The following is a guest post from Neal Frankle, CFP from Wealth Pilgrim.
A couple weeks ago, I had a post linked to from a popular website and many new readers visited Free Money Finance. Unfortunately, one of them made a comment that was either on the line or over it (depending on your point of view) from a decency standpoint. I debated back and forth what to do with the comment, but ultimately decided to leave it up since my on-going policy has been to leave all but the very worst up as I hate censorship (don't believe me, then see what I leave up on many of my Sunday posts.) Anyway, since the comment was about Jews, I asked Neal for his take on it before I made my final decision. He's Jewish and I thought would have a better perspective on the comment. He said it was certainly offensive, but he thought my response/comments on the post were good. In addition, he volunteered to write this guest post about the costs of prejudice.
Your preconceived notions about other people are costing you a fortune so stop it right now – for your own good.
I learned this lesson at the wee age of 12 when my father took me to meet a client of his – Mr. Williams. The client happened to be African American and lived in a run-down part of Los Angeles. Once the meeting was over I asked my father how that man could possibly have been an important client. I told my father that Mr. Williams probably didn’t have any money anyway. I based my statements on the man’s color and where he lived.
Turns out Mr. Williams was my father’s most important client.
My dad was ashamed of what I said and he spared no effort in “explaining” how stupid my racist comment was. The fact that I meant no harm really wasn’t relevant he explained. He told me that racism hurts people and he was right.
It was painful at the time but I’m glad he said what he did.
I’m not proud of that incident but I am happy I got to learn that lesson when I was young.
I was reminded of the importance of this lesson a couple weeks ago when I stumbled on a comment made by somebody at Free Money Finance. The commenter suggested that if you wanted to bargain with a vendor, it was best to “act like a Jew”.
This stupid remark elicited some very angry responses as you might expect. At the end of the day, both the person who made the remark and the people who responded in anger paid a heavy price.
1. Their focus shifted from the lesson they could have learned from the post to the anger they were feeling for each other.
2. They lost the opportunity to bond closer with each other – one of the great benefits of getting involved with blogs.
3. They lost the opportunity to be open and share with each other. Remarks like these and the corresponding responses tend to get everyone to shut down rather than open up. This refers to everyone who was leaving comments - not just the people involved in the altercation.
4. They caused a ripple effect. Racism fosters racism. That brings more and more people into this hurtful cycle. More and more distance. Less and less opportunity. Just plain dumb.
I wish that I could say that I haven’t uttered a racist remark since the day my father pointed out how hurtful such remarks are. Sadly, I haven’t done as good a job on this as I would like. I’ve made mistakes. Writing this post is one small effort to make amends for those errors.
I do know however that racist remarks add nothing positive. Quite the opposite – my slips in this area hurt me and everyone around me. It prevents me from forging relationships that could be meaningful, educational and profitable. It releases negative energy that is hurtful to everyone caught in its wake.
You or I might make an off-color joke. We might restate something hurtful that we’ve heard others say. But let’s just stop. We’ve got enough pain. Let’s work together to stop this needless exchange that keeps us apart.
I’m going to try my best to be mindful in this area. How about you?