How we perceive people PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 12 December 2014 11:32



If you have been watching the news on the American scene I’m sure you have come across items simply referred to as “Ferguson”. The name  is that of the American city in  Missouri that was the scene of riots and protests after a white policeman fatally shot an African-American young man.  Shortly after this incident there were at least two other cases of African-Americans experiencing what some called “police brutality”. The protests became even worse and went nationwide after a grand jury decided that no case would be filed against  the Ferguson policeman.

What does this have to do with our lives in the Philippines?  Very much, if we reflect  more deeply on the subject matter, which has to do with the use of power and authority and with how we see people.

One implication in the Ferguson case  has to do with race: Is a black  American  inferior to  a white  American? This seemed to be the case in the US for many years and we get to understand a bit when we consider the background - slavery and all that - of the presence of the black race in the US. Over the years though laws were passed in recognition of the US constitution’s statement of “all men are created equal”. But personal conduct does  not always abide with what the law says ,  and this notwithstanding the fact the US has  an African-American President. For some white Americans, a person of color – black, brown yellow, whatever – will never be as good as a white one. Should we be angry about this attitude?  Instead of being angry I would feel pity instead for anyone who feels this way, for the person  is a prisoner of  his/her own bias.

The same may be said of any African-American who feels that all whites suffer from a superiority complex based on color.

If we don’t have relational problems among Filipinos on the basis of color, if we are honest  we have to admit that in Mindanao we have to deal with problems having to do with relations between ethnic  groups and groups by religious affiliations. And the relations are colored by how we see each other:  how Muslims perceive Christians in a general way, how Christians perceived Muslims in a general way, and the many variations of this with respect to the Lumads and between ethnic groups.

It would be a good thing if each one of us, Muslim or Christian or follower of any other religion, takes a good long look at how we perceive the “others” and how this outlook conditions us in how we relate with them, and how this influences the prospects for peace in Mindanao. If modifying our perceptions is called for, then perhaps we should begin to take the first steps towards making the modifications that are needed.