This week I read about a man, Kevin Strickland, who served 43 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. It is a tragedy, a life ruined by a jury with a predisposition of guilt when confronted by a young black man. We can be quick to judge those that don’t fit our own criteria or philosophies. We witness it everyday in acts of bigotry, racism, sexism or just plain bias.
We create groups that can be ostracised and marginalised, people with addictions, homeless people, immigrants, people of colour to name but a few, and the danger is, that we then become ensconced within our own bounds and more likely to be pass remarkable as a result. It’s casual, it’s lazy and it’s wrong.
The problem with that attitude and being quick to judge is that it can easily hurt and offend people. Innocent people. It leads to a mind set with a predilection to criticise and blame, to harangue and intimidate just like playground school bullies. And like school bullies the weak and the easily led are often brought into the gang to do the dirty work. Decrying somebody because you don’t agree with their religion, sexuality, culture or politics, or you don’t like the way they dress or the colour of their skin, serves nobody and no democracy well. It stains free speech, it undermines debate, it’s shoddy but thankfully not yet representative of wider society. Kevin Strickland’s life has been destroyed by prejudice and his incarceration represents the pinnacle of intolerance. We live at the grassroots of prejudice and ignorance and we should not tolerate it in our society, our mainstream media, our social media or on our doorstep.