08 July 2008


yesterday i watched an excellent 1947 movie that i had somehow overlooked over the years, "Gentleman's Agreement". gregory peck plays a journalist who presents himself as being jewish, in order to understand and expose the roots and manifestations of anti-semitism. the film isn't preachy or condescending, and in fact is quite subtle in its exploration of the nuances of bigotry. dorothy mcguire and john garfield also appear, and the movie was directed by elia kazan.

prejudice is something i've thought about and resisted all my life, including a few harrowing passages of self-change. it just makes no sense to eliminate a substantial fraction of the world's wonderfully diverse cultures from my life, simply because of the negative stereotypes which may be attached to them. that's like listening uncritically to every rumor you hear, and believing it. by putting all that stuff aside, i've make my life infinitely richer by becoming friends with people from a wealth of racial, cultural, and national origins. our world is a rich tapestry. why limit our enjoyment of it (thereby limiting our own potential for personal growth) by choosing to notice only certain colors, certain textures?

the device of passing oneself off as being from another social group was described in a similar manner in john howard griffin's book, Black Like Me. and of course, racism against blacks was further exposed in harper lee's 1960 pulitzer prize-winning book, To Kill A Mockingbird -- made into an oscar-winning film two years later, starring .... gregory peck. both his roles stirred controversy, and provoked much thought and self-examination in american discourse. which in my eyes is the highest form of praise.

i've been a de facto minority member several times in my life -- as an anglo among latino co-workers in southern arizona, as a white among black g.i.s in the army, as a male among militant feminist females in the university of arizona's women's studies program (in which i minored for a time). each experience was an eye-opener for me. not that i'm any kind of expert on what it's like to be latino, black or female in our white male-dominated society. just that i've a window onto that experience, sufficient to declare myself an ally, to speak up against prejudice even when mine is the only voice doing so, and even when the prejudiced person is a friend or family member. it is hard at times. but it is also, ultimately, cleansing and liberating.

try it, you'll like it.

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