From Dr. Wayne Baker: Benjamin Pratt is a teacher and author, but first and foremost he is a storyteller who recognizes the power of story to convey deeper truths. This is Part 2 of an unusual OurValues series. Here’s Ben Pratt …
THIS WEEK, in OurValues, I’m telling you the true story of how I met used-car salesman Abe, an immigrant from Ghana, and what I learned as a result. I am encouraging you to use these stories to spark a discussion with your friends.
Today, I’m going to make a confession: I’m prejudiced.
I’m biased. Are you aware of some biases that crop up as you navigate your life, week by week?
Here’s my prejudice: I would never buy a Cadillac or a Lincoln.
As Abe and I ambled through the dealership’s selection of used cars, I confessed my bias and he wisely didn’t try to argue with me. My attitudes run very deep.
Of course, I realize that today I’m a well-educated American of means—certainly not wealthy but well to do by comparison with the majority of the world’s population. Buying any car is a marker of wealth around the world.
But, as Abe and I strolled, we did come face to face with a beautiful Lincoln and I told him: “I can’t drive a Lincoln. When I was growing up only the rich or the pretentious drove a Lincoln or a Cadillac. Even though that was many years ago, I still feel I would be betraying my family roots. Call it my class consciousness or reverse snobbery, but I just can’t buy one.”
We kept walking, but I couldn’t stop talking.
“I’m too aware of ethnic, class and wealth distinctions in our society. Seriously,” I said, “sometimes the wealth gap in our world makes me cry.”
That’s honestly what went through my mind. I’m confessing what I thought—and Abe, a truly expert salesman, knew what to do: We simply walked past the luxury cars and he didn’t push. He didn’t even comment on what I had said.
But what do you think? Am I being overly sensitive? Am I over-thinking my personal responsibility in our country’s ever-widening wealth gap? (Dr. Baker has written about this theme repeatedly over the years, including this column in early 2015.) Maybe you’ve got a completely different perspective on Lincolns and Cadillacs. It’s OK to take issue with me.
But, for a moment, consider my biases from Abe’s perspective. Sales people face customers every day with a wide range of prejudices—spoken or unspoken and often running as deep as mine.
What do you think Abe should have done in response to my biases? Anything?
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you what happened next—and it will surprise you.
Care to read more?
Benjamin Pratt is the author of three books published by ReadTheSpirit Books. His occasional columns appear in ReadTheSpirit online magazine, the website of the Day1 radio network and in other online clergy networks as well.
- Depth of a Salesman, part 1: ‘Attention must be paid’
- Depth of a Salesman, 2: In which I confess that I’m prejudiced
- Depth of a Salesman 3: I didn’t haggle. Are you surprised?
- Depth of a Salesman 4: What we need, not what we want
- Depth of a Salesman 5: Reclaiming the R-word; Mister Rogers was right