Stigmatization and Prejudice

Optimism for the Present and Future

When I was in middle school, I distinctly remember asking my mother if one of my good friends could come over and play. She asked who, and I told her his name. She said yes. I added, “He’s black, is that okay?” She said, “Of course, that doesn’t matter. Why should that matter?” At that young age, I’m sure I just didn’t want her to be surprised. All my neighbors were white. Most of my classmates were white. Abram was black.

I’ve always been fascinated by that short, concise childhood dialog. I think it laid the foundation for my thoughts on race, religion, and ethnicity. I applied it toward my view on Puerto Rican relatives, European relatives, Catholic relatives, Jewish relatives. It was quite the mixture growing up. By high school, I had experienced heavy diversity with white, black, and hispanic student populations. It was normal. It was commonplace.

Fast forward to today, when the internet, TV, and the ‘kids today’ openly discuss and get exposed to the variations the world’s population has. In one way or another, they interact with heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transgender, monogamous, polygamist, and whatever other populations are out there now or developing.

A few days ago, I asked my daughter if there were any groups of people that create confusion or ‘judgement’ — and she exposed me to a new term. Trans-age. Apparently, that’s a thing. I’m sure I’m behind on the latest, despite my attempts to follow discussions with online Xbox players. These days, I’m the old guy.

After watching a show on polygamy, I tested both my kids and asked them what would think if mommy and daddy got a girlfriend. They were fine with it as long as mommy was on board and it wasn’t a secret. Not a bad answer.

When I went to a marijuana doctor in 2018, I told the kids I was going. I felt weirder than them. They merely asked, “That’s a thing?” After I confirmed and showed them the pamphlet, they just had a, “Well, whaddaya know” nonchalant attitude.

For his junior and senior years in high school, my son was close friends with many Asian kids who were also in his advanced curriculum. It was interesting to hear the dialogue they had with each other. If there were two kids named Roger, one may be called yellow Roger and the other black Roger. I have no clue how those Rogers felt about their distinctions. The boys were very close. The camaraderie was strong. I was proud of my kids, and I was proud of the other kids, along with the parents that raised them to at least act right in someone else’s home.

There’s not much that seems to surprise my kids and throw them off-kilter when it comes to different people and cultures. I’m optimistic that as they continue to grow into adulthood, they’ll challenge divisive talk and prejudgment. With so much fear, uncertainty and doubt that can quickly spread online, I’m hopeful they’ll take a moment to acknowledge differences and also recognize similarities among us humans.