Prejudice or racism or does it matter?


Yesterday I attempted to address the racist in all of us and a couple of you commented that I may have confused racism and prejudice — prejudice being something we all do have probably in some form. You were right. I was primarily talking about prejudice. Racists are hate mongers who believe that whole people groups are inferior merely because of their color or ethnicity. None of us are thinking about joining the KKK or driving our cars into a crowd of protesters against racism. However, having said that, the more I think about this, the more I see a reason for sticking with my original intent anyway: “We have met the racist and he/she is us.” Here me out and I think you’ll agree.

It seems to me that prejudice and racism are not two different things as much as they are degrees of the same thing. Racism is prejudice all grown up. Do we really want to say: “Well, we all are probably a little prejudice in some ways, but that doesn’t make us all racists”? Yet when you realize that prejudice when it is fully formed is racism, knowing that might make us more apt to want to do something about getting rid of it.

Isn’t this the argument behind Jesus equating hate with murder and lust with adultery? By seeing where our wrong attitudes are headed, we might be more apt to want to deal with them in the first place. Prejudice is a wrong attitude. If we are going to follow Christ, we must not coddle a place for it anywhere in our thinking. If I learn to see hate as murder and lust as adultery, then it stands to reason I should see prejudice as racism. I don’t want to be a racist any more than I want to be a murderer or adulterer. It’s like looking everything in the broad light of day and seeing what it really is.

In an opinion article in the Los Angeles Times today, Robert M. Sapolsky, professor of biology, neurological sciences and neurosurgery at Stanford University raised a related argument that the brain make choices related to its exposure. In a relatively dark room with little light, the mind adjusts in order make contrasts between things with slight differences. Out in the light, it adjusts to make contrasts between much bigger things. His point is made in his last sentence, “If we readjust our brains to focus on the biggest of contrasts, then we can remember what the real enemy is, and use our intellect and passion to destroy it.”

The real enemy is racism, so lets not let even prejudice take hold in our thinking.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

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6 Responses to Prejudice or racism or does it matter?

  1. Here’s how I differentiate between the two: where prejudice might say “You’re different from me. I don’t trust you”. Racism would say “You’re different from me. I hate you. Not only do I hate you, I’m superior to you.” I agree fully with you on this Catch, John. Prejudice unchecked will grow into racism.

  2. Gary says:

    I’m not disagreeing with you in any way. I probably shouldn’t put this sicker on the subject, forgive me. It seems the social brains in this country don’t seem follow the tar on this line your pulling. We are being told that if you are not on a side that received the greater ills of prejudice, that you can’t say such n such are racist also, because their hate is justified. As a nine old I happened ask a little girl to pass me a black crayon in arts and craft class. Afterwards during the recess, I was surround by three black classmates, who began kicking and punching me. I was able to get out the question, why are you doing this? The biggest one said “because you asked for a black crayon”. I said that’s what it is. You can’t say “black” white boy. Believe me, I sure didn’t after that. I was harassed by them for the rest of the year, as it turned out we moved to a new school district the year. I’ve heard the “N” word practically every day of my childhood, from my mother(southern Oklahoma born and raised, racist). I can tell you from my heart, for me it did not stick. I have never used the “N” word as a child or adult(check that I did one time, stand in front of our bathroom mirror watched my facial contorted lip movements as I said it a few times and feeling the hair stand out on the backside of my head. I thought to myself, nope never. I’m 61 now, with tears in my eyes, thinking of Martin Luther King Jr. and how I feel about his legacy. Why can’t we just get along. How many times did Jesus say in the book of John I give you a new commandment, Love one another, just as I have loved you, love one another, as the Father has loved me and I have loved the Father, I have loved you, Love one another as I have Loved You. It can stick I know it can.

  3. jwfisch says:

    Bless your heart, Gary. You are right. Love will win in the end. And, in fact, it will win along the way. Love always wins.

  4. Gary says:

    AMEN !!!!

  5. Hateful fanaticism exists in every society, but the overwhelming majority of Americans thoroughly reject it. American democratic institutions, which provide a critical system of checks and balances against its rise, remain robust.
    There is a sobering lesson to be learned… and we ignore it at our peril.
    Indifference emboldens intolerance, allowing it to infect our societies.
    Silence can become complicit with evil.
    Wherever people stir up hatred based on race, religion, or political affiliation, we must stand resolutely against them.
    As people of faith, let us always remember that we have a special role to play in making peace and building bridges in our own communities. Today, and every day, let our presence in a troubled world be a testament to the biblical truth: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

    Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews
    (Excerpted from the Rabbi’s Commentary on the IFCJ website:

  6. jwfisch says:

    Excellent. Nice hear from you, Bob.

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