Prejudice—it is such a damning word and so many of us in the civilized world find the idea of “prejudging people” based on their race, sex, ethnic background, religion, or sexual orientation, reprehensible. It is, after all, not PC to show prejudice and we all want to be politically correct don’t we? Humans wear many different masks; the one they show in public, the one they show in private, and the one they show when angry. It is easy to fool everyone and even yourself into believing that you are not a bigot, but given the right circumstances, the very thoughts that we portend to abhor will come to mind without hesitation. I believe that prejudice in some form does lurk in the dark recesses (or sometimes surfaces) of our psyche and is based on FEAR—fear of a culture different than ours. People who claim to be free of any prejudice must have been sent from some another Planet or had their minds magically cleansed. We are the products of our environments and, as children, we form opinions based on what we hear in our home or see on the news each night. Our brain is like a sponge and when you grow up with certain preconceived ideas of what black people, Asians, gays, women, or Jews are like it is very hard to shed these notions, although we try. Most of the time, people know that racism or gay bashing is not acceptable, but in times of anger, one’s true thoughts pop out and we sometimes show our real colors. Often, people don’t even know what they say is a slur such as the expression, “Jewing” someone down or saying that someone had a “Jewish” nose. Even people that I would never consider having a prejudiced bone in their body will surprise me with a remark such as “Black people never tip” (from a massage therapist friend of mine). Prejudice is really just a generalization about a group of people, and a “one size fits all” mentality. With that being said, last Monday morning, I was shocked to discover a bullet hole and bullet in my computer room. I noticed plaster dust all over and finally saw that there was a hole in the wall. The woman next door is a tenant who is black. Her 15-year old son was the culprit and apparently fired the gun from his bedroom, which went through their garage and entered my room. I called the owner who is black as well and she was appalled—she has now started eviction proceedings. I say their races to show how there are good, troubled, bad, smart, evil, (in short, it runs the gamut) people in any race. There are classy, “trashy”, criminals, and amazing people everywhere and, knowing this, I tried very, very, hard to avoid stereotyping this neighbor and saying this happened because she is black. Yet it was hard and I had to literally “talk” out-loud to myself saying, “Now, I do NOT want you to blame this terrible incident on him being black. Maybe, being black in the environment he came from and friends who he runs with is most likely the cause of this kid going in a bad direction. But, the landlord is an accomplished individual, and my other black neighbors in the area are respectful, lovely people. So, being black does not equal criminality.” You have to look at people on an individual basis and not lump groups of people into ONE person. Everyone is different and there are no cookie-cutter human beings—that is how I stopped myself from that line of thinking. I think that when those feelings of anger at a certain race, religion, or ethnicity come up, even for just a moment (and they all do, even if we don’t want to admit it), we have to take a step back and analyze if what we are feeling is rational. More often than not, we are just falling back into old patterns of thinking (often fear-based) where we blame an entire race or culture for actions perpetrated by a few. I think it is just a human condition to be suspicious or critical of another culture, but being aware and knowing it is wrong will go a long way.