Everyone has built in biases and prejudices—they are unavoidable. If a person says they do not, they are lying. Tolerances, our likes and dislikes, are congenital defects passed down from birth, generation after generation. We are conditioned, as children, to like this food or that food, to accept one child over another child in our circle of friends, and to chose our preferences based on things we want to be associated with (or the things our parents allow us to be associated with). Society in America is uber-sensitive to diversity. Acceptance of different cultures, religions, and people is now more than any other time in history, both politically correct and morally correct. After all, America is the “Land of the free,” and with all due respect, freedom in America has come at grave expense.
I recall some instances of infringement of freedom I grew up with. Most I will not mention, but some I will. The one I will consider first, is the freedom to be a human and have defects. I was a pudgy kid and I had crossed eyes. My eyes would travel from side to side as I tried to focus, they had a mind of their own at times. I was called all kinds of nasty names. The name most hurtful was “fat retard”. The “fat” portion of the nickname did not bother me as much as the other part. I was labeled; not just from other kids, but also from family, with the name “retard”. I have friends who have children with natural birth defects and they are devoted crusaders against the “R” word. I commend their sensitivity, conviction and diligence in not accepting the “R” word as a label for defects.
We are programmed as children to root for our schools (or professional) sports team—mainly the team dad roots for, because we want to be like and liked by dad. We must loathe the opposing team, after all, they are the rivals and the controversy over which team is superior goes way back—back before we were born.
As a child I was told, “Never trust a (“N” word) or a Jew. The (“N” word) will never have your back, and the Jew will stab you in the back just to get ahead.” Well, Grand Pooh-Bah of the Ladwig Clan, you were not only bias and prejudice, but your infinite wisdom was defective and false.
So many people carry biases and prejudice and it seeps out in some of the most blatant ways and some not so obvious ways; nevertheless, it is infectious and it poisons the fabric of humanity. To think we can live in an unspoiled Utopia would be delusional. However, each of us has a role to play in cauterizing the wounds caused by the things we say.
There are many ways that I have experienced bias and prejudice throughout my life, but I will not burden this composition with all of them. I am sickened with disgust over the nonchalant attitude, which I and so many others in society, have over the simplest things we have control over, like the words we use and the things we say.
My 2012 New Year’s resolution—to become more sensitive to the words I use and the things I say (and the things I print) and always remember, ultimately someone is on the receiving end of those words so choose them very carefully.