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  • Jose Arrieta

Some Pride Some Prejudice

Hitchen's razor provides a working theory for handling and even sometimes indulging in prejudice. It states: "What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence". True. It does not say anything about prejudice but I'd claim that anything we can assert without evidence is built in the absence of judgment.


I've struggled with the idea of prejudice for over a decade, since 2011 when I first left Costa Rica. Early on, I saw prejudice as a form of categorization that helped me build intuition faster. And, as a generalist, I love things that give me that feeling of quasi-understanding. I am not a detail-oriented person, and thus prejudice was a dear tool to explore new spaces and research fields.


As a migrant, I am fortunate to come from a country that most people like, have visited, or want to visit. Costa Rica is a great place and I am proud of having had the luck of being born there. Just one of the plethora of privileges I was born into and the even more feats of luck I have experienced in my time on Earth. My luck and privilege allowed me to see prejudice in a good light and made me fail to account for its hurtful side.


It goes without saying that being prejudiced is wrong. Though, it is here where Hitchen's razor comes in. It enables us to follow the Silicon Valley mantra "strong opinions, loosely held", without too much reproach. That is, we can indulge in some prejudice to pump our intuition, but whenever evidence comes along we need to lose them, throw them away, and take the new information in its place.


With time my views about prejudice have changed. I came to value nuance and internalized the value of responsibility when thinking. And thus I try to focus on reading memoirs and empathizing with the lived experiences of others to create a broader tapestry of human experiences. Sure, any piece of information one reads leads to prejudice but in variety lies humanity. See StoryCorps for a great example of the intrinsic humaneness of stories.


It would be nice to say I grew out of my use of biased prejudices. But it is like saying that one was once racist but not anymore: i.e., a delusional lie. Indeed, one form of prejudice is hard to outgrow. Namely, I tend to allow myself into being prejudiced against the peoples who are prejudiced against who they categorize as my people.


Let me break down a highly convoluted sentence. Let's start with people.

  • By people I mean the sociological construct, as in "the Gringos", "the 1%", "the migrants".

  • By who they categorize as my people, I link to the idea that I am put in categories by many people. I can easily be categorized into as a member of the brown people, the 1%, the men. etc.

  • By allow myself, I mean I let it be, I indulge in my lack of effort in fully taking the moral high ground against the prejudiced

Some of the categories I am placed, experience prejudice. Some more homogeneously than others. For example, I lived in the US for a while and there I experienced the prejudice that people who categorized me as latino packed into their worldviews. In the countries, I have lived in Europe (Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands) latinos tend not to be the focus of marginalization and thus I am seen with a lighter load of prejudice.


By this I do not mean that there is no racism. For example, while in Switzerland, I received the picture shown below in my mail. I will avoid pretending I am not bitter about the policy espoused by the image. If you let me indulge, the image asks for your vote for a policy aimed at throwing people from the place they called home for crimes not penalized when committed by locals. Things like crossing the street or smoking weed could uproot the brown from the land of the Swiss.


This type of policy is not based on real data or facts. They tend to focus on prejudice. So I feel justified to be prejudiced against the people who espouse these white supremacist notions. that is, I accept that I might not be unbiased against the biggest political party in Switzerland. And worse still to the one in four people who believe their ideas lead to a better Federation. One in four is bad enough and I reason for my flight, but it is worse in other places. I manage to live less than six months in US, a country where one in two people trust that the policies espoused on the belief that people like me are "drug dealers, criminals, and rapists" lead their country to greatness.


Being called a black sheep might be better than a rapist but "ain;'t I a [hu]man?"

As always, feminists know better. Indeed, as I aim at gaining nuance, I need to remember the 2nd wave notion that the personal is political, and when I experience a situation in which a people is prejudiced and small-minded against my people. I see the personal nature of their threat. I still will try to go high as they go low. But as I go up, I will aim my Hitchen's razor low and indulge in some prejudice myself.


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