Stuck in Prejudice, Stuck in Misunderstanding
About two months back, between periods of the hockey game I was watching, I changed the channel and stumbled upon the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Singer, songwriter, and peace activist, Joan Baez, had just been inducted and was addressing the audience. I’m paraphrasing, but she offered these solemn words, “It saddens me that the songs for justice, equality, peace, and oneness that I wrote and performed so many years ago are needed as much today as they were back then.”
How true. How unfortunate.
Why—despite courageous people giving up their lives for civil and equal rights; despite law changes to level the playing field; despite a plethora of art, film, and literature about the victims of discrimination; despite the current social media firestorm condemning the actions of bigots—why are we still stuck in a world of prejudice?
The answer, which so many innocent people are missing, is this: Prejudice is a symptom—a symptom of a simple and common misunderstanding; it is not a cause.
In fact, we can write songs condemning prejudice. We can protest against prejudice till we’re blue in the face. We can try to legislate prejudice into oblivion. We can preach over and over again about all the horrible things that result from prejudice. But until the misunderstanding that causes prejudice is uncovered and stripped away, as Baez lamented, we’ll keep spinning our wheels.
So what is this misunderstanding that’s kept us spinning our wheels seemingly forever?
It’s what I write and speak about each week: that the feelings of human beings are connected to, or are the result of, a person, situation, or environment. When the only thing that a person is capable of feeling is the ebb and flow of spiritual energy better known as thought.
This means that the only thing that can weigh a person down, make a person afraid, insecure, or judgmental (or even confident, carefree, or compassionate), is his or her thinking at that moment in time. Nothing from the physical world can do this, and until we wake up to this fact, the potential exists for us to feel normal waves of bad feelings, for us to look outside to the physical world for the causes of and cures for these feelings—and catch, in the crossfire, others who look or behave differently than us. Circumstances such as one’s past, where one grows up, or the culture in which one lives do not cause prejudice. What causes prejudice is one person attributing his or her bad feelings to something other than his or her own thinking—in this case to the appearance or lifestyle of another person.
What’s more, compounding this “outside-in” misunderstanding and thus fortifying prejudice, believe it or not, are most of the brave souls on the frontlines fighting prejudice. Like those who discriminate based on race, gender, or sexual orientation, those fighting prejudice actually blame the normal waves of their own feelings on the prejudiced, essentially becoming “prejudiced against the prejudiced.” See what I mean about wheel spinning in a cycle of misunderstanding? Of course, prejudice is a cancer, it needs to end, and many of us deeply disdain its presence. Still, it’s a symptom of looking outside for explanations for one’s feelings. And everyone knows that treating symptoms doesn’t kill the root.
The answer to getting unstuck from prejudice, then, will only be found through an understanding of where one’s feelings are truly coming from. To those who grasp that bad feelings come and bad feelings go—independent of the appearance, behavior, lifestyle, or even prejudices of someone else—the notion of lashing out at someone else, in order to feel better themselves, is completely out of the question.
Last of all, I get it. Some will say, “C’mon Garret, it’s not this simple, you haven’t walked in my shoes.” Sorry it is and sorry I have. We’re all one and the same. There’s nothing personal about prejudice. That’s why understanding the connection between thought and feelings, and that a connection between someone else and feelings doesn’t really exist, is the only thing that will allow us to rise above the wheel spinning, set the example, and right this drastic wrong. You can’t end prejudice, a symptom, by fighting it, taking it personal, or by suggesting that you’re above it. You end it by understanding its common cause—the outside-in illusion that every person in the history of mankind has succumbed to.
From that place of oneness, I might add, promoting love becomes effortless.
Thank you for reading,