Ignorance Perpetuates Prejudice

crow (Photo credit: crowdive)

There’s so much outrage these days. Something has stirred up our emotions and I’m at a loss to find one single cause. The overall theme of this simmering pot is misunderstanding with a big helping of mistrust on top. The visible combatants, via our sensationlizing media, in these divisions are claiming the ability to divine the intent of anyone who has a differing opinion. The core element to the outrage seems to be a misguided philosophy that assumes, those who differ, do so from a purely mean-spirited inspiration.

I’d like to offer a true story that helped me to realize that most prejudice comes from ignorance not an evil agenda.
A few years ago, I witnessed one of Nature’s violent “goings on”. I was alerted to a “bird battle” in my back yard by dozens of squawking crows. As I watched the commotion, there was a flailing of wings and seeming screams coming from a gang of large birds on my lawn. One red-tailed hawk emerged from that pile, and flew off, followed by more crows than I could count. My curiosity brought me straight to the, now abandoned, crime scene to discover three dead fledglings on the ground. My human heart was saddened but I returned to my daily routine.
A few hours later, my neighbor had taken up the task of burying the victims and joined me at my doorstep with his tale of the tragedy .
Before I tell you about his understanding of the bird “murders”, I’d like to point out that most people have a small knowledge of birds, and Nature in general. In fact, until my curiosity of natural things had awakened, I was among those folks who could identify only Robins, Crows, Blue Jays and the, occasional, Cardinal. These birds are of the highly visible type that most people come to know. With that commonness , there also comes wide-spread folk-lore about them. Blue Jays are brash and bossy, Robins are sweet, Cardinals are special and Crows are murderers. In fact, a group of crows is referred to as a “murder of crows”. (In defense of crows, they are actually primarily scavengers and highly intelligent to boot. I’m sure, the common place sightings of these fellows eating carrion was the impetus of the “killer” label.)

Now, back to the story:
My kind neighbor broke into a tale of murderous crows who attacked a red-tailed hawk nest, leaving baby hawks littered in our shared yard. It was true that we witnessed the same event but ignorance was there too.

I proceeded to tell him my version. The dead babies were crows. I showed him the straight beak of one of “the fallen”. It was easy to understand his confusion though. Crows are big birds and are about the size of many hawks. The dead babies were very close to leaving the nest, therefore, they were almost full-sized.
My tale continued with the murderous intent shifted to the hawk. By the time I had finished, his sympathy had done a one-eighty. My tale ended with an admiration for the community and brotherhood which had brought so many crows, out of nowhere, to aid in the rescue attempt.

So you see, my neighbor was not being mean-spirited in his inaccuracy. It was his ignorance that perpetuated the prejudice.

I’m hoping this story, inspires you to take a moment to explain yourself when someone has a different opinion and refrain from judging others as mean-spirited. Overall, the most important message, here, is to stay informed and curious.

Lucky LaValley

We had a dog when I was a kid. My parents spotted a black puppy outside of  a shop in Bennington ,Vt. . He was the runt of his litter, so they say. A Black Lab without papers. I believe they paid 25 or 35 dollars for him. I was visiting my grandparents’ farm when the rest of the family came to own him. When we were introduced, my parents thought I should name him, since I had missed the excitement of finding him. They had been looking for a Black Lab and mentioned many times how lucky they were to spot him. I liked the name Sam, but the name Lucky was mentioned as a possibility. We decided to leave his name to a flip of a coin.

“Lucky” became a neighborhood legend.

He was a black lab and something else.

His bloodline wasn’t the best.

Whatever he was, he was one of a kind

And stood out from the rest.

Played with all kids in the neighborhood

We needn’t worry ’bout dangers.

Many a times his hackles were raised

At the sight of any adult strangers.

Oh how he loved to ride in the car,

He’d hide down on the floor.

Wouldn’t come when he was called

T’was freedom he adored.

Traveled through the neighborhoods

Black pups were here and there,

Treed raccoons and dug some holes,

Adventures… had his share.

To this day, he’s thought of still.

Been thirty years and more,

He’s talked about at campfire chats

Our Lab of local lore.

Lucky LaValley