Examining Prejudice

By Mary Garvey In November, the citizens of Colorado voted to amend our state constitution to prohibit the inclusion of gays and lesbians among those against whom discrimination is specifically prohibited. The effect of this new law is that gays and lesbians can now be denied work and housing, refused service in restaurants and stores, and subjected to other forms of discrimination based solely on their perceived sexual orientation. In the first two weeks following the passage of this amendment, hate crimes against gays and lesbians in Colorado rose dramatically.

It is uncomfortable for any individual to experience prejudice. We all want others to meet us openly, look at us directly, and see us for who we are. We do not want to be dismissed as just a member of some group, or to have characteristics assigned to us inappropriately, even positive characteristics. Prejudices hurt both the person who holds the views, because they prevent him or her from seeing clearly, and the person who is the object of their prejudice, because they prevent him or her from being seen. As individuals, gays and lesbians are as diverse as any other segment of the population, with differing life stories, individual loves, unique accomplishments, and personal suffering. To be prejudged is to be trivialized.

The problem with prejudice is that it prevents us from having a direct experience of reality. Our experience becomes filtered through our views, and we lose our openness, our clarity, and our contact with what is real. As dharma students, we strive to free ourselves from views that obstruct direct perception.

I am writing to the sangha for support. I know this particular sangha is comprised of some of the most open, accepting, and compassionate individuals whom I have ever had the good fortune to meet, and I hope that we can be strengthened as each of us examines our false views and harmful prejudices.

Many gays and lesbians in Colorado have begun a campaign to have people boycott our state. We request that you not travel or vacation in Colorado, and that any professional organizations that you belong to not hold conferences here. We also encourage you to ask your local government to join in the boycott. Please let Colorado know that such cruelty will not be sanctioned by the rest of the world.

Mary Garvey manages a day-care center with her partner in Longmont, Colorado.

PDF of this article