The word prejudice is derived from the Latin noun praejudicium, which means “damage from a judgment or an opinion.”
Knowing the meaning of the word prejudice makes me uncomfortable just looking at. It’s an ugly word, not in the way it is spelled, or the way that it’s pronounced, but in what it connotes.
…damage from a judgment or opinion
“Damage” has its origins in the Latin noun damnum, which means “loss or harm resulting from injury to person, property, or reputation.
I’m not trying to give you a vocabulary lesson here…I am trying to “set the table” for today’s post, which is prejudice towards people.
Have you ever been the victim of prejudice? I have, though probably not to the same degree that many others have…
Many years ago, when I was seven or eight years old, I was riding in the car with my Dad. We were going to play Bingo in Bessemer, a suburb on the Western edge of Birmingham. It was nighttime, and as we were driving down the highway (this was before the Interstate system) I noticed a huge fire in the distance on the right hand side of the road.
As we got closer, I turned to my Dad with eyes that were as big as Silver Dollars, and asked “Dad, what’s that fire, and what are those people doing?” Dad took one look and slammed on the brakes, bringing our car to an immediate halt. Then he did a u-turn in the midst of traffic and sped off in the opposite direction! Sensing that my Dad was upset…seeing that he was upset, I again questioned him about what I had seen, but this time with a bit more urgency. His only reply was that “We’ll talk about it later.”
“Later” meant a couple of years later!
You may have already guessed it, but what I had seen was a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) rally, complete with the white hooded robes and the burning cross!
When I learned what it was, I was a bit confused. I had heard of the KKK, but I thought that they hated black people. I wasn’t black, and neither was my dad, so why was he in such a hurry to get out of there?
Okay, are you ready for this?
The majority of Italians that settled in Birmingham at the turn of the Twentieth Century opened small grocery stores in…you guessed it, black neighborhoods. In fact, most of them lived in small homes attached to their stores, as did my grandparents.
Now you’re gonna have a hard time wrapping your brain around this line of reasoning…
Before I continue, I have to tell you that I won’t give even the memory of those Klansmen the satisfaction of using the slang terms that they used in describing my ancestors and the black people here in Birmingham; Italians and People of Color will have to suffice.
So anyway, the KKK reasoned that since Italians lived in the black neighborhoods, and sold them food, well, they were no better than the blacks that they served! It turns out that many crosses were burned in the front yards of Italian homes during those times. What I had sensed in my Dad that night was fear for our safety. And that was the only time that I saw my Dad afraid in all the years that I knew him.
Years later, when I was in high school, I had a couple of doors slammed in my face by fathers who didn’t want their daughters dating an Italian.
And until the Bruno family opened a chain of supermarkets in Birmingham in the 60’s and 70’s that caught on like wildfire (giving Italians in business respectability), Italians were banned from joining the long established, upper crust country clubs in Birmingham.
Like I said, I’ve experienced some prejudice, but it pales in comparison to what others have had to endure.
So what causes prejudice in our country? What is it that instills not just discomfort, but dislike for, and in some cases, hate for another human being? I think the answer to these questions can be summed up with one word:
Yes, fear. Not fear of skin color. Or fear of a different language. Or fear of a different culture. Those are factors, because we have a tendency to be afraid of things that are “different.” But I don’t believe that’s the primary, underlying factor for prejudice.
It is this man’s humble opinion that prejudice in our country was born, quite simply, in the fear of not having enough! Think about for a minute…
When President Lincoln abolished slavery (thank God for that!) the slave owners were upset, but not just because they were losing free laborers, servants, and chambermaids! They were upset because those freed slaves were gonna get some of their land…and there may not be enough of it.
Look beyond the post Civil War/slavery years to the 19th and 20th Centuries, when there was a tremendous influx of immigrants coming to America from other countries. I mean no disrespect here, but if you weren’t a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, you were the victim of prejudice. The Italians, Irish, Germans, Poles, and Jews were all looked down on when they came to this country.
Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, it was still the Blacks that were the principal targets of prejudice. Beginning with the 70’s it was the Vietnamese, the Koreans, the Chinese, the Mexicans, and the Arabs (I may be a bit off in the order of appearance, and I may have omitted a couple of nationalities).
As each nationality got “rooted in” and took their place in our society, in the fabric of our country, they joined the ranks of the prejudiced.
Look, I know that in talking about immigrants, I may be touching on a sensitive area here. I want to make it clear that I am not talking about illegal immigrants; I’m talking about people who enter this country the right way and become citizens of the U.S., okay?
We worry about not having enough jobs, enough insurance, enough Social Security benefits, enough of whatever it is. Granted, I’m concerned about all of these things. After all, I have a wife, two married sons, and two grandchildren (so far). Don’t you think that I’m concerned about what the future holds for them?
I have two thoughts on this prejudice issue…
Every person on this earth is a child of God, one of his creations. They have as much a right to be on this earth as you do. So who are we to look down at any individual?
He answered: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all you mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself.” LUKE 10:27 (NIV)
In regards to that “having enough”? I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again and again: God has always provided me with everything that I need. And I believe that He will always provide me with what I need, even if I don’t think that I’ve got enough of it!
That’s part of our faith in Him, isn’t it? It’s that belief that He will always take care of His children. If you’ve been blessed by being a parent, can you imagine turning your back on your child? Why would you think that God would? He doesn’t see color or different cultures, and doesn’t hear different languages. He only sees the faces and hears the voices of His kids!
See you next Monday!
I was tempted to title this post “The Gift of The Holy Spirit II”, as it is a follow-up to the original post which was made on April 19, 2009. I changed my mind at the last minute, because until a few months ago, until the Holy Spirit took over, I was a reluctant leader, indeed…
I guess that at certain times of my life, better yet, for the majority of my life, I’ve been put in the position of being a leader. As an older brother, husband, father, and business owner, many have looked to me for leadership.
I don’t know exactly why that was the case…perhaps it was that, mentally, I was always older than my years. I think that I must have come out of my mother’s womb as an adult, because I can’t really remember the joy that should have come with being young. I don’t recall being just a kid, with no worries or cares. My family didn’t have a lot of money…didn’t have much money…okay, we were a couple of steps above being dirt poor when I was little, so I grew up at a young age. I had to grow up; there were no other options.
My early-age maturity set the table for people looking to me for leadership…for answers. By the time I was in my late teens and early twenties even my parents looked to me for guidance in some areas. And I must admit that I was flattered that people respected me enough to look to me for leadership.
I didn’t want to be a leader; didn’t want any part of it! You see, I didn’t think that I was qualified to lead anyone. In my mind, a “leader” is defined as someone who can steer, direct, or take people to where they want to go, where they need to go. A leader should have a vision for what lies ahead, for what is to be achieved. A leader should be committed to making that vision a reality. One more thought about a leader…it’s not necessarily about the leader’s vision being right or wrong…it’s about the act of stepping up to be a leader.
I didn’t have a vision for my own life, so how could I have a vision for someone else’s? How could I possibly be a leader for others when I had no sense of direction and no burning desire to achieve anything, because I didn’t know what I wanted to achieve. Besides, I really didn’t think that I was good enough, or worthy enough, to achieve much, but that’s a topic best saved for another day.
For all those years, I was a reluctant leader, especially in business, until…
One day; the day I got my tattoo, the day that I committed myself to being a soldier of Christ, the day that I was born again. On that day everything started to change. My perspective on life, on people, on myself, and most importantly, on God changed. God began working in me and through me to reach out to others. I formed a vision for our business and made a commitment to make that vision a reality. Let me clarify something: My vision, oddly enough, was not for our business, but for the people working for us. I was becoming a leader.
But something was still missing. I was becoming a leader, alright, but it was out of a sense of obligation to those around me, and not because it was something that was really in my heart.
To refresh your memory, and for you first time visitors, Catalyst was a men’s retreat sponsored by The Church of The Highlands that I attended in March of this year.
On the second day of Catalyst I signed up to take part in Discovery 301, a class in which the participant (that would be me) answers a few hundred multiple choice questions as a way of taking a look “inside.”
The first section of the questionnaire defined my personality traits. Without going into a lot of detail, I’ll tell you that my results showed that I was an I-C personality, which basically meant that while I was competent, cautious, inspiring, and influencing, I wasn’t really a strong leader. This came as a surprise to the moderator, Pastor Joshua Canizaro, who knew that I had been a business owner for many years. It came, of course, as no surprise to me; I knew that I was a reluctant leader, and told him as much.
The second section of the questionnaire helped to determine my spiritual gifts. No surprises there…my gifts, in descending order, were evangelism, faith, and encouraging others.
I walked away from Discovery emboldened by the fact the results had validated the Evangelism that had been growing inside of me, but a little disheartened that I seemed to lack leadership.
Later that night I took part in a Baptism of The Holy Spirit; that is took say that I asked to receive The Holy Spirit into my life. If you haven’t read the post that I referenced at the beginning of this one, I urge you to do so because it will give you some insight as to what I’m going to tell you next.
Fast forward one month…
Jackie (my wife) and I were participating in Growth Track, a series of four classes offered to newcomers at Highlands. The third class in the series was Discover 301 (yes, the same one that I had taken at Catalyst). I decided that I would not only accompany Jackie to the class, but answer the questions again; just to see if anything had changed. Prior to taking the “test” I cleared my mind as best I could and asked God to help me answer all the questions from my heart…
Okay, let me just get right to the point on this:
On the personality profile, my strongest traits were “D-I”, which meant that I was direct, decisive, inspiring, and influencing. In other words, I was a leader inspiring others.
My spiritual gifts were, in descending order, leadership, evangelism, and faith.
I sat there, stunned by the new results, but not really surprised. You see, since that night at Catalyst, I had felt the presence of The Holy Spirit growing in me! Whereas before I enjoyed sharing the gift of God with others, I now want to stand atop the highest mountain and shout His praises. Before, I would ask God to open doors for me…now I’ll run through walls for Him! There is nothing, nothing that I wouldn’t do for Him.
With regards to being a leader? Oh, I accept my role as a leader in our salon, and, and it is more of a joy than it has ever been. As far as my personal life is concerned, I believe that my role, my purpose of being, is to enlighten people about Christ and lead people to Him. And as I’ve told you before, I do this with a boldness that has taken many by surprise.
More than a suggestion…
In the original post I suggested that you might want to call on the Holy Spirit the next time that you’re in prayer. I’m rescinding that suggestion. Instead, I’m imploring you to ask to be filled with Him with all that is in you. And I don’t mean once; every time that you’re in prayer I want you to ask to receive Him. Without fail.
As a rule, I don’t like to make promises, because quite often they lead to the promisor failing to deliver and the promisee being disappointed. BUT, I’m going to promise you this:
You keep calling on the Holy Spirit to fill you, and I believe with all that is in me that He will do it. It may not be that day, or that week, or even that month…but it will happen. You will receive His comfort and strength, and in doing so you will be filled by a sense of peace unlike any you have ever known. And those attacks from Satan? (He does come after you, even if you don’t realize it.) I’m not gonna sit here and tell you that they’ll stop, but I am gonna tell you that with The Holy Spirit the odds of you kicking his butt increase exponentially!
How do I know that this will happen for you?
Because that’s the way our God is.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13 (NIV)
See you next Monday!