I imagine that if you find yourself reading this post you consider yourself to firmly fit in the "not prejudiced" category.
Of course you do!
It's not called The Jerk Project, after all. :0)
But what if prejudice in real life is not always about being overtly jerky (or racist, sexist, or another offensive --ist) ... but instead about choosing to be not as kind to some people as to others.
I heard this fascinating story about Harvard Psychologist Mahzarin Banaji on NPR during my commute two weeks ago. She co-wrote a book with Anthony Greenwald called Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People.
In the story, Banaji tells the story of a former colleague at Yale who was an avid quilter. The woman sliced her hand open while washing a large glass bowl one day and rushed to the hospital. Once she checked into the ER she told the doctor on duty that as a lifelong quilter she wanted to ensure full movement in her hand. The doctor said, "Yes, yes, of course," and then proceeded to stitch her up.
Then a student working at the hospital recognized her and said hello. When the doctor realized she was a Yale professor he called in the best hand surgeon in the region, a medical team worked for hours, and tried to "save practically every last nerve" in her hand (Vedantam). Her ability to quilt was saved.
It wasn't that the ER doctor despised quilters... it was that something about her holding the title of Yale professor made him want to give her the absolute best.
If you're into kindness then you're not likely to be mean to the people you encounter each day.
But what if that's not really how prejudice rears its ugly head?
What if we go the extra mile for some people-- and we simply don't for others.
Hearing this story has made me examine when I do and don't "go the extra mile"and also made me question why I choose not to on occasion.
It also reminds me to a humorous version of this from 30 Rock, when Liz Lemon's doctor boyfriend (the adorable and hilarious Jon Hamm) lives in "the bubble" where people treat him better simply because he is terribly handsome.
What do you think? Do you think this is an accurate depiction of the way our world works?
Katharine Owens is a writer, professor, printmaker, mom, environmentalist, amateur naturalist, and lover of all things bug.