The first day I met Amiel Redfish, Physician Assistant, in 1990. We discussed medical issues of our modern society and how stepwise improvements in longevity came with proper sanitation, clean water, and the discovery of antibiotics. I liked this man right away, this Amiel Redfish. Through the years, I’ve heard Amiel give wise council about many issues, recently about the value of eating a hunter-gatherer’s diet with more roots, vegetables, berries, fruit, eggs, and wild game meat. So impressive!
My colleague was taught traditional Indian medicine followed by formal medical physician assistant training. He’s a treasure, a true Sioux Indian Medicine-Man. However, 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 leads to prejudging—making an opinion about another individual using preconceived notions, coming to an opinion about someone before one has the facts. Typical prejudices are often parentally taught and are about perceived differences in race, gender, gender identity, nationality, social status, religious affiliation, age, disability, height, and weight.
Anthropologists speculate that, at one time, stereotyping or prejudice probably provided a survival advantage. In an unpoliced society, people were safer trusting only their family and their known community, while being careful with outsiders who looked different. 100,000 to 10,000 years ago, people not belonging to our tribe were more likely to cause us harm, and all this became hard wired into our middle brain. However, in this modern era, it is reversed; we are more likely to be murdered by family member than by outsiders.
Other research suggests that treating people with respect and not prejudging them by appearance allows an openness to operate and churns the wheels of commerce, community, and communication. Indeed, Martin Luther King Jr.’s communication rings true for all good people when he 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.” That should go for all children of every color. Since our daughter is of Asian heritage, King’s statement has particular meaning for me and my family.
It is nice to find research which proves that those who break free of prejudicial stereotyping profit from it. It’s nice, too, to make friends . . . friends like Amiel Redfish.