From a very young age, my paternal grandmother told me, "Birds of a feather flock together", "your friends are a reflection of your values" and "when you silently sit and watch others spew ignorance, you give the world permission to do the same to you". I learned then that it is my duty and obligation to stand up in the face of injustice, ignorance, and prejudice. There is no guilt or qualms when I state that I am intolerant of intolerance. I will not accept the ignorant, misinformed, hateful, prejudice, and hurtful views of others in my life. That does not mean that I will not accept those that are misinformed or ignorant in my life, but their views will be challenged, as I do not believe that being prejudice against others is acceptable in my life. If others hold ignorant views and are unwilling or closed to understanding things another way, I do not want them or their views in my life. I do not say these things to say that I am perfect. I have my flaws as well. I am prejudice and stereotypical. However, I am open to hearing other's points of view. If someone states something opposite of what I believe, I will hear it, even if I do not agree. If one states something that resonates and rings true within me, I will surely allow my opinion to be changed.
As human beings, we want to belong and be loved by others. We seek any qualities, gender, race, disability or something simple like a sports team, interests, or astrological sign, to find that camaraderie. When one feels a part of something, one begins to feel nurtured. Unfortunately, once a part of something, the group begins to band together to seek out those "other" than themselves. In addition to the camaraderie, based on similarities, that humans seek, humans will also find any reason to hate another group.
What we have failed to realize is that as a human race, we will not progress until we recognize that another's suffering is our own suffering. When one's neighbor is persecuted for their religious beliefs, it is no different than the suffering one felt for ethnic intolerance. When another suffers the pain of being a gay man, it is no different than those suffering because of their race. Unfortunately, too often we suffer our own pain because of race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, sex, gender identity, ethnicity, nation of origin, etc., but when we see or hear the prejudices stressed upon another group, we are silent. The persecution that the other group suffers does not affect us in that moment, so we don't feel compelled to stand up.
My grandmother had a saying that had the greatest impact on me as child: "You are the company that you keep". If one is with prejudice people and raises no concerns about their views, one is no different than those around them.
Michael David Battle
As a lecturer, writer and advocate, Michael David Battle’s vision is to ignite others and move them to action through courageous conversations, exploring vulnerabilities, and collectively manifesting spaces of healing and restoration.