Three Steps in Confronting Prejudice

                November 6th, 2012 will always be one unforgettable moment for America. It was the day when Barrack Obama re-elected as the US President. In his first speech after being re-elected, Obama said that, “We are an American family, and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.” That is a very beautiful speech which reminded all Americans about unity and togetherness; a reminder that no matter how many differences the American people have, race, ethnicity, religion, or socioeconomic status, all American people are still one family and need “to rise or fall together.” That speech, of course, sounds very beautiful and ideal, but there are many obstacles that need to be addressed and conquered in order to make that idea become a reality; one of the obstacles is a thing called prejudice. Many times people eventually experienced a situation where they have prejudice and stereotype others. Thus, if prejudice and stereotypes continue exist, unity and togetherness will only become a dream that might not come true. If America really wants to be one family that “rise or fall together...as one people”, prejudice needs to be confronted. Even though confronting prejudice, whether it is racism, sexism, ageism, or other socio-economic discrimination, is not easy, it is also not impossible. People can do many things to minimize prejudice and confront it. More than one step is needed to minimize prejudice that people have, and it might take some time, but it is possible.
           In order to confront prejudice, people can do three acts.  Those three acts starts by realizing that people tend to stereotype others and have prejudice. My English professor, in one of her lecture, mentioned that prejudice is a subconscious thing which people do normally because the human brain naturally categorizes things. Because there is a huge amount of information, and the brain capacity is limited, the brain will automatically categorize information in a short amount of time. Therefore, when people meet someone for the first time, they will unconsciously put the new people they met in certain categories; this is the time when people have prejudice. By realizing that people tend to stereotype others, by appearance or ethnicity for example, people can do something to overcome stereotyping. If people don’t even know that they were stereotyping others, they will not do anything to confront prejudice. One example of how people need to be aware that they stereotype others before they can do something to minimize prejudice is in an essay titled “Of My Friend Hector and My Achilles Heel” by Michael T. Kaufman. He started the essay by writing, “This story is about prejudice and stupidity. My own” (Kaufman 140). Kaufman need to have an epiphany when he finally was aware that he was stereotyping his childhood friend as a longshoreman just because he is Puerto Rican and always saw him “wearing a knitted watch cap” (Kaufman 142). When Kaufman finally read a newspaper article about his friend having a role in a famous play on Broadway, he realized that he had prejudice and stereotyped his friend. Having awareness that people will automatically stereotype others will let people go to the next step in confronting prejudice.
           After people realize that they might stereotype others, they can go to the next step in confronting prejudice which is being open to learn more about others. People should not decide whether they like or dislike someone before they know other people better. In addition, people say that first impression is very important. Even though that is true somehow, people cannot rely on their first impression only. People need to understand that it is important to know someone better before they can judge them and put them into their own category. Melba Pattillo Beals understands the importance of being given the chance to be knew better before being judged. In her book titled, Warriors Don’t Cry, she wrote about how she wanted the white people to give her a chance and for them to try to get to know her first before they decided that she and her other black friends were not supposed to be on Central high School. Her friend, Minnijean, even insisted on wanting to perform at one school event just because she wanted the other white students to acknowledge her talent, so they might finally accept her. By giving others a chance and trying to know them better, people might finally realize that, their first impression or their prejudice is not true.
           After having the willingness to get to know someone better, of course people need to take the next step, which is to act. Having willingness only without transforming it into action will be useless. Many things can be done in order to get to know others; people can talk to others and share about their culture, or they can read articles about different culture and diversity. Reading more about ethnicity and culture will broaden people minds and lead them into an understanding of others. For example, after reading “Don’t Misread My Signals”, people will then understand the culture that makes Puerto Rican women choose their colorful clothes, and people will not misread their appearance. As Judith Ortiz Cofer says, “Our mothers had grown up on a tropical island where the natural environment was a riot of primary colors,” therefore the colorful dress that Puerto Rican women wear are not meant to be used as a sexual signal (Cofer 309). Moreover, K. Connie Kang, another writer, also can give a little insight about the way Korean people interact each other, where Korean people will only smile to their relatives (Kang 452). If people do not know that simple thing about Korean culture, they might end up assuming Korean people are an unfriendly people and don’t want to start any conversation with them. If only people know about that Korean culture, they might have started a conversation with Korean people and understand more about them. Then, any prejudice that people might have about Korean people will eventually be eliminated.
           Awareness, willingness, and action are the three steps people need to take to confront prejudice. People need to be aware that they will automatically categorize others and might stereotype them. Then, people need to have a willingness to get to know other people better. Lastly, people have to take action to get to know others. Those three simple steps can be the start of getting along with others without having prejudice. Thus, the idea of America as one family who “rise or fall together” will become real, because there is no more prejudice.      

Submitted for Skyline College ESOL 400 writing assignment

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