Pre-judging

I’m not sure a white man should post about prejudice during Black History Month. But here are two stories about prejudice, one that brags on my family, one that shows my failings:

My great uncle made the trek from Mexico to visit back when I was in college. We didn’t get to see Uncle Dick much, but I certainly made up for that on this visit, listening to his stories.

It turns out he had been in prison with Dr. King, participating in a sit-in.

He shrugged his shoulders, almost embarrassed to talk about it. He even giggled, relating how the whites had sprayed them with deodorant, trying to get them to leave the restaurant.

I had never heard the story, and I later learned many other family members had not, either. I was able to track down more information in the civil rights archives of UNC-Greensboro. And last month, I found out Uncle Dick was the only white who was a part of the protest.

It’s a far cry from the average person nowadays sharing how non-racist they are on social media, isn’t it?

All right, now for my confession:

I have had the privilege of coaching dealerships in Ford Motor Company’s Consumer Experience Movement. In our work helping store employees become more engaged, we used resources from Chick-fil-A. An orientation video was especially powerful. Don’t watch unless you are where you can tear up:

My initial reaction when watching it? Well, that was over the top. Sure, every life has a story–but that was manufactured to tug heart strings. It’s not real.

The day after I first watched the video, I headed to the airport. That’s when I noticed the black woman in revealing, flamboyant clothing.

Well, we all noticed her–she was stunning. I was behind her and could see all the heads turning. Meanwhile, I began to pre-judge her: How ridiculous. She will freeze on the plane, all for the sake of fashion.

And of course, it turned out we were on the same plane. Sitting next to each other.

(Have you ever felt God getting your attention?)

Over the course of our flight, I found out she was dating a professor from a college near me. She was constantly flying coast to coast, taking care of her mother.

Her mother had had a nervous breakdown after her son was murdered. My fellow traveler’s half-brother had been gunned down from behind by one of his friends, just for the money in his pocket. She teared up as she talked about how her friends had tried to rally around her and give her some sense of normalcy by throwing her a surprise birthday party.

And here I was worried about what clothes she was wearing. Not quite the humanitarian that my Uncle Dick was.

They really all do have stories, Mark.

As her story sunk in, God whispered to me: They really all do have stories, Mark.

One of my problems was that I pre-judged. That’s what prejudice is. Instead of treating her like a human, made in the image of God, I treated her like an object, deemed unworthy because of some externals I had noticed.

If you’ve made it this far, you’ll not get a sermon from me. But I’d ask you to consider where pre-judging slips into to your life.

In the automotive world, pre-judging is a huge danger to sales. I know of a luxury dealership that told a man in dirty jeans he ought to look at used cars. He went to another luxury dealership and bought a new car … for each of the foremen of the mine he owned.

Most dealerships have some sort of cautionary tale like that. And I suspect we all have cautionary tales.

What will cause you to treat somebody like an object instead of a person? Clothes? Grooming? Tattoos? Race? Accent? Bumper stickers?

If you can identify this in yourself, you might just save yourself business. Or an outstanding hire. Or a significant business partnership.

And you will certainly get the opportunity to appreciate the “image of God” sitting across from you.