Challenging Discrimination – Embracing Inclusive Perspective
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The scourge of discrimination is prevalent in our society. As a society, we must acknowledge the existence of racial prejudice and other forms of prejudice. We can no longer pretend that we live in a society where all human beings have equal rights. Society must be open to the idea of identifying and correcting bias. Any form of discrimination should be frowned upon whenever it rears its ugly head. As a society, we should speak up when we witness discrimination. Do we not know that it is not race or skin pigmentation that defines who we are? Our performance and capabilities are not defined by race or culture. We must self-reflect and identify biases, for we all consciously or unconsciously harbour some form of bias or preconceived ideas. In our interactions, we should open up to the idea that we may be biased and correct these biases.
Where do biases come from? Biases have been planted in us by the society we live in. We hear all manner of comments from family and friends and narratives from media and politicians. Stereotyping also breeds bias where a negative experience with one person is translated to a particular race, community or group of people. As a society we are constantly indoctrinated with bias. In the media for instance, there is constant barrage of catchy discrimination fuelling headlines. Below are examples found online (https://in.news.yahoo.com/city-university-students-vote-ban some newspapers from campus)
The language used by parents and the people that children spend time with may plant seeds of bias in children. This may contribute to those children bullying others and discriminating later in life. Parents play an important role in shaping children’s beliefs and behaviours, and the kind of people these children grow up to be. If at home the parents speak of other people in a discriminatory manner or associate what they consider unacceptable to the race or to any other attribute of that person, that is the language the children are likely to use. No one is born racist. These are learned behaviours.
The murder of George Floyd highlighted how discrimination runs deep in our society. As George Floyd begged for his life, the police officer kneeling on his neck had no consideration for the life ebbing away beneath him. Hands in his pockets, the officer looked calm. Disturbingly too calm.
Another recent incident of supremacism is the Amy Cooper incident in Central Park, New York. In the video Amy Cooper can be heard threatening the African American, telling him, “I am taking a picture and calling the cops. I am going to tell them that an African American is threatening my life!” In order to evoke action, Amy Cooper feigns distress over the phone (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUQWd4q3tjA). This incident had the potential to turn tragic.
Institutions and organisations should do more to nip prejudice in the bud. Failure to do so sends the wrong message; that the institutions tolerate this ugliness. Had the police departments investigated the prolific deaths of African Americans at the hands of the police, the situation would never have gotten to where it is. Prior to the George Floyd murder, there were other incidences of police brutality especially towards African Americans. Do the officers play the role of both judge and executioner? What happened to “Presumed innocent until proven guilty”?
The George Floyd murder and the events that followed diverted our attention to racism. I had an interesting conversation with my daughter over the weekend. My daughter is of mixed-race heritage. She asked me if she is considered by society white or black. Her second question was why people say there are more blacks in prisons compared to whites. This started an hour-long conversation on the issue. This is what I told my daughter: She is neither black nor white, she is Maria! We are all created equal and we are not defined by our colour or race. Glad was I, to hear that she thinks of her friends by their names not by their races. I said, there are ignorant people in this world no matter the colour of their skin and we should do our best to educate them.
Some will argue that more black people are involved in crime compared to white people. True or not, this statement should not be evaluated in isolation. A few people in a society committing a crime does not mean everyone in that community should be profiled as a criminal. In places like the US, the justice system has been cited as being discriminatory. Black people are said to receive the harshest of sentences compared to white people for similar offences. This could be a contributing factor as to why the ratio of black people to white people in Prisons is higher in the US.
Crime rate is linked to socioeconomic status (SES) of a community. There is evidence that SES inequality is experienced by ethnic minorities. Poverty and low SES are vicious cycles which can be difficult to break. As a society, we should look at how we can help these communities break these cycles. A young boy who grows up in a household where there is poverty, domestic violence and alcoholism, does he dream of going to university or does he dream of having enough to eat, a comfortable bed and escaping the violence at home? He is likely to dream of the latter. Does a young man who lives in an impoverished area, in a single-parent home dream of going to medical or law school? Chances are he does not unless he is one of the lucky few who develop a hunger to escape their way of living and aspires for the better. The primal need of such a young man is to survive in the neighbourhood. How can these youngsters dream big? Who are their role models? To many of them, big dreams are unattainable.
We should teach our children, our friends and colleagues that we are the human race. We need to stop thinking of each other in terms of skin pigmentation, culture and beliefs. We should think of each other as individuals. We may look different, have different socio-economic statuses, speak differently, and have different sets of beliefs but that does not make any of us superior or inferior. We must frown at, and denounce any form of discrimination. We must unite against discrimination as a society, as the human race.
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