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Passing Judgement

There is a well-known proverb that says “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Such seems to be the case with prejudice and stereotypical thought and action in our society today. Despite the abolishment of slavery, the integration of schools nationwide and the Declaration of Independence clearly stating “all men are created equal,” we still struggle with racial, religious and cultural intolerance in the 21st Century. If 2000 was such a huge turning point in history, then why are people still hidebound by ideals of decades past?

In a so-called ‘open-minded’ society where any idea can be discussed freely, it is sad to realize that the possibility of people honestly changing their attitude regarding the ethnicity of other Americans could be long time coming, if ever. I’ve found that many people say they aren’t prejudice and will sing about how unbiased they are until Heaven gets the news, but when their true beliefs are tested the results are often vastly different from what they claim.

I don’t like to advertise my own beliefs because people have a tendency to think you’re preaching to them once you’ve done so, but I like to think of myself as a Christian. I’m also biracial: my father is Caucasian and my mother is from India. Having said that, I’m sure you can understand how stunned and outraged I was when I learned that a fellow student made a comment regarding God’s ethnicity.

Obviously, no one exclusively knows what God looks like, and a number of people don’t even believe that He exists, but to go as far as saying something along the lines of “God can’t be black” is absolutely absurd. I don’t know if this statement was meant to be comical, but making a joke out of both a religious and racial topic is crossing a few too many lines.

With the recent death of Coretta Scott King and February being National Black History Month, it seems only fitting to remember some of the great contributions blacks have made in our society. For example, the concept of the blood bank and a system for the long term preservation of blood plasma was created by Dr. Charles Richard Drew, an African-American doctor who made one of the greatest advancements to blood banking in America and saved many WWII victims through his research and blood preservation technique. Another celebrated black inventor, Garrett Morgan, created some of the most commonly used items in America today. Among the list are the traffic light, which is used all over the globe, the gas mask, used to save trapped miners initially and later produced for the U.S. Army, and the ever popular hair dying ointments, which many teenagers of today simply couldn’t live without. Others include Elijah McCoy, whose industrial inventions coined the term ‘the real McCoy,’ Madame C.J. Walker, George Washington Carver, Lewis Latimer and Otis Boykin who created the world-famous pacemaker. The list of inventors, engineers and doctors goes on and on. With so many contributions to society under their belt, it baffles me why the term “black” carries such a negative connotation in some parts of the world. Now, I’m not just singling out one group of people as victims. I don’t pretend to be a saint or act like I have never judged someone before. We all make judgments about people subconsciously; it’s a fact of life.

Another fact I’ve come to realize is that people of different crowds are constantly judging each other. On the high school level, contrasting cliques include a variety of people with different opinions, dressing styles and habits, whereas on the global level, differences between groups include much larger issues, like religion, land disputes and politics as a whole. Suddenly, school house drama pales in comparison.

Nevertheless, when I pass through the hall and hear someone make a derogatory generalization about another group, it makes me wonder why they felt the need to voice the comment in the first place. Contrary to what you may believe, cracking jokes about someone being white, black, Hispanic or any other race is not amusing and it doesn’t make you cool.

On top of that, a remark about a person’s regional background is just as bad. Take, for example, the recent issue with Katrina evacuees. I’ve heard countless jokes about these people, the African-American evacuees in particular. While some of the witticism is mildly funny at first in that tacky, crude way, the joking gets old extremely fast. If you were displaced for an extended period of time, I’m sure people could come up with more than a few off-the-wall things to say at your expense.

I know the phrase “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all” is a complete cliché, but sometimes you have to remember the basic morals you learned, or should have learned, when you were younger. For starters, it’s always good to get to know a person or even an entire group of people before making judgements them.

Again, somewhat of a cliché, but a very practical one. Take the time to shake a few hands and talk with someone outside of your comfort zone before making blind assumptions about the person based on their background or what you may have heard. What have you got to lose, other than a closed mind?

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