Pentecost 121

Pentecost 121
My Psalm 121

A Walk Among …

Walking is something most of us learned as toddlers. It is a skill we use every day. More than just a skill or helpful to maintaining good health, walking takes us places. Walking is how we move from one place to another, explore new venues and revisit old ones. Sometimes, though, walking can be venturing into a place of terror. Sometimes, we end up walking into someone else’s fear.

Social discrimination is the unfair treatment or judgment of a person or group based upon prejudice. In Personality and Social Psychology Review, Amelie Memmendev and Michael Wenzel published a paper entitled “Social Discrimination and Tolerance in Intergroup Relations: Reactions to Intergroup Difference”. In their article they “present a theoretical approach to social discrimination on the one hand and intergroup relations characterized by tolerance and plurality on the other hand. Central to the analysis is the question of how members deal with intergroup difference. If the outgroup’s difference is judged to be nonnormative and inferior, devaluation, discrimination, and hostility are likely responses toward the outgroup. Judging the outgroup’s difference to be normative or positive leads to acceptance and appreciation of this group. Following self-categorization theory, the criteria—being norms and values for judging intergroup differences—are derived from the superordinate category that is perceived to include both groups. More specifically, they are derived from the prototype, or representation, of this inclusive category. Social discrimination results from the generalization of ingroup attributes to the inclusive category, which then become criteria for judging the outgroup. Tolerance, on the other hand, is conceptualized as either a lack of inclusion of both groups in a higher order category or as the representation of the inclusive category in such a way as to also include the other group and designate it as normative.”

Taking a step forward requires courage, especially if someone blocks your path, figuratively speaking, with their own prejudices. How do we live tolerance in our daily lives? Is plurality a characteristic of our own personal and interpersonal dynamics? Do we judge a book or person by their cover or do we open the layers? Is there even time in the busy hectic world of the twenty-first century to do that or have we reduced all of mankind into a two second glance or sound bite?

Southeastern Oklahoma State University provides a clear history of Affirmative Action It was during the Eisenhower Administration of the 1950’s that the President’s Committee on Government Contracts issued a report stating “the indifference of employers to establishing a positive policy of nondiscrimination hinders qualified applicants and employees from being hired and promoted on the basis of equality.” In 1961, President John F Kennedy signed Executive Order10925 that made “affirmative action” not only a buzz phrase but the law. In 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed Executive Order 11246, giving the Secretary of Labor responsibility for administration and enforcement of the new policies which mandated that contractors could not discriminate against any employees or qualified applicants because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In 1967 another Executive Order extended that protection against discrimination to include women.

In 1970, under President Richard M Nixon, The US Department of Labor authorized flexible goals and timetables in an effort to prevent the underutilization of minorities by federal contractors. A year later it too was amended to include women. In 1973 the Nixon administration advocated permissible goals in state and local governments’ employment practices. It also gave impermissible quotas as well as the proper goals and timetables. In 1973 President Gerald Ford required such affirmative action for those with disabilities and in 1974 further extended such protection to Vietnam Era and specially disabled veterans of the Armed Forces. In the latter part of the 1980’s, Secretary of Labor Elizabeth Dole issued the Glass Ceiling Initiative to address barrier to equal opportunity in executive positions.

These legislations were in addition to various Civil Rights laws and yet, we still have social discrimination today. Why? “The real question is what we want affirmative action to achieve,” says Richard Brooks, a law professor at Yale. “Are we trying to maximize diversity? Engagement in the classroom?” All of these legal and legislative moves were to help others walk forward in their lives.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” As the major writer of the Declaration of Independence (from which this comes) and the US Constitution, this quote is credited to Thomas Jefferson. The wording “self-evident” meant that the basic issue of human rights was given by one’s birth from God and that it needed no defense.

What drives the discrimination that still is evident in the world today? The United States of America is not the only country with Affirmative Action policies. India, Nepal, and the United Kingdom are just a few of the countries aiming for inclusion within their schools and workforce. What do we think we gain from indiscriminately judging people without solid evidence? Does not our faith in Creation override our fear of those who are different? Are we so scared that we need to assert superiority?

Discrimination profits no one. Nothing is gained. After all, nothing is really promised to just one special segment of society. No one religion or spiritual belief can provide a basis for such. The Social Inclusion Act of Canada states: ““A social inclusive society is defined as one where all people feel valued, their differences are respected, and their basic needs are met so they can live in dignity.”

Today as you take a step forward, ask yourself if that step is also keeping another back. A footprint in the sand shows no sign of race, color, creed, religion, age, or gender. We are called to walk together. We can only make progress when we recognize that we are all pilgrims in the great hike of life.

Psalm 121

You, Great One, know our every step.
You protect us going forward and when we fall backwards.
Your love is steadfast and never waivers.
No matter how high I climb;
No matter how low I fall;
You walk beside me every day.
You are my strength and my hope, O God.
I will never walk so far that you cannot find me.

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