There exists a terrible bias against people who are different from us in nationality, language, skin tone, religion, gender and so on. It is fear I suppose that drives our reaction, our aggression, and sets an expectation that others must behave better than we do in order to be accepted.
I came across an example of how we hold others to a different standard. It was a vignette on Public Radio – about an angry man who lived near a mosque. Fueled by his hatred and by alcohol, one night he shot his gun into the building. Fortunately no one was injured, but a great deal of activity followed involving the police– AND – some unexpected dialogue.
As I recall the story, once the man had sobered, he approached the Muslim leadership of that particular mosque and apologized. He found them forgiving, and over time they continued to meet and discuss the differences between his Christian religion and their Islamic beliefs. In the story the aggressor admitted that it was only because the Muslims were so kind and gentle with him was he able to trust them and reduce his bias.
Here’s what struck me wrong: The Muslims were the victims yet they had to prove that they were good people. The Christian who attacked them, the man that was in the wrong, only believed and trusted them after they had done all the real repair work in the relationship. Had the Muslims been understandably defensive, even angry, following the assault, the Christian would have walked away feeling righteous.
That is the ugly way that bias works. It makes us hate and fear others without cause or proof and it makes us blind to our own ignorance and prejudice. It also labels the “other” person or group as guilty until proven innocent. For example, in our so-called Christian nation, if a Christian kills, maims, rapes then he is a bad man and is punished by our laws but his religion is never named or damned. If a Muslim kills, maims, rapes, his religion is named and both man and religion are damned.
It is patently unfair to hold “the other,” the “outsider” to a different standard than we hold ourselves, and both wrong and ineffective to expect them to overcome our ignorance and bias.
— Jonnie Martin