Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Prejudice and the Campaign

What is prejudice?  The dictionary tells us:  “the act or state of holding unreasonable preconceived judgments or convictions”.  The immediate past and present U.S. election cycles have brought the issue of prejudice to the forefront of American awareness and that dark hidden mind-cancer is being called out for us to examine in the light of day.

I address the two most pervasive and damaging examples of prejudice in society: white against black, and male against female.  It would seem that since we have a black president, and a woman nominee for the office, those prejudices are no longer a problem, but that is not the case.  Although the personal appeal, intelligence and enthusiasm of Obama got him elected to the office of president, very soon forces were raised against him that blocked every effort he made to bring meaningful change to benefit the nation.  I don’t claim he was right in all his initiatives but I point to the almost hysterical opposition and refusal to work with him to seek compromise.  For his second term, rather than propose goals, the opposition identified as their main objective: ‘to make sure he did not achieve a second term’.  The fierce opposition was never blatantly stated as “because he is a black man” but it was the obvious undertone . . . . . . .thankfully the majority did not support that.

Now we are in another election cycle and we have two candidates that in some way call attention to prejudice.  For one, the woman, there is an unspoken ‘something’ that causes many to ‘just not like her’.  She triggers some of the still, mostly hidden, anti-women attitudes lingering from a long history of suppression of women.  Until recently, every aspect of a woman’s existence was controlled by men.  Because women saw the world through different eyes, they were considered weak, inferior, and incapable of rational judgment.  It was a mere 100 years ago that women won the right to vote in America.  Advances in the status of women in developed countries in the 20th and 21st Centuries may cause us to forget that throughout the ages women have been demonized, demeaned, discounted, and dismissed. Look at other countries where women are still oppressed, with no rights and considered the property of their husbands.  Are we sure we are free of this prejudice?

The other candidate, the man, Donald Trump, apparently believes that Americans do NOT possess the enlightened desire to combat their hidden prejudices, so, by stoking the fires of all hidden prejudices he can ride to victory.  A 'might means right' philosophy.  He offers a smorgasbord of hate filled denigrations, choose from: religions, nationalities, migrants, veterans, handicapped, war heros, the government, the Press, women and anyone who crosses him.   He has fueled his campaign with negativity toward anyone and everyone who is not ‘in his camp’—he personifies prejudice.  It is fortuitous that his prurient attitude toward women was exposed by a video of his bragging about his exploits.  That brought a backlash from both women and enlightened men who recognized that the attitude ‘women are objects for my pleasure’ is from an archaic prejudice rooted in the arrogant belief in Male Superiority which gives them the right to behave toward women as they please; this same attitude fuels groping, physical abuse and rape.  Prejudice is an ugly reality.  Are Americas enlighten enough to fight against it?

If we are serious about opening dialogues about prejudice, don’t confine the issue to race, look deeper to explore the roots of all prejudices.

And choose carefully who you vote for!

1 comment:

  1. In my childhood, Archie Bunker taught us what not to say, how not to behave. I am saddened to see the glee with which some Americans return to their inner Archie Bunker... and I agree that prejudice is an ugly reality. I think the Trump victory has much to do with the fact that a whole part of the country couldn't bear to have a woman follow a black man into the highest office.