“In a land that should take great joy in the differences of its people — and in the knowledge that those differences are what makes us strong — we generally choose to fear diversity while wallowing in our own stupidity. For a country where so many believe in some sort of God, we seem, as a whole, to have more faith in our ignorance. We seem to find a shared comfort in our fear of those who don’t share our beliefs.” — Lewis Black in Oh Me of Little Faith
I couldn’t say that better myself. That’s why I chose to quote Mr. Black. He’s a brilliant comedian, the court jester type who holds a mirror for us to make us laugh at the truth and our discomfort about facing it. I recommend his books.
We have an atavistic fear of the different and unknown, and that fear might have been useful. (Atavistic means rooted in the prehistoric past.) Back in the paleo days, someone who looked or acted different probably belonged to a different tribe and might kill or rape you. Difference naturally became an excuse for hate.
Fast forward to today, and we still can’t drop the stupidity of applying paleolithic morality to modern life. We fear the unknown and different, fear morphs into hate, and we have the ridiculous situation Lewis Black describes.
And let’s not feel smug and left out of Mr. Black’s indictment. Note well his pronoun: we.
I once knew a high school vice-principal who had the courage to call himself a recovering racist. Those who attacked him acknowledging that speck in his eye were, of course, ignoring the splinters in their own. I wish we could say that every one of us, whatever our skin tone, were a recovering racist. Try saying you don’t have a racist bone in your body without lying. You can’t. Some of us have come a long way, but to have no prejudice of any kind may require another step in our evolution, if we don’t kill each other off first.
One of the holiest people I’ve met keeps saying that every one of us, without exception, is created in the image of God. Think about that. Think about that while you consider folks who disgust you or frighten you for any reason. That’s the image of God? Tough to wrap your mind around. I’ve been working on that idea for 20 years. All I can claim is, I’m making progress.
If each of us worked on that idea, imagine.
P.S. — If any of you is free of prejudice, please write a note in Comments. You’re a new form of human, and the world would like to hear from you.