Personally I think everyone is prejudiced to some degree. You can't help it, it's in the way people think. If I learn that someone who I've never met is a - let's pick something at random, sayyy... a Morris Dancer - the information I have on that subject will begin to fill in that person's profile in my head. I haven't met them, but my thinking about them has just become coloured by the way Morris Dancers are described in my mind. This is prejudice of a sort, and I don't care.
I suppose it's only potentially problematic prejudice if those things I am suddenly thinking about this person are negative, which is not usually the case. If I then meet this person in the future it's entirely possible that they are absolutely the most wonderful person I have ever met and we get on famously and decide to go on a fortnight's canal holiday together in the Norfolk Broads. It's possible. But I will already have decided a few things about them, based on their known penchant for bells and hankies. I think this is normal and not usually anything to worry about.
I'm not talking about any of the big prejudices here, you understand. I'm a modern 21st-century idiot, and being bothered by someone's gender, sexual orientation, skin colour, faith or nationality is really for the dumb and emotionally-stunted, and is actually a problem. If you have any of these prejudices, you should see a professional or probably just jump off a bridge and save the rest of us a lot of time.
No, I'm talking about the little things. See, upon meeting you or perhaps even just hearing about you from others, I will immediately begin involuntarily judging you based on past experience if I learn that you are:
- a vegetarian
- a dog person
- in your 20s
- a keyboard player
- a bass player
- a guitarist who owns certain types of guitar
- a parent
- not a parent
- a Metallica fan
- a Meat Loaf fan
- a Bon Jovi fan
- a cyclist
- well off
...and those are just the ones that spring to mind. I don't think I would immediately begin assigning negative characteristics to you, but I can't help a certain amount of backfilling based on experience. Pre-judging a little - which is after all what "prejudice" actually means.
Is this bad? I have no idea. Maybe. I was born in 1974, and grew up in a non-PC environment without knowing it. PC hadn't really been invented, and I lived in an almost entirely white middle-class world without knowing anything else.
An aside. One kid at junior school was very very slightly dark-skinned (I think his mother was from Madeira, if memory serves) and for some time his playground nickname was "Nigger". He seemed not to care. I recall teachers assembling our group of friends and telling us that we shouldn't call him - or anyone - that as it was a very insulting and bad word, and we were all like "Oh... OK. Didn't know. Soz." But even when we were using it, I'm sure it wasn't a prejudice thing - we were just schoolkids in the early 80s, and he was a good mate. We just didn't know any better. Another friend of mine was called "Weed" for a long time as he was the least sporty, and it turned out that really bothered him though I didn't find that out for years*. For another long time I was called "Flid". I honestly can't remember why but I don't recall minding.
My point is that people do pre-judge and I don't think it's necessarily always a bad thing. Of course, it can be. If someone says something like "Oh, well I was fine with that particular dentist until I found out he was a Christian/Muslim/line dancer/vegan/Abba fan. I have to find another one now" then that person is an idiot. Unless he was actually trying to convert them while the drill was in their mouth. That shit isn't on.
You get my drift?
* This particular chap was my very first friend on day 1 of school, aged 4, and I'm proud to say is still a very close friend over 36 years later and was an usher at my wedding. :-)
Today someone at work asked on chat who someone else was by name only, and I responded by saying something along the lines of "Oh he's a $whateverLanguage developer on $whateverTeam, on $whateverFloor. Tall, Oriental chap." Someone else then told me that "Oriental" isn't PC.
I had no idea. I've looked it up since then and it seems he's right, and I just totally didn't get the memo.
I'm a bit mortified, and now terrified that I'm a total dinosaur/anachronism.
I thought "Oriental" was a completely innocuous way to describe someone "from the East", or "from the Orient", but it seems I have unwittingly held onto a negative "profiling" term. It seems "Asian" would have been OK. I am a little confused as to why this is, but I will endeavour to learn more and do better in future.
For now, it is late, and I am tired.
Please may I assure you all - Morris dancers, vegans, cyclists, keyboard players, tee-totallers and dog-lovers of all creeds, races and gender-alignments - that I mean no harm or derogation and am at worst over-privileged and perhaps a little ignorant, and if I pre-judge you in any way, please enlighten and correct me immediately.