Men and women of color in the United States were dealt a terrible hand early in our country’s history, and have had to cope with the slow fade of racism in the social, political and commercial fabric of our nation. The recent Martin-Zimmerman case, for instance, highlights the fact that young black men are often treated with suspicion, regardless of their actual intentions.
As a white Anglo-Saxon protestant, I was born into a group of people long judged as and criticized for being aggressive, powerful and arrogant. I suppose you could say that the prejudice I faced growing up related more to privilege than to disadvantage. The suspicion I was under, as strange as it sounds, was that I would do anything within my power to keep what I had (as opposed to taking what wasn’t mine).
Now it might be argued that one class of prejudice is preferable to another, but to my mind, prejudice is prejudice. Hatred and intolerance on the one hand, and jealousy and resentment on the other are the tinder of prejudice. They are inflammatory, and regardless if well-earned, grievous and unjustified.
Having been the occasional target of hatred, intolerance, jealousy and resentment in recent years for my professional success and for my religious beliefs, I have come to better understand the plight of those persecuted by the more stinging shades of prejudice. I’ve learned that facing suspicion makes everything harder, but also that the only way forward is to continue to reveal the truth of who you are, what you represent and what you believe to be right and true. Moreover, I’ve come to realize that those who rally against the truth of you, the truth in you, unwittingly make you stronger.
Frederic Douglass, an amazing man who remained faithful to the call of love and truth throughout his life in the early 1800s, once said in an address delivered in Cork, Ireland in 1845: “Tyrants have ever justified their tyranny by arguing on the inferiority of their victims.” This encapsulates the modus operandi of anyone who has ever treated another with prejudice of any kind. It was as true of those who endorsed slavery at any point in human history as it was in the hearts of those who persecuted others for religious reasons.
So rather than dwelling on or struggling with the accusations, mischaracterizations and flat-out lies about my family, friends, beliefs, habits and me personally, I have sought to continue to focus on the opportunities at hand: the openings for the expression and expansion of excellence, inspiration and refinement. This is the core essence of what I do at home, at work and in the community in which I am honored to live.
As a student of history, I have observed that requiting the crimes of hatred, intolerance, jealousy or resentment with anything less than truth and love is ultimately self-destructive. Though they are frequently issued, these ill spirits must not be received and reciprocated. It doesn’t take a history degree to see that quid pro quo in this sphere of living marks the beginning of the end of dignity and integrity, even in the lives of the well-meaning.
My all-consuming purpose is to be a blessing while I am privileged to live on this unbelievably beautiful and forgiving earth. I would argue that such is your purpose too. You may and in fact should clothe it differently, for no two men or women are truly alike. Your purpose, dear readers, is not to make a living, better yourself or raise a family, rather, it is to manifest the manifold shades of love and truth through your every thought, word and deed.
When you see it this way and relax deeply into the recognition of your true purpose, you quickly see that there is simply no time for anything less. Let there be no distraction – privilege or disadvantage – which keeps you from being who you are and doing what you are here to do.