Ignorance Perpetuates Prejudice

crow

crow (Photo credit: crowdive)

There’s so much outrage these days. Something has stirred up our emotions and I’m at a loss to find one single cause. The overall theme of this simmering pot is misunderstanding with a big helping of mistrust on top. The visible combatants, via our sensationlizing media, in these divisions are claiming the ability to divine the intent of anyone who has a differing opinion. The core element to the outrage seems to be a misguided philosophy that assumes, those who differ, do so from a purely mean-spirited inspiration.

I’d like to offer a true story that helped me to realize that most prejudice comes from ignorance not an evil agenda.
A few years ago, I witnessed one of Nature’s violent “goings on”. I was alerted to a “bird battle” in my back yard by dozens of squawking crows. As I watched the commotion, there was a flailing of wings and seeming screams coming from a gang of large birds on my lawn. One red-tailed hawk emerged from that pile, and flew off, followed by more crows than I could count. My curiosity brought me straight to the, now abandoned, crime scene to discover three dead fledglings on the ground. My human heart was saddened but I returned to my daily routine.
A few hours later, my neighbor had taken up the task of burying the victims and joined me at my doorstep with his tale of the tragedy .
Before I tell you about his understanding of the bird “murders”, I’d like to point out that most people have a small knowledge of birds, and Nature in general. In fact, until my curiosity of natural things had awakened, I was among those folks who could identify only Robins, Crows, Blue Jays and the, occasional, Cardinal. These birds are of the highly visible type that most people come to know. With that commonness , there also comes wide-spread folk-lore about them. Blue Jays are brash and bossy, Robins are sweet, Cardinals are special and Crows are murderers. In fact, a group of crows is referred to as a “murder of crows”. (In defense of crows, they are actually primarily scavengers and highly intelligent to boot. I’m sure, the common place sightings of these fellows eating carrion was the impetus of the “killer” label.)

Now, back to the story:
My kind neighbor broke into a tale of murderous crows who attacked a red-tailed hawk nest, leaving baby hawks littered in our shared yard. It was true that we witnessed the same event but ignorance was there too.

I proceeded to tell him my version. The dead babies were crows. I showed him the straight beak of one of “the fallen”. It was easy to understand his confusion though. Crows are big birds and are about the size of many hawks. The dead babies were very close to leaving the nest, therefore, they were almost full-sized.
My tale continued with the murderous intent shifted to the hawk. By the time I had finished, his sympathy had done a one-eighty. My tale ended with an admiration for the community and brotherhood which had brought so many crows, out of nowhere, to aid in the rescue attempt.

So you see, my neighbor was not being mean-spirited in his inaccuracy. It was his ignorance that perpetuated the prejudice.

I’m hoping this story, inspires you to take a moment to explain yourself when someone has a different opinion and refrain from judging others as mean-spirited. Overall, the most important message, here, is to stay informed and curious.

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2 thoughts on “Ignorance Perpetuates Prejudice

  1. Wow! I’ve been thinking about you lately…..and boom here you are. I find that most times people are *unwilling to listen to anyone but their own views. I have a dear friend who basically feels the same way as I do about many things. But sometimes, she even has a hard time listening to other views……I try and to stay neutral as not everyone will agree with everything (wouldn’t that be a boring world to have everyone thinking the same thoughts?) Glad to see ya back 🙂

    • Thanks dear friend. I so often feel hurt/angry when, without cause, my opinion is regarded as mean-spirited. Have you noticed how often peoples’ emotions keep them from even understanding your point? It’s like they don’t even hear! 🙂

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