“I HAVE a dream.” Fifty years ago, on August 28, 1963, American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., uttered those words in his most famous speech. Using that captivating refrain, King expressed his dream, or hope, that one day people would enjoy life free from racial prejudice. Though his aspirations were addressed to an audience in the United States, the essence of his dream has been embraced by people in many nations.
Three months after King’s speech, on November 20, 1963, over 100 countries adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Other global initiatives were adopted in the decades that followed. All such worthy efforts inevitably raise the question, What has been the result?
On March 21, 2012, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated: “There are many valuable treaties and tools—as well as a comprehensive global framework—to prevent and eradicate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Nevertheless, racism continues to cause suffering for millions of people around the world.”
Even in lands where some progress has been made in combating racial and other forms of prejudice, the question remains: Have the improvements really rooted out the deep-seated feelings of people or have they merely curbed the outward manifestation of those feelings? Some believe that at best such improvements only help prevent discrimination but may be powerless at eliminating prejudice. Why so? Because discrimination is an act that can be seen and punished by law, whereas prejudice is related to people’s inner thoughts and emotions, which cannot be easily regulated.
Therefore, any attempt to eliminate prejudice must not merely curb discriminatory acts but also change a person’s thoughts and feelings toward people of another group. Can this really be done? If so, how? Let us look into a number of real-life cases that will help us see not only that it is possible for people to make the change but also that there is something that can help them to do so.
THE BIBLE HELPED THEM OVERCOME PREJUDICE
Linda: I was born in South Africa. I viewed any South Africans who were not white as inferior, uneducated and untrustworthy and only as servants for the white people. I was trapped in a mind-set of prejudice and did not even realize it. That attitude began to change, however, once I started to study the Bible. I learned that “God is not partial” and that the heart is more important than the color of our skin or the language we speak. (Acts 10:34, 35; Proverbs 17:3) The scripture at Philippians 2:3 helped me to see that if I considered everyone as superior to me, I would be able to overcome prejudice. Living by Bible principles such as these has helped me to take an interest in others no matter what color skin they have. Now I feel liberated from the cage of prejudice.
Michael: I grew up in an area where there were mostly white Australians, and I developed a very strong prejudice toward Asians, particularly Chinese. When I was driving in a car and I saw someone who looked Asian, I would roll down the window and yell abusive things, such as “Go home, Asian!” Later, when I began to study the Bible, I came to see how God views people. He loves them no matter where they are from or what they look like. This love touched me, and my hatred turned into love. To experience such a dramatic change is amazing. Now I find great pleasure in associating with people from all countries and backgrounds. This has broadened my outlook on life and brought me much joy.
Sandra: My mother was from Umunede in Delta State, Nigeria. My father’s family, however, is from Edo State and speaks the Esan language. Because of these differences, my mother was the victim of intense prejudice from my father’s family until the day she died. So I vowed that I would have nothing to do with anyone who spoke the Esan language and that I would never marry anyone from Edo State. But when I started to study the Bible, I began to see things from a different perspective. Since the Bible says that God is not partial and that anyone who fears him is acceptable to him, who am I to hate people because of their tribe or language? I adjusted my thinking and made peace with my father’s family. Applying Bible principles has made me happy and has given me peace of mind. It has also helped me to get along with others regardless of their background, race, language, or nationality. And the man I married? He is from Edo State and speaks the Esan language!
Why has the Bible been able to help these and many others to overcome deep-seated hatred and prejudice? It is because the Bible is God’s Word. It has the power to change the way a person thinks and feels about others. Furthermore, the Bible shows what else is needed in order to end all prejudice.
GOD’S KINGDOM WILL END ALL PREJUDICE
While Bible knowledge can help to control and root out strong emotions, there are two other elements that must be dealt with before prejudice can be completely eliminated. First, there is sin and human imperfection. The Bible plainly states: “There is no man that does not sin.” (1 Kings 8:46) So no matter how hard we try, we face the same internal struggle as the apostle Paul, who wrote: “When I wish to do what is right, what is bad is present with me.” (Romans 7:21) Thus, from time to time, our imperfect heart will resort to “injurious reasonings” that can lead to prejudice.—Mark 7:21.
Second, there is the influence of Satan the Devil. The Bible describes him as “a manslayer” and says that he “is misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (John 8:44; Revelation 12:9) That explains why prejudice is so prevalent and why mankind seems so helpless in the face of bigotry, discrimination, genocide, and other forms of racial, religious, and social intolerance.
Hence, before there can be the total elimination of prejudice, there must be the removal of human sin, imperfection, and the influence of Satan the Devil. The Bible shows that God’s Kingdom will accomplish just that.
Jesus Christ taught his followers to pray to God in these words: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:10) God’s Kingdom is the means by which all injustices—including all forms of intolerance and prejudice—will be done away with.
When God’s Kingdom comes and takes control over earth’s affairs, Satan will be “bound,” or completely restrained, so that “he might not mislead the nations.” (Revelation 20:2, 3) There will then be a “new earth,” or human society, in which “righteousness is to dwell.”*—2 Peter 3:13.
Those living in that righteous human society will be brought to perfection, free from sin. (Romans 8:21) As subjects of God’s Kingdom, “they will not do any harm or cause any ruin.” Why? “Because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah.” (Isaiah 11:9) At that time, all mankind will learn Jehovah God’s ways and imitate his loving personality. This will indeed mean the end of all prejudice, “for there is no partiality with God.”—Romans 2:11.