July 11, 2012

Public forum

Prejudice still alive and well

The Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida and the subsequent public discourse proved prejudice alive and well. Mention the influx of immigrants into our communities, and the conversation is likely to incite a racial epithet or two. All Muslims are labeled terrorists, and the gay community conspires to unravel the nation’s moral fabric.

Even our president is a target of bias. During the 2008 campaign, his political opponents wisely avoided the race issue, but among the general population, there was less restraint in calling the kettle black. Accusations of Obama’s socialist agenda, religious affiliation and birthright are all a smoke screen for what truly goads his opposition: The color of his skin.

Some in our society are nurturing a dangerous superiority complex, and the psychosis is infecting our children. Not all bullying is racially motivated, but it stems from the same mindset. How could anyone be so cruel as to drive another human being to such psychological distress that suicide is the remedy? What deranged individuals share on Facebook classmates they would like to kill? Such thoughts are not inherent; they are learned. Call it genocide of the mind, but it is no less disturbing than Hitler’s camps, ethnic cleansing in Africa or Jihad. Some of the most virulent critics of others proudly proclaim their Christian heritage while conveniently forgetting no man is better than another in God’s eyes.

I am not innocent of prejudicial thoughts or a racial slur in a moment of passion, but my conscience is quick to condemn. When our self-righteousness, pride or narcissism speak boldly for us, we surely have strangled the voice of conscience, and a darkness in our own souls becomes a badge of honor.

Our immigration laws may need revision, but a lack of enforcement will render them meaningless. We tend to throw the blame on “them,” but it is not the fault of anyone seeking a better life. It’s an honor to know a multicultural world still considers our country a land of opportunity.

Prejudice is nothing new. Every war ever fought was stained with it; our Declaration of Independence was compromised by it. Ethnic enclaves have felt its stinging rebuke. But our times are crying out for those “better angels of our nature.”

Jeffery W. Wiseley, Star City