This novel tries to get us to think about race differently. I think that some of our preconceptions about race may be turned on their heads. The black family that Maniac Magee stays with is loving and peaceful, but he cannot stay with them because he is white and this upsets people. Yet the white family Maniac lives with is much more dysfunctional. Even though they have the same color skin, he would be better off with the first family. Race does not matter as much as love.
In answering this question, reflect on your own experiences of prejudice and friendship. As post #2 explains, prejudice means to judge someone or something. Think about your friends. Why are they your friends? Why do you like them? Think about their talents, their personalities, and their interests. All of these things make your friends interesting to you and fun to be around. Now, are all of your friends the same? Or do they have differences? What are those differences? Differences are often why we enjoy people -- because they give us new perspectives, new insights, and introduce us to fun hobbies and information. However, if prejudice gets in the way, and if you never became friends with those people because of the way they looked or the religion they followed or the country they came from, think of all the great stuff you would be missing!
Prejudice of any kind is rooted in ignorance; it is based on personal beliefs that are formed by pre-judging anything or anyone without knowlege or understanding. Prejudice is contagious and can often be inherited as it is passed from one person to another, from one group to another, or from one generation to another. Prejudice is destructive. It prevents genuine dialog between individuals and makes impossible mutual understanding and respect; it breeds fear and hatred. The results of prejudice are well known in history and are obvious in today's world. Prejudice manifests itself in terms of race, religion, nationality, age, and social classes. Wherever differences exist between groups of human beings, prejudice can drive a destructive wedge between them.
Much has been written about friendship. As social beings, friendship provides comfort, security, and meaning in our lives. A genuine friend helps anchor us during difficult times and shares our joy during good times. Friendship is a tremendously important emotional resource. A trusted friend acts as a sounding board and a reality check when it is time to make important decisions. Real friendship is not selfish or self-serving; a friend gives as well as takes from the relationship. As someone wrote somewhere, "To have a friend, be one."
Prejudice exists in all forms and is not solely focused on race. Friendship can be the best or worse things for people. Friends can help you reach great heights, and also make you steal from peer pressure in a heartbeat, no matter how many years your parents said you shouldn't do that.