Parking cars taught me about prejudice. I was judged based on prejudices about people who looked like me and worked like me. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we need to learn to judge people based on the content of their character, not the way they look or the way they work. We need to do for others what we would like them to do for us. (Matthew 7:12). We need to hold the elevator-to-success open for everyone.
Parking cars at an art show taught me what it’s like to suffer from prejudices.
When I was in my mid-20s, I was a freshly minted attorney working at the largest law firm in Rochester, New York. In those days, the “dress code” for the 100+ attorneys required expensive suits, silk ties, and leather brief cases.
I often carried a brown bag lunch in my leather brief case, turning it into a very expensive lunch box. But no matter.
No one saw what I carried in my brief case. Presumably, they assumed I carried high-powered documents matching my high-powered facade!
I took for granted the way everyone held the elevator for me, smiled at me, and laughed at all my jokes.
The law firm was a strong supporter of Rochester’s art museum. This included having many attorneys volunteer for its annual “clothesline” art festival.
I volunteered to help by directing people where to park their cars on a grassy field. As you can imagine, most of these cars were upscale luxury brands. And the people riding in them wore upscale luxury clothing.
To my dismay, virtually everyone was nasty to me. Not only did they fail to greet me with a cheery smile. At best, they ignored me. Usually, they glared at me. At worst, they cursed me!
I didn’t feel like telling jokes. And, if I had told a joke, no one would have laughed.
What was I doing wrong? I couldn’t imagine what I was doing that irritated these people so much.
Then, a light went off.
My clothes! I was wearing blue jeans and a shirt for a blue collar worker.
My job! I was performing a menial job—one that usually would be performed by someone making minimum wage.
I realized that this was how it felt to be a victim of prejudices.
It had nothing to do with who I really was.
It had everything to do with people’s preconceptions—their prejudices against people who looked like me and did jobs like mine.
I should emphasize that these prejudices had nothing to do with my race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or socio-economic class. I’m a straight white male graduate of Harvard Law School where I was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.
I’m the elite of the elite! The privileged of the privileged!
None of this mattered. Not when I was judged based on the prejudices against people who looked like me and worked like me.
To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we need to learn to judge people based on the content of their character, not the way they look or the way they work.
We need to do for others what we would like them to do for us. (Matthew 7:12).
We need to hold the elevator-to-success open for everyone.
We need to smile at everyone.
We need to laugh at everyone’s jokes!
To learn how hard it is to overcome prejudices, please read my blog “The 500-Year Marathon To Overcome Racism”.
To learn how racism is contrary to the ideals of America, please read my blog “Racism Is America Gone Astray”.
To learn how nationalism is contrary to the ideals of patriotism, please read my blog “Nationalism Is Patriotism Gone Astray”.
To learn how the ideals of America are about blessing ALL people, letting ALL people be free, and helping ALL hurting people, please read my blog “It’s All About People”.
To learn about establishing justice, please read my blogs “Establishing Justice: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance”, “Establishing Justice: Denial and Anger—Elijah”, “Establishing Justice: Bargaining—Elijah”, “Establishing Justice: Depression and Acceptance—Elijah”, and “Establishing Justice: Overcoming Denial—Elisha”.