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There are many people in this world today who feel that prejudice is a regular part of life that must be dealt with along with getting up for work, and taking out the garbage. However, what people do not realize is that prejudice is on the rise in our society, and has been for centuries. There are numerous reasons that people choose to have prejudices against others. Many people don’t want to rock the boat, so they just look the other way, and pretend that nothing is going on. Although these people usually do not have any direct participation in outward prejudice, their neglect of the situation causes a definite harm. Others are ignorant and uneducated when it comes to things that are different from them, and as a result they make up their own stereotypes, and misconceptions, about people that they don’t even know. Not only has prejudice been a dilemma in the past, but also it seems to be a growing trend among the countries of the world today.
The people of society who choose not to get involved in the fight against prejudice usually do so out of fear. They fear that if they speak out then they will be shunned for making things difficult for those who share their prejudice openly. In The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, written by Ursula K. Le Guin, this is demonstrated beautifully when a boy is kept away from society because he is different from all the others who live there. The people of the city refuse to bring the boy into society because “if it were done, in that day and hour all the prosperity and beauty and delight of Omelas would wither and be destroyed.” (Le Guin, p.971) Some of the people who have seen the boy, disagree with what the other citizens of Omelas are doing to him so they leave the city, and never look back. But, they leave without saying, or doing, anything to help the poor boy who is left behind to suffer in the discrimination of the town. This is also shown in the movie Quigley Down Under when a man, Quigley, is almost killed for defending the rights of Aborigine Indians in Australia. He sees that they are clearly victims of prejudice, and decides to help them overcome their oppression.
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Another possible explanation for the prejudice that people possess is that they are uneducated and ignorant when it comes to things that are different than they are. Most people fear what they do not understand; thus they make up their own stereotypes and prejudices against these people without making an effort to learn about them. This quote from the poem “ We Wear the Mask” shows the oppression that people feel when they are discriminated against, and how they are forced to hide who they really are so that they can be excepted by society.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask. (“We Wear the Mask”, Dunbar, p.84)
One other aspect to the ignorance people possess when it comes to prejudice is hate crimes. Hate crimes, especially in American society, is a growing problem. Crimes of this nature have risen from 4,458 in 1991 to 7,947 in 1995. Of these crimes 60.7% of them are anti-black, and are committed primarily by white people who do not understand, or care to learn, the black culture. (Hate Crime Statistics [online]) It is this kind of ignorance that leads to the spread of prejudice in today’s society.
The misconceptions that people have about others, as a result of their ignorance, is an aspect that heavily contributes to discrimination and prejudice. In Quigley Down Under an English General says, “American’s are barbaric misfits.” The General makes this accusation without any support other than his own misconception. Sadly, this type of prejudice is still present today in numerous forms. Modern stereotypes of people are rabid in today’s society; overweight people smell, Mexican’s steal, blacks are lazy, etc. All of these are primary examples of stereotypes that are made without any basis other than the ignorance of the people who believe in them. Langston Hughes, a black civil rights poet, wrote:
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed-
I, too, am America. (“I, Too,” Hughes, p.64)
This shows that even in the face of racism, he too is a person just like all of us, and he too is a part of our society. This also demonstrates how wrong people can be when they judge people based solely off of a belief in a stereotype.
There are many reasons that prejudice exists in our lives today; mostly because of our faults as people. However, there is no reason that people should stand for it, look the other way, or think that it is acceptable. All forms of prejudice are still present today, and new ones are being developed. This path of ignorance, and discrimination will remain as long as the lack of education that we possess about those different from us continues. Prejudice is a road that has been traveled on many times, for many years, and, therefore, is an easy one to walk on. But the road less traveled, the one of understanding, is a hard journey, but will lead to a much happier place for all people.