With Prejudice


With Prejudice

Project One

investigates the sometimes darker side of our feelings about each other

personally and in our society

Writers have been offered a range of topics to follow

a) your experience of prejudice against others

b) your own prejudice against others

c) prejudice exhibited against yourself

d) what skill, technique or method resolved it?

and to contribute a

400 to 450 word



With Prejudice

Elizabeth Hill

a) your experience of prejudice against others

My Mother was born in 1908, and until fairly late in her long life, had some out-dated attitudes toward racial and religious diversity. One day in the early fifties at age seven or eight, I was waiting with other kids in a supervised hospital lobby while Mom visited my brother in a ward upstairs. There, I played with girl about my age, and we both enjoyed our time together. When Mom returned, I asked her if the girl could come home with me to play. I was told ‘no’, and then quickly ushered out of the lobby. I asked why that wouldn’t be allowed. Her reply was ‘she is a Negro’ and ‘people are much happier when they stay among their own kind’. I argued and was really upset because this felt very wrong to me.

b) your own prejudice against others

For elementary school, my daughter Christina attended a private girls’ academy in an ‘old wealth’ section of Philadelphia. Though there was some ethnic diversity among the students, most were daughters of an exclusive country club social group. By fifth grade, the ‘club’ girls were making preparations for their upcoming cotillions. Chris didn’t fit in with this group, and asked to transfer to the local public school.

The first day at her new school was Parents’ Day. As I scanned the class of fifty-some students, I noticed that Chris and another girl were the only light-skinned pupils in the class. Feeling ashamed of myself and not wanting to make an issue of this, I asked Chris how she felt about her new class. She said, “I love it- this is where I want to be!”

c) prejudice exhibited against yourself

As a high school student in the mid sixties, I wanted to sign up for Wood Shop as an elective. However, only the boys were allowed in that class. The only choice on offer for females was sewing. Even though I’d been sewing for years under my mother’s tutelage, I was required to take the class. Later in life I became a sculptor, where finally I was able to create in a wood shop.

d) what skill, technique or method resolves it?

Personally, I don’t think there is any one certain resolution method, because each situation is unique. That said, it is vitally important to communicate with other people, especially those who do not share my views. By really listening to other’s stories with an open-heart and without judgment, I find I can understand that person better. Often, in this process, each person can identify an issue, attitude, or life experience they may share in common, or with which both can identify. This can sometimes open a door for empathy, better understanding, and improved dialogue for all involved.

Flesh of My Flesh:  Reflections on Prejudice & Love

Shanta Lee Gander

I’ve often asked myself if my choice of life partners is linked to some form of internalized racism.  In between marriages, a friend once asked, “Have you tried the dating site Black Planet?  You tried a White man, but you know how that went!”   Is my choice of partner and other life choices linked to some indication that I am out of touch with a true love and acceptance of my own racial group?

Throughout my experiences in public school in Hartford, CT I faced constant ridicule.  “You talk [or act] white” or “You are just a tanned white girl.” My mother often called me an “Uncle Tom” and used racial slurs to illustrate that I was outside of the black norm.  In my mid-twenties, my boyfriend often stated that I was better suited for a white man because I was “so white.”

One of the first boys I tried to kiss at seven years old had blonde hair and blue eyes.  My first kindergarten crush was a Puerto Rican boy named James.   In many ways, I never thought that my choice of a partner had to match my skin color.  In fact, I extended coloring outside of the lines to everything including my style of music to my fantasy wardrobe (Victorian please).  Does this qualify me as being white washed?

Most of my husbands have been white.  I know how to make my husband’s Italian grandmother’s meatballs.  I often make jokes about how I can out –WASP him on any given day (speaking to his mix of WASP and Italian ancestry).  My second and current husbands added more knowledge of my own culture than any of the boyfriends of color that I’ve had.  A White ex-boyfriend once lectured me about my hair exclaiming, “I prefer your hair natural without all of that extra shit.”  He was referring to my choice of adding extra hair to give length.

Brown skin bears a double sword.  Those outside of the group and within the group always have something to say about how one exhibits their blackness.  One decision will leave you representing commonality to one group while attempting legitimacy in another.  I’ve built an extensive collection of rock music alongside spending hours unearthing nuggets of black history.

Am I allowed to have preferences or does choice become something else due to complexities of race in America?  

Though society will tell me otherwise, I refuse to say that my skin dictates the type of photographs I take, books I read, dance I study, poetry I pen, pieces I write, or who I choose to love.

Finding America

Vincent Panella

            You grow up with prejudice, but that doesn’t mean you practice it. My Queens neighborhood was predominantly Irish and Jewish with an overlay of Italians. On Wednesday afternoon school was let out for religious instructions. The Jewish kids went to synagogue, the Catholics to St. Joan’s church. Stereotypes abounded and slurs were in the air, the Irish as drunks, the Jews as crafty, the Italians as gangsters. And yet so few people acted on the stereotypes despite the slogans and aspersions: Guns for the Arabs, sneakers for the Jews! Mick! Greaseball! much in jest but with that underlay of prejudice we can’t deny. In the public schools where we learned together there was rarely any ugliness, and yet as I say this, am I getting to the core, to the bottom? One day I walked into a store on Lexington Avenue wearing a suit and tie. A woman came up to me and said, “So how’s the Mafia today?” It hurt then, but am I such an angel? Do I secretly harbor those slurs and stereotypes from childhood conditioning? Do I measure each new person by that ethnic yardstick, or as I grow older and a little wiser do I ask how they don’t fit the mold. There’s still that residue of prejudice.

            Ethnicity is our history, written about by each generation as they saw what was going on around them: James T. Farrell, Henry Roth, Pietro DiDonato, Richard Wright, Sherman Alexie, and now the Asian-Americans. The American story is an ethnic story, and the going was rougher for some than others. When one of our my sisters married a black man the reaction of my father and his Italian cadre was shameful, but they soon came around and welcomed a new member of the family. Why was that? Because they were immigrants too. I’m in the process of composing an email to some cousins in Sicily who want to know what I think about Trump. When I previously called him a Mussolini they weren’t so sure. Overwhelmed by refugees from North Africa, their city of Palermo has neither space nor money nor jobs. They want the refugees gone. When I answer their e mail I will explain that here in America we do have space, we can make space, those who come now will be no different than those who came before – those who made us stronger, more interesting, more daring as we learn to live with each other. There’s no backing away from that.

A Negro from Peekskill

Offie C. Wortham

  I was raised as a Negro in Peekskill, NY, which was around 80% white. To me, prejudice is a negative pre-conceived opinion, attitude or feeling toward any person or group perceived as being different from themselves. I have lived in many cities all over the United States, but I have not experienced an extensive amount of prejudice displayed against other ethnic, religious, or racial groups.

I do not have a strong prejudice against many people. However, I do not like being around people who hurt others because of their religion, ethnicity, gender, race, nationality, or who preach hatred. I try to avoid such people, whom I call racists and bigots, and I have carefully chosen to live in communities where there was a minimum of prejudice in the schools, and among neighbors.

Again, I have had very few experiences where I felt an individual, group, organization or religious institution was prejudiced against me because of my ethnicity, race, gender or nationality. When this did happen my method of handling any kind of prejudice or discrimination from anyone was to ignore them, or out-perform them. Some people who are subjected to prejudice and discrimination quickly become angry and frustrated. I never become angry, because I have the confidence to know that I am usually more intelligent and experienced than any person or group that thinks I am inferior or unqualified. Too many people are quick to resort to anger, violence or even depression when faced with racism or bigotry because they do not have a strong positive image of themselves and their abilities.

One thing that I like to do when I am in a confrontation or dialogue with someone who is prejudiced is to have a long and rational discussion with them. I keep quiet and let them vent why they are prejudiced. I calmly ask if their parents or guardians shared the same attitudes. Usually they will admit that they did. Ask them what kinds of beliefs they might have if they had been raised by a Buddhist monk, or a Quaker family, or in the home of college professors who taught Anthropology? Let them know that you are not mad at them, or afraid, or that their views and opinions are something that is unworthy of consideration. In this way I have found that it might not be too difficult to have a person not only come to like you, but begin to understand that they might be wrong about their attitudes, feelings and beliefs about many other individuals, organizations.