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The incidence of prejudice that I want to analyze is a personal one that I had to overcome in order to survive in a foreign country. Last July I had the incredible opportunity to spend a month in Zimbabwe. My mothers relatives live there, where she was born and raised. I knew of the huge black population of the area, but I had no idea of what was to come.
Blacks in Zimbabwe out-number the whites by at least 200 to 1. You can go an afternoon and not see another white person. Being from an upper middle-class area of the Bay Area, Im not used to being a minority. I have never had any reason to dislike or feel uncomfortable around blacks, but I was just not accustomed to it. The way that I was brought up was that I was taught to understand that crime and poverty were associated with blacks.
The absolutely run-down city of East Palo Alto is near me, and a few busloads of their students were based in to my high school to even out the number of students. The kids from East Palo Alto were always the troublemakers at my school. They always had a chip on their shoulders and were looking for trouble. The stories I have about the blacks picking fights with the whites are endless. You may be familiar with my high school, it was the subject of the movie Dangerous Minds. The years of being at that school, and living somewhat close to such a poverty-stricken area like East Palo Alto had slowly made me prejudice against blacks.
I couldnt trust 90 % of them at my high school, and that had been my only real exposure to them, so I was molded into feeling the way that I did. Theres nothing to blame but the circumstances in which I was raised under. Id have to say that my prejudice was that blacks could not be trusted and that they were always looking for trouble. This obviously is a flawed perception because look at someone like General Colin Powell.
Obviously he could be trusted or he wouldnt be such a highly ranked military official. He wouldnt be where he is today if he was always looking for trouble like my prejudice had suggested. Are there blacks out there that are trustworthy and honest? Well of course there are, the world is full of them. However being 17 years old, you have no idea of how the real world works, so I was obviously wrong. Because of my lack of desire to go out of my way to make friends with black people, this shows a passive resistance to my problem.
On my trip to Africa, I had to trust the blacks. I was forced into confronting my prejudice head-on. We were absolutely surrounded by them at all times. They drove the busses I rode in. They were the police. They cooked the food we ate.
They cleaned everything we used. If I didnt trust them I couldnt survive. However, there were a few rules in place that prevented both the blacks of Zimbabwe and me from feeling uncomfortable around each other. The rules were similar to those in place here, but I had to be more cautious when it came to their culture and way of life.
I had to be very careful what I said at all time because of the number or them that were around me at all times. I was not to invade their personal space or question their authority. They would not violate my personal space or make inappropriate comments. I never had any problems with any of the blacks in Africa. My prejudice made me feel uncomfortable, like when I was the only white man in a high mountain village of Eastern Zimbabwe. There were hundreds of blacks in a town square all looking at me, and my prejudice made me feel like I was in danger, although they were very nice and friendly.
This proof that was presented to me showing that all blacks arent looking for trouble made me realize how wrong I really was. The systems relevant to this prejudice analysis are the black population, and myself. There isnt really one incident I can analyze, but the process would be the same every time. Id meet or come in contact with a black person and be introduced to them.
Id like them as a person and most likely like them immediately. However in the back of my head I didnt trust the person and thought they had their eye on something of mine. I am always friendly to people I meet, no matter how I feel about them, and I never hold a grudge unless its founded. Im sure that any black that has met or come in contact with me has had nothing but good things to say about me, because my prejudice was very hidden and not apparent at all. I guess the only emotional defense I used when conversing with or interacting with blacks was just to withdraw. I never went out of my way to avoid them, but never went out of my way to converse with them.
Control or placating are defenses that I rarely used around them, because in Zimbabwe for example, I had to stand my own ground and appear dominant, but without portraying racism or threats towards anyone. If I had completely withdrawn from the situations I found myself it, I would have been robbed or hurt, because although they are very nice people, they are dirt poor and would love to get their hands on the American money I had to carry. From my point of view, the only thing that blocked me from re-evaluating my prejudice was just my lack of exposure to them. I knew they were good people, but my past experiences had prevented me from having the desire to prove it wrong. It was my own laziness or lack of desire that was the problem as I saw it. The black population had no idea of my prejudice, so there really isnt any way of telling whether their approach to my problem was effective.
Like I said, I never made my prejudice known to anyone, so no one besides me was ever affected my it. My refrain to the problem was to tackle it head-on. I went to a country that I knew was 99 % black, knowing that if I didnt re-evaluate my prejudice Id be in for some rough times. There was no other option than to adjust my feelings and give them a chance to prove themselves, which they did.
They are absolutely beautiful people there. They were so friendly and nice to me, for the most part. Of course there were a few that tried to take advantage of me, but there were so few of them that I can happily say that my prejudice has been erased.
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