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This article is for people who (a) hold strong racial,
religious, ethnic, gender, and/or political biases ("bigots"), and for (b)
people who suffer from demeaning personal and/or social prejudice. Pause and
reflect - why are you reading this?
What do you need?
prejudice and bigotry,
proposes common roots of prejudice,
Prejudice occurs when
some person or group believes…
“I am or my people are superior
to you and your people, so
I am / we are entitled to more (dignity, power, freedom, assets, status,
opportunity…). This is an absolute truth, and is not subject to discussion or
Prejudice ranges from mild to extreme, and narrow to wide. Abigot is
extremely prejudiced - i.e. scornful and rigidly intolerant of a
person or group because of their race, beliefs, ethnicity, gender,
appearance, profession, sexual preference, or lifestyle. Bigots
may be vocal and outspoken or covert about their intolerance, and may deny,
justify, or brag about their beliefs and discriminatory attitudes and actions. .
Prejudice and bigotry start
whencaregivers, relatives, and
local society - including churches - model and teach young kids rigid moral judgments about
types or groups of people. For example...
“All Jews are crafty moneygrubbers.”
are sick and twisted!”
sly and rootless.”
superstitious and lazy.”
are way too liberal."
never say what they think."
superior and intolerant.”
people are dull and repressed"
and stepkids are inferior.”
are religious bigots."
"Rednecks are ignorant bullies."
"Homeless people are irresponsible."
"Abortion is criminal and immoral."
"Faggots are subhumans"
“Niggers are subhuman.”
rigid and arrogant.”
Americans are lazy drunks.”
Englanders are too conservative and taciturn.”
an Irishman or a lawyer.”
“Addicts are weak, sick, and defective.”
primitive, violent zealots"
too emotional, illogical, and maternal to succeed in business.”
graduates are smarter."
"Mormons are polygamous sinners."
"Jews are God's chosen people."
"People should marry their own kind."
"Child abusers should be killed."
Were you taught any beliefs like these?
prejudice can't be reduced by calm discussion and reasoning. Most biased beliefs are intrinsically
irrational and emotional, not logical. This
reduces the chance that you can negotiate and really problem-solve (compromise) effectively together.
All people and groups evolve minor to major values conflicts -
differences in preferences and attitudes.
Values conflicts become prejudice
if one person says the other person isbad and/or inferior because of their
values. Religious prejudice is specially provocative because the
accuser avoids personal responsibility by allying with God in claiming righteous
it discrimination, prejudice, or both?
How would you define the word discrimination? It's a common
source of conflict in all kinds of organizations, including families. One
meaning of the word is to distinguish one thing from another. Another
meaning is to give preferential treatment to someone in a group, whether
merited or not. This can occur because of a trade in favors ("you scratch my
back, and I'll scratch yours"), a liking or attraction, or - prejudice.
Stories of perceived or actual discrimination against African and Native
Americans, females, obese people, "foreigners," and others dot media
headlines and courtroom dockets. Fewer stories focus on favorite sons or
daughters, unless major estate bequests are involved. Our European ancestors
were used to the idea of social "classes" (e.g. royalty, nobility,
commoners, and serfs), where people claimed more or less respect and
privilege because of their names, titles (if any), education, and lineage
("pedigree"). India is slowly relaxing it's old divisive "caste system,"
All prejudice is discriminatory - but
not all discrimination is prejudice. Do you agree. Both dynamics imply
disrespect, which can evoke major stress..
Effects and Responses
you've ever felt "discriminated against" recall how you felt. Disrespected?
Misunderstood? Resentful? Frustrated? Hurt? Angry? Resigned? Combative?
Defensive? Outraged? All of these? The intensity of such reactions depend
whether the accuser demeans you as a
person, and/or a group you belong to; and...
how the prejudice is expressed -
privately or publically, directly or implied, and "unemotionally"
or with scorn and sarcasm.
People who are judged as inferior can be indifferent; submissive, passive,
and resigned ("you can't fight city hall!"); annoyed; or reactive. Either way, significant prejudice usually promotes divisive
Persecutor - Victim - Rescuer (PVR)
between people and groups. Most people are unaware of these triangles and
don't know how to avoid or dissolve them.
paradox occurs when someone is prejudiced about a bigoted person or group -
e.g. "All Muslims believe they should kill non-believers, and are
despicable, immoral, and dangerous." This dynamic tends to cause
escalating enmity, distrust, and disrespect and even violence, among the
people involved. The Arab - Israeli and two-Korea
conflicts are current examples.
What Causes Prejudice?
Significant prejudice stresses people, relationships, families, and nations.
It promotes aggression, violence, injury, and death (e.g. the
Christian Crusades, and Nazi "racial cleansing") - so why does it exist in every
age and culture?
One taproot is the primal human need for self and social respect. All
infants are weak, clumsy, and "stupid" compared to their adults, so they're
vulnerable to believing they are inferior people (shame). Unless parents
think well of themselves and steadily teach their kids that they are worthy,
respectable, and lovable, "low self esteem" can bloom and fuel the need to
disparage other people.
Another common root of prejudice is cultural tradition -
tribal (family) elders teaching younger members of their innate superiority
and proud heritage as conquers of "weaker" (inferior) people and tribes
Thirdly, if prejudice is used strategically (gossip and "propaganda"), it
can unify and motivate others to compete and defeat or disable some personal
or group adversary. In America, the anti-Negro,
anti-Semitic rantings of the Ku Klux Klan is one example. The rapid advent
of wireless global communication networks ("the Information age") is steeply
increasing the power of the media to influence public opinion and support
about individuals and "special interest" groups.
you feel discriminated against in some way, you don't have to adopt a
victim role. You have many...
These options apply to most personal (vs. group) situations, regardless
of who is prejudiced about whom, why, and how they express their opinion:
1) Assess yourself
for inherited psychological
wounds. Your chances for responding to prejudice effectively are much
higher if you're guided by your
true Self. False selves are apt to react
aggressively and/or provocatively, amplifying relationship conflict
and stress.Use Lesson 1
("parts work") to reduce any significant wounds over
2) Evolveand live
byaBill of Personal Rights. It's essential for effective assertion of
your values, needs, and boundaries. As you do this, sharpen your daily awareness of
3) Decide what you feel is an effective response to significant prejudice
against you or someone you value. I propose that "an effective response" means...
- i.e. you respond in a way that earns your self respect; and...
you view the prejudiced person as "wounded
and ignorant,": rather than "bad;" "stupid," "egotistical," "arrogant,"
"evil," and/or "inferior"; and...
your response does not knowingly provoke
aggression and reciprocal blaming and slandering; and...
you avoid trying (useless) logical
explanations and defenses to "correct" the prejudiced person or to prove
they're "wrong"; and...
you don't seek to embarrass, punish, or
demean the prejudiced person or group; and you respect their human
rights as equally-worthy people despite their disrespectful attitude and
Pause and reflect - do you agree with these criteria? If not, how do
you define "an effective response to prejudice"? If
your reaction is to be combative, aggressive, demeaning, and scornful, suspect
false self controls you.
Upgrade your communication
skills by studying and applying online
Lesson 2. This
will help you (a) retrain and harmonize your personality subselves and (b)
respond effectively to prejudicial people. Put special emphasis on learning how to
assert respectfully, and
problem-solve where possible.
More options for responding effectively to prejudice and bigotry:
assert your personal
boundaries. They specify what behaviors
you will tolerate without taking some specific action. Behaviorally,
boundaries are defined by "no," "yes," and "If you chose to do ‘x,’ then I (or we)
will do ‘y’.” (an assertive
This brief YouTube video offers suggestions on giving someone effective
7) Avoid taking responsibility for other
able adults' emotions, beliefs, or needs.
includes accepting that every able adult is responsible for filling her or
his own needs.
to adopt an attitude of compassionate detachment from those who disparage
you or your group. See them as
"bad." This doesn't mean you must passively accept prejudicial behavior.
9) Learn how racial, religious,
gender, and/or ethnic
tensions are affecting
each child you care about; and tell them how such tensions affect you,
within limits. Then help the child understand with compassion and empathy why some
shame-based, unaware people need to judge others as inferior.
Help your young
ones learn to identify, assert, and defend their personal rights and boundaries,
and show them what that looks and sounds like! Generations of unborn children
are mutely depending on you to do this
for them. There lives will be easier if you do.
How might these options
Options in Action
Let's say you never graduated from college for whatever reason, and someone
says something like "Well, people without college degrees are clearly less
intelligent." Without the attitudes and skills above, you might...
feel demeaned, resentful. inferior (?); and
defensive; and you might...
repress these feelings and say nothing,
change the subject, or...
your protective false self might say
something defensive like...
"Where did you get that ignorant idea?"
"Are you saying that I'm less intelligent?",
"If you believe that, you're not very
"You obviously don't know what you're
Reactive responses like these will usually provoke an argument, criticism,
or hostile silence, and will degrade your relationship.
With your true
guiding you and the attitudes and skills above, you might...
feel momentarily resentful and/or irritated,
remind your subselves "This is his
(her) opinion, not a fact. Our worth doesn't depend on graduating
recall that prejudice is usually a sign of
being psychologically-wounded and ruled by a false self, and the person
is probably unaware of this and being shame-based and/or
clarify whether you're reacting to the
speaker's biased opinion, or to the
way s/he is expressing their opinion
- or both. .
remind yourself that
silence does NOT mean
you agree with the speaker, and decide if you need to say something. If
you do, avoid trying to "correct," challenge, or disparage the other
"I see it differently."
"I don't agree with you."
"Why do you believe that?"
"I have a hard time hearing you when you
generalize like that."
"Did you know I never had the chance to
graduate from college?"
"Which of your subselves just spoke?" and/or
"How does your true Self feel about that opinion?"
Notice the theme of these sample true-Self responses: they're brief, calm,
self-aware, respectful, and non-confrontational, not lengthy, impulsive,
combative, defensive, sarcastic, apologetic, or judgmental. How do these
examples compare with how you might normally respond to implied or blatant
prejudice about you or your group?
Stay aware of the difference between responding to
prejudice ("you or
your group are inferior") vs. to
slander (public criticism and
distortions about your behavior). and
values conflicts ["I disagree
with (or dislike) your values or preferences."]
you notice that the way the speaker behaves is bothering you (e.g. sarcastically,
disrespectfully, lecturing, sermonizing, monologing, etc ), use your
and these sample responses to guide what to
do or say
The example above is pretty mild. What would an "effective response"
sound like if the prejudice was specially loud, antagonistic, belligerent,
insulting? For example, what if someone said...
"Well. you Jews have the nerve
to arrogantly claim you're God's chosen people You conniving, money-grubbing
Christ-killers should be exterminated!"
Most unaware, wounded people would instinctively react with icy silence or
some biting insult, anger, and/or biased counterattack that would escalate
into trading heated insults - a lose-lose
power struggle. An effective response would start by...
checking to see that your true Self
"So you feel Jews are inferior people who
should be eliminated." This is a restatement (acknowledgement) not a
question, and does NOT mean you agree!
Decide if you need to assert an opinion and/or a boundary. If you
do, recall how to compose and deliver an effective
That might sound like...
"(Name), when you make
judgmental comments like that, I feel disrespected and angry / disgusted
/ antagonistic / resentful / outraged / ..."
Notice the brevity of this example, and the absence of blame,
name-calling, labeling, defensiveness, sarcasm, and scorn. Expect
bluster, resistance, or escalation without judgment - e.g. "Bah. You
sniveling Jews are cowards and can't stand up to the truth, can you?"
With your Self in charge, use calm empathic listening again, and repeat
your I-message with steady eye contact. You're not trying to criticize,
guilt-trip, or embarrass the speaker, you're honoring your integrity!
If you calmly repeat this
sequence of empathic listening and brief re-assertion. the bigot will
eventually have nothing to more say, and you can feel you stood your
ground. Doing this will increase your personality subselves'
trust in your true Self to protect them.
a child or adult has recently disparaged you or your group, recall (a) if
your Self was
you, (b) how you reacted, and then (c) how you felt. Can you imagine
replaying the situation using your version of the response-options above? If
not, what would prevent you? If so, imagine how the situation would have
These options will do nothing for
you until you try them. Like any significant behavioral
change, benefitting from these options will take patience and practice.
Again - make it a point to model and teach these prejudice-response options
to any young people in your life. If you don't - who will?
How will you
remember these options the next time you feel disparaged?
article is part of Lesson 4 - how to optimize your relationships. It...
prejudice and bigotry, and review common responses to them,
proposes three common roots of prejudice,
responding effectively to
significant prejudice; and...
illustrates an effective response.
Pause, breathe, and recall why you read this article. Did you get what
you needed? If so, what do you need now? If not - what
do you need? Is there anyone you want to
discuss these ideas with? Who's answering these
questions - your wise resident
true Self, or