Monday, April 1, 2013

Of Prejudice and Ignorance

Fact: Autism is the fastest growing disability in the United States

The Oxford English Dictionary defines 'prejudice' as: dislike, hostility, or unjust behaviour deriving from preconceived and unfounded opinions.

There's a small town in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, about halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. The town was established in the 1920s, but there had been people living there long before, descendants of the Hohokam. The Hohokam had carved canals into the rock-hard caliche to divert the life-giving water of the Gila River, they grew cotton, they grew their own food, their civilisation flourished. However, the arrival of Manifest Destiny in the mid 19th century drove the indians onto reservations. Europeans settled in the area, fought off Apache raids and, diverted the Gila River and eventually dammed it. As a consequence, people starved, the Akimel O'odham--the People of the River, lost their lifeline, part of their cultural lifeblood. 

There are two communities. The town that was thrown up after the damming of the river, the one whose economy thrived on cotton and there's the reservation. There's only a mile or so of desert separating them, but the gap is so much bigger. The elementary schools still teach kids that Columbus discovered America, in spite of the fact that evidence of the original inhabitants' presence stands at the north end of town. People still think that tribe members do nothing more than sit in their free houses and collect their share of the revenue from the reservation's casinos. It's not just a local thing, though. That's the problem. In spite of cultural leaps forward like, the very corny, 'Dances with Wolves', reservations still exist. Prejudices still flourish. Injustices still happen. 

I find it sad that, in this day and age, some lessons are never learnt. That prejudices which grew partly out of ignorance and partly out of 19th century government policy, still remain. I know it's not something that's limited to one country, it's a worldwide thing. There are displaced people everywhere, separated from 'society' by ignorance and prejudice.  It's a fairly lofty wish, but it would be nice to think that one day, we can put aside one of the bad aspects of human nature, and sweep our prejudices aside. 

So, what experience do you have of prejudice as a result of cultural differences? Leave a comment below along with an email address and you could win a signed print copy of either 'Stolen Summer' or 'Lord of Endersley', both of which involve cultural misunderstandings and differences in one form of another. 

And don't forget to visit RJ Scott's blog to find links to all the other bloggers taking part in this month-long Autism Blog hop--a series of posts revolving around prejudice.


  1. hi s a

    for me it's not so much 'cultural difference' but more having learning disabilities and finding a certain amount of prejudice in regards to what that means and the fact many equate learning disabilities with say retardation. trust me i know that is quite a stretch but yeah when growing up many assumed that and it still stings even today

  2. Nah, Laurie, it's not a stretch at all. It's one of our flaws, that we're prejudiced against people or circumstances we don't understand, or make an effort to understand. If people could just look beyond the disability or the disadvantage, then they'd find that we're all as human as each other.

  3. Apparently, even in the 21st century, all Black people grew up poor, are from broken homes, and can only get into so-called mainstream schools or jobs due to "special programs". As I told my grad school cohort, I got into this program because my GRE was higher than yours, my application essay was better, and I'm smarter than you. And all my friends are just like me, not the self serving stereotypes you've created. I know white privilege greases your wheel, but I'm not going to make it any easier for you than it already is. Sorry. Don't start none, won't be none. They stopped with the prejudiced remarks fairly soon. I just wanted to take classes like everyone else!
    brendurbanist at gmail dot com

  4. When RJ told all the blog contributors that the topic of the blog hop was prejudice, I had thought about recounting something that had happened to me not long after I moved to Arizona. I'd gone to a restaurant with a colleague, who happened to be Black. I don't think it was my imagination, but I'm pretty sure that the room went quiet for a few minutes when we walked in together and sat down. It astonishes me that, in this day and age, in spite of everything the Civil Rights movement accomplished, that there are still people out there who can't feel comfortable with people of different races and think there's something not right about a white woman and a Black man having lunch together. The little incident knocked me for six.

  5. I live in a very culturally diverse town, which is good in a lot of ways, but there are definitely a lot of assumptions made by certain people on all sides. It seems that no matter how you grow up, you have to fight preconceived notions about yourself or people you know, just because of your race/gender/orientation...


  6. Thanks so much for your post. Prejudice is seen in so many ways all over the world. This hop is important to many groups.
    OceanAkers @

  7. And the handy random number generator came up with the number '1'
    So the winner of the signed book is Laurie! I'll be contacting you right now!


  8. Hey Sue, that's an emotional read. It's hard to imagine how it must have been - and still is - for the people experiencing such a cultural divide. You'd think that in 2013 there would be no more prejudice and no more barriers to peace but sadly that's not the case. All we can do is try to build bridges and knock down fences together to make some differences, however small. :-)