up in Larchmont New York it was a period of time where gifted women like my mother rarely worked - when she went back to work as a lawyer when I was around 8 or 9, and then became an Assistant Attorney General for NY State when I was 13, it marked her as very different from the mothers of my friends. I remember when Michael Mermey's mother Faye became President of Larchmont Temple - not the Sisterhood, but the whole congregration - she was apparently the first such synagogue president in the US.
Perhaps it was our Jewish background that made us more sensitive towards prejudice and discrimination.
As I look at my life, I realize how different are my expectations now than they would have been when I was a child.
I have bought computers at the Apple store from female salespeople whose sexual orientation did not matter in the least. We have bought other things there from Blacks an Hispanics and South Asians.
The plumber who fixed the shower we needed to work for Leaves to have one accessible to the room she needs to stay in on the first floor is female.
TWo of the three dentists in the office where we get our primary care are female, one of whom has been my personal dentist for five years.
In the past two of my primary care physicians were female. My physician of record is the woman who is my wife's primary care physician, although the person who sees me regularly is Nancy, a nurse practitioner who is superb.
My wife's oncologist, born in Uruguay, is known as the laughing oncologist, is highly recommended and is a charming woman.
My wife's roommate from college was the medical director of Glaxo Smith Kline.
A majority of those attending law school are female.
Perhaps because my wife was in the dance world for a number of years she is perfectly comfortable around gays. In my case I lived both in the West Village and in Brooklyn Heights in the midst of active gay communities and formed close friendship with some neighbors then. Neither of us stops to think about a person's sexual orientation when we interact with them.
We have relatives who have married Blacks and Hispanics.
Perhaps it is personal experience that can help one overcome any lingering prejudice with which one might begin. It is hard to remain bigoted towards a group of people when one who would be so classified is someone you love and/or respect.
Both as a teacher and in my work career before I became a teacher i had immediate superiors who were female.
i love and live with an extraordinary woman.
I don't think either of us is anything spectacular. We have our flash points - it is hard for us not to react negatively to those who distort either the Constitution or the Bible and the history of Christianity. But then we are reacting to specific actions, words, deeds, not rejecting the person because of how we might classify them even independent of thos actions, words, deeds.
For thirteen years I taught in a very diverse high school
We had students who were prejudiced, who if given a chance would speak and act in discriminatory ways.
We also had an active groups called LeTSGaB - Lesbians, Transgendered, Straight, Gay and Bi-. We had students of mix racial background. I taught students with two mothers. Interracial dating raised relatively few eyebrows.
If adults do not impose their own values upon them, young people - even as they can be very intolerant (try middle school girls, for example) - tend to accept people as they find them, and not have a need to "fix" those different than them.
I think of a song from South Pacific, a musical that is in many ways about race - Nellie at first is going to reject Emile when she discovers he has had children by a Polynesian woman, although she does overcome that.
But what sticks in my mind is sung by the character of Lt. Joe Cable, from an important family in Philadelphia, who falls in love with a Polynesian girl, the daughter of Bloody Mary. I am going to play a clip of Mandy Patinkin singing the relevant lyrics, which in the show are preceded by a lyric that says racism "is not born in you! It happens after you’re born..."
The show appeared in 1949, based on the writing of James Michener (who himself married a woman of Asian background). At the time, it was incredibly controversial, accused of advocating mixed marriage and thus undermining the American Way and promoting Communism.
That seemed until recently almost quaint, until we saw the hatred and prejudice deliberately fomented against our current President.
Listen again to those words of Oscar Hammerstein II.
Absent that kind of teaching, absent its constant reinforcement, are we not far more likely to find things in common with those from whom some would seek to divide us?
To accept Prejudice is to limit humanity - one's own and that of anyone against whom prejudice is directed.
Which is why when we see it, even in small ways, do we not have an obligation to speak out against it, to name it for what it is, so that others are not so "carefully taught" towards hatred?