Tradition. The official hostess group for Mobile is the Azalea Trail Maids. They welcome people and represent the city at major events. For years they have been a part of the Senior Bowl activities.
Senior Bowl. The Senior Bowl is a post-season football game featuring many of the best graduating college players. They are coached by professional coaches. NFL coaches, scouts and general managers attend the practices and evaluate the talent.
The Trail Maids wear beautiful hoop skirts of traditional Antebellum design. The style was an important part of the history of the South.
Some people want the dresses banned. They believe the dresses represent the Confederacy.
The controversy arose again this year. I thought a minority member of our County Commission made a wise observation. She appreciated the fact the Maids are integrated and what they have become but we should never forget from where they came. She did not call for banning the dresses.
She recognizes the important issue that some words and activities have negative origins but have evolved and are now positive. That was the issue with the use of the term Redskin by my high school. The term was used in a derogatory manner by some in the past but evolved to a positive nickname for many in the present. In my case the past won, and the nickname was dropped. In the case of the dresses the present won this year.
History. I believe the same issue relates to the word race. The term was developed as a divisive, derogatory word. In the 1400’s the Spanish used the word to divide Jews from Christians and as a derogatory term against Jews.
In that same century, the Portuguese used the term to divide the Portuguese from the people of Africa. It was a demeaning, derogatory term used to justify slavery.
In both cases the term created a tilted playing field favoring the Spanish and the Portuguese against Jews and Africans.
The term has developed from negative origins to be a positive social construct in most paradigms addressing social justice. However, both people in the majority and the minority continue to use the term in a divisive and derogatory manner.
Some in the majority can and do make the ridiculous claim of racial superiority. They divide the world into us-them and demean the minority. Sometimes the division occurs in obvious notions of white supremacy, sometimes in more subtle ways.
Interestingly, others in the majority use the term in a divisive, derogatory manner by self-righteously proclaiming they are not racists. They divide into us-them and demean the “them” as racists.
Some in the minority can and do use race to be divisive and derogatory. They divide and demean claiming moral superiority because they cannot be racist.
Prejudice. I believe one way to create a more level playing field is to use a term that applies to everyone. Therefore, I prefer to use the term prejudice to try to understand injustice. I am no less interested in the fight for justice, I just prefer a different paradigm.
My assumption is – everyone is prejudice. I know I have prejudice. Prejudice can be in terms of color or gender or culture or attractiveness or level of education or regional affiliation or… or … or… or…
If we are all prejudice, it is more difficult to create us-them divisiveness. Rather than dividing us into us and them and claiming us is better, I believe we should agree we are all prejudice and work to identify overcome and prevent our personal prejudices.
One advantage of the prejudice paradigm is a fulfillment of what philosophers refer to as Occam’s Razor: The simplest account is the best. The prejudice paradigm reduces the injustice struggle to one major factor. I do not need separate factors, such as racism and sexism, to account for the problems. One factor with many objects of prejudice — such as color, gender, culture. etc.– is simpler than numerous separate types of injustice.
In addition to making the playing field more level and the approach simpler, another advantage of the prejudice perspective is the object of the prejudice is a state and not a trait. If someone makes a statement or performs an action that is prejudice about something in one time and place, it does not mean they have will always behave that way other times or other places. They can change that state and not be prejudice in other circumstances. They can learn to overcome particular prejudices.
A male who is prejudice about women in the workplace may not be prejudice about his daughter in other circumstances. Importantly he may learn to overcome his workplace prejudice.
Someone who is prejudice regarding another culture, may have positive experiences and overcome the prejudice.
In the paradigm of race, often people who perform a bias action are labeled racist and are assumed to have a trait that will not change. Seeing prejudice as a state creates a hopeful world for change. I believe people can learn to overcome particular prejudices.
Last week we took our first cross-country trip in a long time. We visited my brother who is battling cancer in Nashville. We got to see his family and other special friends. We went from Nashville to Festus, Missouri to see my cousin.
As we traveled Interstate 24 in Kentucky we came upon an area where the recent tornado struck. The devestation was staggering. I am delighted so many are responding to meet needs in the area. The following is one bit of positive news about people helping the victims.
Several of the men who were in our fellowship in Illinois are coming to Gulf Shores for a weekend this month. Some of us will be attending church at the Flora-Bama. The Flora-Bama is a well-known bar that straddles the Florida-Alabama state line. Every Sunday a worship service is held with several hundred people in attendance. In recent years, a young man with Down Syndrome has been a part of the music. I was reminded of him by the report of this act of kindness.