We, as people of color, must do the work so well that we are aware that we are the light and the luminous expression of God regardless of anything that is thrown at us. That we are not victims!__Michael B. Beckwith *
Recently we had a friend over for lunch. I had been wanting to hear his story of how he lived through the genocide in Rwanda, Africa. The Tutsi and the Hutu tribes had been in conflict for many years when in 1994 the bloodiest battle of all broke out. Over 800,000 were massacred in a three-month period.
Since his mother was from the Tutsi tribe and his father was from the Hutu tribe he was targeted by both sides. Each time, as he narrowly escaped being slaughtered, he was surprised and grateful that he was spared. Shortly after the massacre he was able to return to the seminary where he was studying for the priesthood, and a year later was ordained a deacon.
However, the prejudice continued as two prominent citizens, who did not want him to be a priest in their village since he was of the Hutu tribe, falsely accused him of wrong doing. He trusted that God had a purpose for his life, and after four years in prison he was finally cleared and released.
Again, he went back to the seminary and was finally ordained a priest. After working several years in his country, he miraculously obtained a visa, and now serves as a priest in the United States. As a 'luminous expression of God', Father Innocent Isubizag* truly lived the words of Michael Beckwith.
Unfortunately, this painful story of prejudice is not as unique as we would like to think. It has repeated itself many times throughout history. Each side feels justified in its prejudice against the other. People tend to find evidence to support what they believe, and discount information that they don't want to believe. This pattern will continue to repeat itself until we can somehow learn to break through our prejudices.
I have been contemplating and reading a lot on the subject of prejudice lately in light of what is happening in the United States and around the world. This is a huge topic that I will only be able to touch upon but I would like to share some of my thoughts.
Wikipedia defines prejudice as referring to a preconceived, usually unfavorable, evaluation of another person based on that person's political affiliation, sex, gender, beliefs, values, social class, age, disability, religion, sexuality, race/ethnicity, language, nationality, beauty, occupation, education, criminality, sport team affiliation or other personal characteristics.
Evidently, we are all prejudice, at least to some extent. Wikipedia goes on to reference Paul Bloom as he states, ...that while prejudice can be irrational and have terrible consequences, it is natural... This is because prejudices are based on the human tendency to categorize objects and people based on prior experience.
Everyone sees the world through their own filter. If you are hurt or wounded by the police or clergy, for instance, then you may fear or hate all police or clergy not realizing that the majority are basically good people.
I realize that prejudice is a very sensitive subject, and I can't begin to imagine how it is to live in certain situations. I do know, however, through talking with others, and by becoming aware of my own inner process, what has worked for me in reducing prejudice.
There is a lot written about social reform being beneficial in curbing prejudice. However, as helpful as social reform may be, it will never be satisfactory until we turn inward and work on changing the perception that gives rise to our prejudices.
Often when we want change, we start by looking outside of ourselves. We tend to judge and blame those who we believe are at fault, or feel sorry for those who are victimized. We blame our parents, our teachers, our society, the government, and even God for our problems.
The 'victim' we see in another may be the victim we are trying to protect within ourselves that was not attended too by others nor ourselves. The person we accuse of discriminating may be a reflection of the discriminator within us.
When someone is prejudice towards another individual or group of people, often they are unconsciously projecting their own unexamined traits or emotions onto others.
Children who have been victimized tend to persecute others as they grow to adulthood. Groups who are oppressed tend to become the persecutors e.g., two of the most extreme cases were, after World War I, Germans feeling persecuted, resulting in the rise of Hitler, and the Tutsi and Hutu tribal wars against each other each feeling justified in how they felt and the harm they did.
Projection was addressed in the Bible when Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites saying, Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? *
It's not just negative traits and emotions that we project onto others. At times we 'put people on a pedestal' so to speak, and are unwilling or unable to see their faults. Then, when we find that they don't meet our expectations, we are disappointed and turn against them.
Often a person who has offended or hurt us comes from a place of ignorance; ignorance in the sense of having a different perspective than us, being prejudiced towards us, or perhaps not even knowing that they have caused pain. The death and crucifixion of Jesus is a prime example of this. He in his infinite wisdom knew that his persecutors were ignorant of the profound purpose of his life and who he was. Jesus was able to see humanity for what it was when he said, 'Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. **
I believe it is important to separate out the person from the behaviors. To lump together and discount a person or a group of people due to certain behaviors that we don't like is 'to throw the baby out with the bath water' as the old saying goes.
We each have traits that are kind, loving, virtuous, and respectable. We also each have a dark side that is unacceptable, and hurtful. As we bring awareness to our thoughts and actions, we are less likely to project them onto others. Only then can we realize that each one of us are precious human beings and are a part of the Divine plan.
Love and Peace,
*Michael B. Beckwith, African American author and founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center in Beverly Hills, CA.
*Father Innocent Isubizag Pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in Auburn, CA.
*This quote is originally from the blog on Forgiveness published March 12, 2017
Mary Mohs LVN, MA, RYT,