What is prejudice and how to deal with it? Simply put, if one thinks ill of some people just because they belong to some group, this is believed to be prejudice. There are various kinds of prejudice depending on what this prejudice is based on: racism (based on ethnicity or race), ageism (based on age), sexism (prejudice against women), and socioeconomic discrimination (based on class in a society). Despite the fact that confronting prejudice may seem a challenge and a virtually unattainable task, it can bring important benefits. Confronting prejudice may be effective through non-violent protesting, by increasing cultural awareness, as well as self-analysis and following moral rules in treating other people, as Dr Martin Luther King, K. Connie Kang, and Michael Kaufman suggest. Besides, prejudice may be confronted by ignoring people’s bias and by working out a new understanding of yourself, as implied by Judith Ortiz Cofer and Aliza Kimhachandra. The views of these authors in relation to prejudice confrontation will be analyzed and summed up in this paper, with support from their essays “Three Ways of Meeting Oppression” (Martin Luther King Jr), “A Battle of Cultures” (Connie Kang), and “Of My Friend Hector and My Achilles Heel” (Michael Kaufman), “Don’t Misread My Signals” (Julie Ortiz Cofer),and “Banana” (Aliza Kinhachandra).
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The most effective way to handle racial prejudice is through non-violent protests and peaceful opposition. In his essay “Three Ways of Meeting Oppression”, Dr Martin Luther King Jr explores the ways of dealing with white folk prejudice against the African-American people. In particular, King discusses the whole spectrum of actions that encompass both violent and non-violent protests, as well as inactivity. While there are three major strategies that may be used by the African Americans to gain equal rights, the author suggests that only one of them be worth applying. The best strategy to confront racism is through non-violent resistance. It has certain benefits if compared to two other characteristic ways: acquiescence and violence. By acquiescence or agreement, people resign themselves to being prisoners of oppression and to suffering because of lack of freedom. At the same time, as Martin Luther King proffers, acquiescence is nothing else but cooperation and agreement with the unjust system. If the oppressed (the people against whom the prejudice has been expressed) passively agree with their position, they become no less evil than the oppressor himself. To illustrate, “To accept passively an unjust system is to cooperate with that system; thereby the oppressed become as evil as the oppressor” (King).
Non-violence is the best way to confront the prejudice on the basis of race since it is neither physically aggressive nor submissive to wrong. It makes attempt to reconcile meanings of two opposite approaches: acquiescence and violence. At the same time, it does not have the extreme points that characterize both (King). The major benefit of non-violent confrontation is that it is aimed not against those who oppress but against the oppression itself. Indeed, non-violence enables any African American to confront the unfair system without ceasing to love this system’s perpetrators.
Increasing cultural awareness is another way to confront prejudice when the latter is based on ethnic and cultural background. In “A Battle of Cultures”, K. Connie Kang offers an insight into maltreatment of Koreans by the African American community in New York (Kang 389). The black population of the Flatbush area in Brooklyn attacks the Koreans who run stores in their neighborhood because they are dissatisfied with how Koreans treat them. As a result, three Vietnamese suffer (since they are mistaken for Koreans) and the Korean store gets broken into. The members of the black minority explain that Koreans have been rude and brusque to them, they have never smiled, and never invested money into the community which was the source of their profit. Here the cultural misunderstanding takes place, since to smile for a Korean is a very special thing reserved only to the nearest and dearest. Unlike African Americans, Koreans are not gregarious and for them to smile without any reason is weird. If they have been brusque, they explain, it has been related to an attempt of stealing on the part of some black community member. Evidently, raised by the principles of Confucianism, Koreans underestimate the importance of social conscience - the quality that makes democracy work. To confront the prejudice in both communities, cultural awareness should be raised. Indeed, as Kang writes, “What’s missing in this inner-city drama is cultural insight” (Kang 380). Specifically, people living in the multicultural society should be educated about the specifics of various ethoses, so that they get rid of their prejudices and stereotypes. This may be done through inclusion of ethnically specific information into school textbooks in history or instructing Koreans about possible cultural challenges in the States, for example.
Finally, prejudice may be well confronted through changes within the person that come as a result of self-analysis and following moral rules when treating other people. While Michael Kaufman’s essay “Of My Friend Hector and My Achilles Heel” does not clearly point at some strategy of confronting the socioeconomic and ethnic prejudice, it implicitly suggests the way to handle violence through the personal experience of the author. Specifically, Kaufman comes to realize his own mistake, his Achilles hill, as a result of fair self-analysis and an attempt to look at the situation objectively. This, however, happens only after his stereotype about his Puerto Rican friend as a loser gets broken. In order to warn people against repeating his mistake, the author suggests identifying prejudice at the very point of its emergence. He is confident that socioeconomic and ethnic prejudices (his friend Hector was a Puerto Rican) develop at school, and they need to be handled right there. To illustrate, “the foundation was laid when I was 11, when I was in 7SP-1 and he was not, when I was in the IGC class and he was not.” (Kaufman) It was at that time that the author could not find enough moral power to value his friend only because he belonged to a different cohort of students. This means that self-analysis and following rigorous morality while treating other people are good ways to confront prejudice.
Besides, prejudice may be confronted by ignoring people’s bias and by working out a new understanding of yourself, as implied by Judith Ortiz Cofer and Aliza Kimhachandra. Specifically, in her essay “Don’t Misread My Signals”, Cofer implies that the best way to confront prejudice is to learn to ignore it. Cortez comes to the conclusion that prejudice and stereotyped attitude can hardly be changed by changes in the victims of prejudice. At the beginning of the essay, the author bitterly states: “you can leave the island of Puerto Rico, master the English language, and travel as far as you can, but if you are Latina, especially one who clearly belongs to Rita Moreno gene pool, the island travels with you.” Ironically, prejudice and stereotypes do not have logical explanation. They appear to be inherent in people regardless of their social position or experience. Ortez describes some man, probably an executive, who treats her with bias at one metropolitan hotel. Although Ortez is wearing decent clothes, she is still met with an indecent song and an exclamation “Evita!” (Ortez).
Finally, one can learnt to deal with prejudice through developing a new understanding of oneself. The author of “Banana” describes herself as some hybrid – a mix of Asian and American heritage. She is equally capable of being both: both in the matter of thinking and acting. In the American society, which understands itself as a society of white people, it is important to be American. At the same time, the author would like to keep her Asian roots. Thus, she “began to act like both”, “a unique mixture of East and West” (Kimhachandra).
To conclude, prejudice may well be confronted by peaceful and non-violent protests by the oppressed, by an increase in cultural awareness through education of community members, and by careful self-analysis and guidance by moral principles of treatment of other people. It can also be handled by ignoring biased attitude or working out a new understanding of yourself. This has been evidenced by the works discussed above.