Prejudice in the United States

So now that I’ve made you uneasy with the title of my article this week, let’s explore this topic as rational adults. Prejudice exists in the United States; it exists in the world. It has always existed; and while we have made some progress from decades ago, we have taken a big step backward. The question is: do we care enough to work to change it? The answer must be “yes”.

We see prejudice often, now more than in recent memory, as televised incidents of white supremacists (a “gentler” word for racists) marching on college campuses with torches and signs supporting white supremacy while shouting negative phrases and comments about Blacks, Jews, Hispanics, Muslims, Gays or other particular groups of people. We see it in the news as people attack each other in the streets, sometimes in mobs. We see it in reports of excessive force used against a segment of the population while others are treated with more dignity. We see it in politics as some work to pass laws that keep minorities from voting, gays from marrying and Muslims from entering the country. We see it in the increasing acts of destruction or vandalism against Synagogues and Mosques in the U.S. It is a part of our divided country and will become a sad part of our American history.

While we all can admit that we have our biases, I believe that the vast majority of us do not try to be prejudice against others. The vast majority of police work to treat all people fairly. The vast majority of the community want people to live together in peace. So then, what is happening?

It seems to me that there are two major factors that are fostering such a resurgence in prejudice. First, the white majority in our country is shrinking. Within the next decade or so whites will not be the majority. That is, America will be a much more diverse population with no one race as the majority.

For some, that poses a threat to power and authority, and they are not going down without a fight. The other very powerful reason is the tone that has been set, intentionally or unintentionally, by President Trump. It seems as though our president has a tendency to say things about people: Hispanics, immigrants, Muslims, etc. that some of our fellow citizens translate into permission to be blatantly and violently racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim or some other negative actions.

To fight prejudice we must educate our people. At Fulton-Montgomery Community College we educate people from all around the world. On our campus students can meet people of other races, religions, sexual orientations, sexual identities, etc. and begin to understand people from various backgrounds. Students learn about the world. We talk about biases and prejudice. We explore other cultures. And, we talk about how we can live together. We discuss diversity and inclusion as a part of an important aspect of U.S. history and culture. We cannot allow our country to become a place of divide, of racism, of sexism, of hate. We must come together as a people and search for ways to create a better society that offers opportunity for everyone to live and succeed in our communities. We must act like civilized humans beings.

Dustin Swanger is the president of Fulton-Montgomery Community College.