barrack-1.jpgSeveral months ago, a reader of my career column on MSNBC.com was upset at my use of the word “black” in a story I wrote. She wondered why I did not use “African American” in the piece instead.

She wrote in an email:

So many times we subconsciously allow our own personal prejudices and feelings to slip through in our daily activities.  Was this one of those times or was it just a grammatical error?  I’d like to know.

I explained to her that Associated Press style calls for us to use “black”, but I also felt compelled to speak a little bit to her comments about “our own personal predudices.”

So, in an email back to her I wrote:

I’d like to think I am not prejudice but I’m old enough to know we all have our silent prejudices.

One of my favorite passages on discrimination is by Sartre, the French philosopher — “…There are people who are attracted to the durability of stone. They want to be massive and impenetrable, they do not want to change: where would change lead them? This is an original fear of oneself and a fear of truth. And what frightens them is not the content of truth which they do not even suspect, but the very form of the true–that thing of indefinite approximation. It is as if their very existence were perpetually in suspension. They want to exist all at once and right away. They do not want acquired opinions, they want them innate; since they are afraid of reasoning, they want to adopt a mode of life in which . . . one never seeks but that which one has already found, in which one never becomes other than what one already was.”

Knowing this, if we can come to terms with our fear of the unknown and still treat people with the utmost respect then we’ve truly helped the world in our own small way.

Unfortunately, the world has a long way to go.

I was shocked when I read recent statistics from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that found racial harassment complaints in the workplace are higher than than they’ve ever been — at least in EEOC recorded history. I address the issue in my column today.

It seems mind boggling, especially given what’s happening in the political arena. It makes you wonder about our nation’s silent prejudices as a black man makes historic inroads to the presidency.

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