A Chinese man and a Jewish man were eating lunch in the same restaurant. Suddenly, without warning the Jew got up, walked over to the Chinese fellow and smashed him in the mouth, sending him sprawling. The Chinese man picked himself up, rubbed his jaw and asked, “What in the world did you do that for?” And the answer came back, “For Pearl Harbour!” His response was total astonishment, “Pearl Harbour? I didn’t have anything to do with Pearl Harbour. It was the Japanese who bombed Pearl Harbour.” The Jew responded, “Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese… they’re all the same to me.” With that they both sat down again, and before too long the Chinese man got up, walked over to the Jew and sent him flying with a hard smack to the jaw. The Jew yelled out, “What did you do that for?” And the answer came back, “The Titanic.” The Jew responded, “The Titanic? Why, I didn’t have anything to do with the Titanic!” Whereupon the Chinese man replied, “Goldberg, Feinberg, Iceberg… they’re all the same to me!”

Even though we can truly smile at the tenacious stupidity of prejudice portrayed in the above illustration, we have to admit that our own behaviour isn’t much different on many an occasion! Yes, the very same prejudice portrayed above finds its way into our very own lives in such a subtle way that we stand amazed when accused of such stupendous behaviour. And this happens in the sociological, political and economical spheres of life; in business, politics and church; in absolutely every area of our lives.

  • Have you ever suffered harm or hurt at the hands of a person from another race (white, black, pink or green), and now you classify them all as…?
  • Have you ever done business with a Christian (or Muslim, or Jew, or Greek, or Indian, or German), had a raw deal, and now you classify them all as…?
  • Have you ever been molested by a man (or woman, or adult), and now you classify them all as…?
  • Have you ever had a bad experience in your dealings with your bank (or church, or doctor, or municipality, or lawyer, or supermarket, or police), and now you classify them all as…?
  • Have you ever … and now you classify them all as…?

The list is infinite. The common denominator is prejudice where the thinking is basically that all must pay for the sin of one. This is diametrically opposed to the message of the Gospel where One paid for the sin of all!

Prejudice is a luxury true leaders can’t afford. When policies, philosophies and practices are founded on prejudice, the vision is distorted, the mission is corrupted, the emission is hatred and the final conclusion is death.

Adolf Hitler orchestrated the rise of the Third Reich on racial purity and supremacy, amongst other reasons, which resulted in the extermination of “inferior” peoples like the Jews and the Gypsies. The basis of hatred, founded on prejudice, was well established. And the end result? Death of the vision… death of the mission… and death of the leadership…

In South Africa we have deep embedded prejudices. The government strives to “legislate equality, acceptance and tolerance.” However, prejudice is not a matter of the law, but a matter of the heart! The law is limited in function by only being able to punish offenders. But a change of heart, a change of thinking, a change of how we see other people, results in a permanent change of the attitudes of people, which will render the law irrelevant and immaterial. When we listen to the political rhetoric of certain of today’s firebrands, it’s quite clear that prejudice is alive and well in our society, and that a change of heart is desperately needed.

Leaders need beware of prejudice. Those who engage in it are merely emulating the behaviour of the Chinese and Jewish gentlemen in the illustration. Not only does prejudice prove personal stupidity, but also out of it is born diseases like racism, sexism, superiority, pride, and the like—which in turn lead to hatred, violence and those terrible diseases of the soul. And how the devil enjoys division! He actually specialises in this field. When a person falls prey to prejudice he’s a very effective tool in the hands of the devil in causing division. And this is regardless of the standing or position of the person concerned.

The process to eradicate prejudice starts with the leaders. There are normally more followers than leaders, and the followers emulate the example of their leaders. Leaders who advocate tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness, radiate a Godly love that changes people. However, leaders must have a first hand experience of receiving that Godly love, tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness prior giving it away—for one simply cannot give what one does not have.

As leaders it is imperative to determine whether there is any prejudice alive in our beings, and to remedy the situation in our own lives without delay—through the grace and love of God.

Where we all desire a better South Africa as far as business, government and Christianity is concerned, let each leader take up the challenge and act—having said, “It starts right here! It starts with me!”


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© Emil Kirstein

(Author of Quest for Freedom)