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For the most part, we tend to think of prejudice in terms of race, culture, or religion, but the word has much deeper significance than just the dislike of people with different skin colors or religious practices than us.  The term itself refers to a "pre-judgment," or judging a person or culture or object before one knows anything about it on an individual level.  It's a judgment made with really no knowledge at all about the individual or culture; thus, it's a judgment made in ignorance (another strong obstacle to a full life).

Most people who tend towards prejudiced judgments make their decisions based on incomplete knowledge, or they generalize a great deal.  A person who is prejudiced against Asians because a young Asian man insulted him two years ago is generalizing that one person's actions to an entire group of people, thinking that all Asians are the same as the one who insulted him.  The African-American who despises white people because his or her father was treated poorly by whites are judging all people with white skin to be the same as the people who hurt his or her parents.  The Christian who slanders Moslems because they don't believe the same things that he or she does is judging those people based on his or her own belief system, and is not looking at them as human beings who have grown up with their own systems of belief.

There is no doubt about it:  prejudice is easy.  Developing a prejudiced perspective of the world makes virtually everything black and white, with no room at all for shades of grey.  

People are good or bad, and prejudiced people don't have to think further or learn more about anyone--their minds are already made up, and that's all there is to it.  Prejudice in some ways is a form of mental and emotional laziness, and in other ways it's a huge barrier that people use to hide behind, trying to eliminate threats to their feelings of safety and well being.

Prejudice becomes dangerous when people try to get others to share it.  I may be prejudiced against people with green skin, but as long as I keep that prejudice to myself it hurts no one but me.  Once I start to talk to my neighbor, though, and try to convince her that all green-skinned people are bad, then I'm causing harm.  And when we start talking about what we should do about the "problem" of green-skinned people, then we become truly dangerous.  In order to give ourselves credibility, we distort reality, we stretch facts, and we ignore the truth about the greenskins, just to make our case against them stronger.

At its most basic, prejudice is our willingness to believe bad about others without finding out the truth.  And my prejudice against greenskins means that I'm going to close myself off from learning from them, I'm going to deprive myself of what they have to share with me, and I'm going to live in fear of the greenskins becoming stronger than me and doing something horrible to me to pay me back for the way I feel about them.  That's no way to live a life, and by allowing my prejudices to control how I treat others, I'm dooming myself to continued ignorance and future fears.

The way to battle prejudice--in ourselves and in others--is simple.  We must educate ourselves as to the true nature of all people.  Individuals do not accurately represent any racial, religious, or cultural group, and we're taking the easy and lazy way out if we allow ourselves to define others by the actions of very few.

Those who are possessed with a prejudice are possessed
with a devil, and one of the worst kinds of devils, for it
shuts out the truth, and often leads to ruinous error.

Tryon Edwards

Prejudice is the conjuror of imaginary wrongs, strangling truth,
over-powering reason, making strong people weak, and weak
people weaker.  God gave us the large-hearted charity which
"beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things,
endureth all things," which "thinketh no evil!"

John Macduff


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Too many of our prejudices are like pyramids upside down. 
They rest on tiny, trivial incidents, but they spread upward
and outward until they fill our minds.

William McChesney Martin


Prejudice can go very deep.  It is only healed when we end the war
within and accept those parts of ourselves we find so unacceptable.
Then we will have the courage to accept those who are different
from us, who have different beliefs, who are a different color, or
who live differently.  When we can tolerate ourselves, then we can
be tolerable toward others and extend kindness to all equally.

Ed and Deb Shapiro


I was climbing up a mountain-path
With many things to do,
Important business of my own,
And other people's too,
When I ran against a Prejudice
That quite cut off the view.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman


Prejudices are the chains forged by ignorance to keep people apart.

Countess of Blessington


Prejudices are the refuge of those who cannot think for themselves.

Comtesse Diane


Most people wish to be consoled, confirmed.  They want
their prejudices reinforced and their structured belief
systems validated.  After all, it hurts to think,
and it's absolute agony to think twice.

Jennifer Stone


Just as a child is born without fear, so it is born
without prejudice.  Prejudice, like fear, is acquired.

Marie Killilea


Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate
from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or
fertilized by education; they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.

Charlotte Bronte


Prejudice is a seeping, dark stain, I think, more difficult to fight than
hatred--which is powerful and violent and somehow more honest.

Josephine Lawrence


Constantly I am having to fight and overcome my prejudices because I
realize that first impressions and judgments are often misleading.

Harvey Day


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Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our
mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry
with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity.
Racism can, will, and must be defeated.

Kofi Annan

The fact that we are human beings is infinitely more important than all
the peculiarities that distinguish human beings from one another.

Simone de Beauvoir


Prejudice does not think logically.  It does not ask why, and remains
on the deceptive surface.  The mark of the sage is the lack of prejudice,
that of a fool, the lack of thought.

Hans-Ulrich Rieker


What does the color of one's skin tell us that is of any significance
about a person?  Nothing, of course, absolutely nothing.  It does
not say whether the person is warmhearted or kind,
clever or witty, or whether that person is good.

Desmond Tutu


Unless we empty ourselves of preconceived cultural or intellectual images
and expectations, we not only cannot understand the Other, we
cannot even listen.  Indeed, we cannot even feel empathy.

M. Scott Peck
The Different Drum


Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until
opportunity is unconcerned with the color of people's skin,
emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.

Lyndon B. Johnson


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