On this particular day, there was a break from back-to-back days of rainy weather, and those with cabin fever were out stretching our legs. This is how I happened to become engaged in conversation. The five of us exchanged pleasantries about travel locations, which led to a discussion of oil prices, which led to a discussion about politics, which led to two of the men making racist comments in an unkind fashion about our country's leader.
Now, I have long since learned not to engage in political discussions. I really don't care about a person's political persuasion, much like I don't care about their religious affiliations. I try my best to give everyone the right to their opinions without adding my judgement.
But on this day, in that sunny, beautiful spot in the Colorado mountains, the racist remarks caught me off guard. My mouth dropped open, I excused myself, turned on my heels, and hastened back to my site. Flabbergasted, I went through mental gyrations all of which ended up with "what fu......ing morons." It was sobering to be reminded that people still think this way. I can be a bit naive.
Then it hit me. I was prejudiced about their prejudices. "What a conundrum, and what do I do about this?" As I usually do once I come to my senses, I recognized this as an opportunity for clarity into my own hot buttons and greater resolve.
Humans are naturally prejudiced. We select red over blue, chocolate over vanilla, snow over sun, and the list goes on. Any time we prefer one thing over another, we are prejudiced. A prejudice is a preconceived opinion not based upon reason or experience, and is a natural part of being human. It is a neutrally based isness.
In 1954, American psychologist, Gordon Allport, linked prejudice and categorical thinking. Allport claims prejudice is in part a normal process for humans. According to him, The human mind must think with the aid of categories...Once formed categories are the basis for normal prejudgment. We cannot possibly avoid this process. Orderly living depends upon it."
However, when we act out our prejudices in violence of action or energy towards another "being prejudice" becomes an issue. To have prejudice vs. to be prejudiced are two entirely different perspectives. The first is a natural part of being human, the second is allowing a falsehood into our core of beingness. We become the prejudice. Yikes! That hurts!
The falsehood creates illusion about who and what we are. We judge and separate from each other, finding ways to feel better by making ourselves superior. At the extreme, the acting out of prejudice and judgment becomes violence and intolerance. Prejudice is actually self-abuse and our own suffering is the end result.
So how do we change our perspective and heal this cycle of self-abuse?
I was very clear on this warm sunny day in the Colorado mountains that I was not going to change the opinions of those in my company. It was not mine to delve into why these people felt the way they did. I suspect if I dove deep enough, I would find at their core a bundle of wounding and personal suffering. They simply were not conscious. On this day, I chose not to engage but rather to remove myself from the situation.
Next, I cut myself some slack and acknowledged my own prejudice about their prejudice. I allowed myself to feel my feelings. If we do not allow our feelings, they will come out sideways and it will be impossible to hold a true state of neutrality. Our ability to hold a state of neutrality places us in zero point, where quantum possibility resides.
My feelings, truly felt, naturally relaxed into a more neutral state. I forgave myself and the situation, re-framing while holding the possibility for a quantum shift into a non-racist world.