Don’t you just cringe when somebody starts a conversation with the phrase, “I am not prejudiced but…”? You know that the next comments are usually ones of prejudice. Now in the face of fast changing demographics, diversity and moving minorities in our society and associations, it is really important that association leaders deal with themselves and this issue. Our memberships may have historically been predominantly white, middle class and male, but today our committee meetings look and sound like the United Nations.
I have a secret and so do you…we are all prejudiced. Yep, everybody is, white, black, brown, rich, poor, rural, urban, everybody. It is the way we were created. Our amazing brains take in tons of input and in an effort to categorize and deal with all that data, we make assumptions. Those assumptions are the “glasses” we view life through, but hope is not lost. I have two tricks to help me be careful with and deal with my prejudice: own it and question it.
I am prejudiced when….
- A presidential vote determines my opinion of others.
- The phrase “all men or women or poor or rich are like or think like…” regularly occurs in conversation.
- I don’t consider, really consider, another opinion.
- Only one source is used for information or news.
- I don’t reach out and invite and engage the new person(s) or one(s) I don’t know or hang out with that often.
- I only know my holidays, food preferences or personal needs.
- I ignore the content of character.
- Assumption is considered the same as asking.
- I talk more than listen.
- I don’t really look at the beggar, the addicted, the poor, the disabled.
- I don’t seek to understand the reason for a head scarf or Passover or prayer or party affiliation.
- I don’t share kindly my own beliefs and don’t’ ask “why” I believe what I do.
- Democrats or Republicans are always right or always wrong.
- Dialogue disappears.
As our associations grow and reflect changing culture, we as leaders will need to deal more with the “soup” of prejudices our members, volunteers and staff bring to our work or society. Owning and questioning prejudice will foster understanding and diversity. Something we can have a little more of today.