Prejudice: it’s a heart issue, not a skin issue

I love learning about other people, and there is insatiable desire within me to learn about other cultures.

I’m an intercultural studies minor. I wish I would have been a major, but I made a decision too late in the game. This article isn’t about career choices though; it’s about what I’ve learned about people.

We all have a past, a history, a collective society that we have grown up in.  I’ve grown up in rural Indiana my entire life, and what I have learned is that we all have prejudices. I do not think we can escape things like prejudices. I am not talking about prejudices in color, but in actions, in preferences, in saying we are better than others.

Living in Northeast Indiana in a small agricultural community, I have not had much integration with other cultures; yet, I have grown up in two different cultures during my life thus far. There is my shared experiences with my mostly white community from LaGrange, Ind., and my shared experiences with my very, very large, extended Amish family. What I’ve learned growing up in these communities is : there is a large need for reconciliation – among everyone.

There are prejudices and there are ignorant people. And then there are people who are raised with the wrong ideals. We need to learn to forgive them and to educate them. And to pray for them.

I am sad to say that among my extended family I have seen discrimination, mainly towards those who are not like them. I have heard things said I am too embarrassed to share, but I know that God is merciful.

Yet, I have also seen discrimination towards those within “their own community” who do not live up to a man-made standard.

Case in point: my father’s family was ostracized by those within his own Amish community because my grandfather chose to farm ducks, while the “normal” thing to do was not to farm ducks.

It might seem like something trivial to raise ducks to make a living, but my father shared honestly about not being accepted by those who were part of his church and how it affected his family.

This is the problem: we all have sad prejudices. We judge people, and we say the way they do things is wrong.  If they are different from us, we have a problem. We box ourselves in our special groups.

I am so thankful that God doesn’t look at us in terms of impossible standards. He doesn’t judge us on our skin color, our language, or our nationality. He doesn’t judge us on our occupation, our sports preferences,  or the ability to conform to a group’s impossible standards.

He sees humanity. He sees our sinfulness.

Living in the cusp of these two communities, I have realized there is no perfect culture and no perfect community. I have learned that within in each we choose to “judge” and say what is good. If people do not live up to our standards we ostracize them, ignore them, or determine them to be “strange.”

This is not a skin color issue. It’s a human issue. We  set up man’s standards when we need to live by God’s standards. We choose to join these boxed-in groups because it’s comfortable. But is comfortable what is right?

We need to get outside of our own experiences. We need to quit making excuses for ourselves. We need to quit treating people without respect and get to know the heart of people.

Reconciliaton among people will only happen if people humble themselves and recognize that all of  us are made in the image of God. That’s all of us: black, white, gay, short, tall, wide, thin, basketball players, book lovers, video gamers, bikers, film critics, runners, soccer players, men, women, hipsters, writers, coffee lovers, academics, farmers, and country music lovers.

Let us love because He first loved us.

Story by Octavia Lehman | Editor in Chief | lehmanoj@grace.edu