By Richard P. Holm MD
The first day I met Amiel Redfish, a physician assistant, we discussed the overuse and over-reliance on medicine in modern society, how great changes in longevity, through the years, came instead with proper sanitation, clean water, and the discovery of antibiotics.
Although there have been great strides in health care throughout the years, none have resulted in such significant drops in the overall death rate as those. Redfish also expressed the value of the vigorous lifestyle of traditional American Indians and a diet closer to what was found in a hunter/gatherer’s world like roots, vegetables, berries and fruit, eggs, and wild game.
My colleague is a true Sioux Indian medicine man, a class act, and a dear friend. But despite the sagacity, insight, and traditional perspective he represents, I dare say there are those who, not knowing him, would look at his original American Indian features and prejudge him.
Prejudice is a word that means judging or making an opinion about an individual using preconceived notions, coming to an opinion before one has the facts. Typical prejudices arise out of attitudes, mostly parentally taught, about perceived differences in race, gender, gender identity, nationality, social status, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or non-affiliation, age, disability, height, and weight.
Anthropologists speculate that, at one time, stereotyping and acting on prejudice provided a survival advantage. In unpoliced societies, people are safer trusting their family and their community while being wary of outsiders. Ten-thousand years ago, those looking different than our tribe had a higher chance of causing us harm.
On some level, this is hard wired into our middle brain. But distrust and hating others who are different from ourselves can also come out of self-doubt, jealousy, and is destructive to those hated and even more so to the hater.
As they say, “If you want to destroy your enemy, make him hate.”Other research suggests that treating people with respect, not prejudging them on appearance, allows an openness to operate which in turn churns the wheels of communication, commerce, and community. Recall what Martin Luther King Jr. said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
It is accurate to say that those who can break free of prejudicial stereotyping are better able to make new friends and find success. It is a great joy and to my great advantage to have friends like Amiel Redfish.