by Maitri Pamo
Years ago, when a client walked into the exam room, pants hanging low with a bandana around his head, followed by an intact male Pit Bull, I started to form opinions about how the visit would proceed immediately. The dog was sick and I assumed that the man either would not have the money or the inclination to follow my recommendations. I was wrong.
The man, with perfect, standard grammar asked me to do whatever was necessary to help his companion. As I prepared to admit my patient, I walked out of that room ashamed. Despite considering myself open minded, here was my prejudice in full confrontation with what I like to think is my reality.
I have been dealing with this dichotomy quite a bit lately. Raised without the context of a Latino community, my impressions of Latino attitudes on various issues were informed solely by my parents who espouse what would familiarly be regarded as “traditional” values.
Intellectually, I have understood that not all Latinos have my parents’ perspectives; however, I still found myself surprised last week at the overwhelming support on Being Latino’s page for the passage of marriage equality in New York. Yet another stereotype shattered. Questioning myself, wondering why I had been surprised, I have been reflecting on the the insidious nature of internalized prejudices.
Children are susceptible to this internalization. Learned bigotry and hatred are commonly taught by parents. The lessons can be overt and didactic or subtle and surreptitious. They can be about others – indoctrinations about groups of people and why they are either undesirable or superior. Children can revel in this inculcation and carry the teachings with them, becoming the undisguised racist, classist, mysogenist or homophobe their parents trained them to be. Or, given the proper environmental context, inclination and ability to examine and question, they may reject those teachings, intellectually, and seek to make their own way, breaking the cycle by not spreading the malaise to their own children, if they have them.
Alternatively, the lessons may be about the children themselves. They may be lessons about self hatred, about the child’s race, sex, sexual orientation. They may damage the child and lead to a lifetime of doubt and self injurious behaviors. Depending on the internal fortitude of the child and her or his support network, the child may be able to work through the damage and avoid the propagation of the deleterious mindset to her/his children.
The problem is, even if the child extricates her or himself from the quagmire of these anti-social theories, there may be, as I have noticed with my own experience, some residual demons to battle; thus the importance of self policing. Examining the prejudice and its trigger are crucial to keep it from hardening in one’s arteries, clogging the free flow of ideas, closing one’s mind.
Contributor, Maitri Pamo
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of
the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.