Society embodies it and it’s hurting others. Prejudice rolls around in the back of minds and inadvertently surfaces through the boughs of race, class, general appearance or sexual orientation. The people affected are not immune to the animosity and these interactions can eat away at self-esteem.
This behavior appears to be part of the general human interaction, a fail-safe of survival of sorts. Naturally, there is an unspoken competition between people, so its common to look for a reason to cut the next person down. Eliminating someone out of the ‘desirable’ group temporarily feeds egos and is mainly derived from misrepresentation. A lot of prejudice is also built on the premise of reserving resources for certain groups. It is so ingrained in the culture that the response is automatic.
Prejudice is run of the mill; we can harbor questionable feelings about people and go on about our day. However, some have visceral reactions to others that they presume to be unworthy. Whether it be snickering at a gay couple holding hands down the street, becoming hyper-aware of your valuables when a person of color enters your space, mocking an overweight person’s body or yelling obscenities at the homeless. These lapses in judgment affect people. The projection of negative feelings onto another’s psyche is draining.
The receiver is now instantly confronted and it feeds lingering insecurity. Marginalized people are aware of their proposed role and in turn, society makes no mistake in reminding people of their perceived shortcomings. To encounter someone who acts on these feelings every day is just reinforcing the notion that they are different—less than. The constant need to prepare to defend your very existence is dehumanizing.
The worst cases go beyond indecent manners and lend themselves to outright discrimination. Discrimination carries lengthy institutional and economic repercussions; essentially trapping generations of groups in poverty or without respectable civil liberties.
Navigating life is tough enough without the added headache of baseless opinions. Harboring the strength to get up every day and go out into the world knowing that this is inevitable, is no small feat. Some have no choice but to internalize the opinions that cloud every aspect of their lives, no matter how small it may be. The joke about a cultural name, disability or body modification recycles. The unfortunate are doomed to live through the lens of the opinions that target them; falling victim to its normality.
Little actions taken every day to appreciate the differences in others can trigger better responses. Taking a second thought to really evaluate the benefits of being insensitive can save the undue agony of a harmless individual.