Prejudice, The Worlds Dirtiest Word.

“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action” Johann Von Goethe.                      There are words that we hear everyday that can make or break our day. Make it satisfactory or, make it start horribly. A smile from someone makes us feel great, a stark stare can make us uneasy. A touch or handshake of friendship goes wonders. We all have heard the most profane words used by people today that will offend us, but, there is NO word with more feeling attached than the word prejudice. We see it all the time. From immigrants coming to our land to escape the valueless countries they flee from.  African Americans unjustly shot at or incarcerated, unjustly marked in a society that marks people for their color or what people may think of them. Prejudice without question is a matter that has no beginning , center, or end. It revolves it’s terrible head throughout history. From Jewish persecution from the biblical times, to the Holocaust and even later. The “Jim Crow” harsh reality of the Southern states , lynchings, torture, beatings, you name it have all been the ingredient of the word prejudice.                                                          I remember my own history growing up living in various parts of the country as my father was a naval commander. While living in Virginia as a ten year old, my friends and I were walking back to our homes with our black friend “Little Jean” who lived in the black section across the railroad tracks.  As we were talking, a station wagon with three men cruised near us and slowed down. The man on the passenger side said , ‘What are you boys doing”? We said we were going home, he then asked ,”what’s that “niggra” doing with you”? I told him he was my friend Little Jean. With that he told Jean that he belonged on the other side of the tracks and told him to get going. I remember he said, “Get your black ass back over past those tracks boy. you don’t belong here. Little Jean took off like a rabbit, then the man said, you boys need to find new friends, they don’t belong here. With that he said, You tell your mama’s that the Klan are watching and will be out tonight”. With that when I told my mother about what had happened, she was furious. Later that night, We heard and saw the KKK in full dress in the woods. It was my first introduction to prejudice. One I will never forget.                                                                When I was a bit older, My cousin and I were staying at my aunt’s house in South Jersey when we saw a black man get off the bus. He was built like an NFL linebacker, very stoic looking. We both agreed to call him the “N” word and my cousin with my approval. yelled that to him from about two hundred yards away. He turned and ran toward us  with the speed of a sprinter. I was paralyzed with fear and when he caught up with us gave us a terrible tongue lashing. Later that night as my father was home on leave, he asked me at the dinner table what I did today. I proudly said that Mark and I called a black man the “N” word. There are things in your life that are firmly ensconced in your brain that you never forget. I remember my father who NEVER said a bad word about anyone, dropped his fork on the plate and said,”What did you just say”? When I told him again what we did, he looked at me with an unforgettable look and said, “If I ever hear you call anyone a name like that, I will wrap your tongue around your neck. He went on to say, there is enough hate and prejudice in the world without you adding to it. So tomorrow, you will go to the bus stop and sincerely apologize to that man for what you did. He went on to say that one fist pointed toward someone, will get you a fist back! With that, I had nightmares about meeting this man again and when the next day came, my father said nothing and later in the day he came to the ball field where I was playing baseball with my friends. He told me it was time to go to the bus stop so, in fear I managed to go. When the bus stopped my heart pounded with fear as I saw the riders get off the bus one by one. Suddenly, the bus door closed, but the man I needed to apologize to wasn’t there. I felt a sigh of relief as the bus rolled on, only to stop a short distance later. Out came by fear, the man we insulted and he started to walk toward me I was shaking. My father said, “Is that the man?” I said yes and he said you know what to do. As I approached him fear permeated every cell in my countenance. I mumbled out the words as to how I felt and what I had done to him the day before. He looked puzzled, then I assume he remembered and as I told him I was sorry, he patted me on the head and said, “That’s very nice boy, it shows that you are raised right”. I saw him nod to my father as he must have figured out what we were up to and then as suddenly as he appeared he left.                                                                                                                                     You see the moral and point of all this is that we are  all somehow guilty of the crime of prejudice. It is up to parents to INSTILL the proper discipline to teach their children and correct them toward the value of people. We must all learn hopefully from our parents just like we learn to tie our shoes, get dressed, take a bath and, do what’s right.Prejudice is  part of us, it is the job and the obligation for all of us as parents to set the table of decency and show our kids that we are all equal. None of us better than the other. Had it not been for the harsh manner of my father, my prejudice may have grown into an ugly uncontrollable cancer that would not know a cure. I’ve learned my lesson, let’s hope others will as well so we can eliminate this ugly word from our minds. Thanks for reading. John.

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