Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Well, Who Are They?

" كلكم لآدم وآدم من تراب "

- النبي محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم

You are all Adam's offspring, and Adam was created from clay
- Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him 
Discrimination, for any reason, is an ugly thing. We are all guilty of believing stereotypes, even creating our own in our minds. It may be true to you, through your narrow experiences, and sometimes difficult to dispute when a lot of evidence seems to support such stereotypes. It is a trap of sorts; some may hate to do it but surely we cannot deny there is some extent of truth, otherwise the correlation would not have existed.

It's difficult to justify to myself when I have fallen victim to this trap countless times. As much as I hate to generalize, I find myself doing so anyhow. For whatever reason, our brains seem to gather the entirety of experience and exposure to categorize people. Perhaps it makes understanding people better, or dealing with people easier, if you are able to classify them to some extent. So would it be wrong then? If it is not meant to pass judgement, merely a benchmark to use in your personal life, is it acceptable then or am I still discriminating?

Is it okay to use your limited life experience with a certain group to describe the entire group? To generalize on a whole group based on the actions of a few? To what extent do we allow such stereotypes to affect how we see an individual?

I'm trying to view this as realistically as I possibly can. Stereotypes - whether predetermined by environment or created on your own accord - are hard to avoid. I would like to say unavoidable because I personally cannot rid my mind of them, but I won't because I still have a sliver of hope in humanity. But I still believe that as unavoidable as it may seem, there are limits as to how far you let that allow you to unfairly pass judgement on people solely based on such stereotypes. No matter how consistently the stereotype has been proven true to you, there will always be exceptions. I do love meeting the exceptions, they are the spice of life. A gentle reminder that you have not seen or heard it all. And if you allow the stereotype to take over you will truly be missing out.

Despite mental predisposition to pass judgement on people based on stereotypes, or even worse based on nothing, no one should see it as okay to impose such views on others. If you want to say everyone is entitled to an opinion, if you want to regard this as an opinion, then fine. But in this case, keep it to yourself please. Don't spread such poisonous thoughts as if it is the word of God. Even worse still when people use the word of God to justify such poisonous thoughts! God is great, he created us all, and I am sure us hating on each other we did purely on our own without the need of divine intervention.

It makes me wonder; as much as cultural differences between people are celebrated, is it not these very differences that cause divisions among people? I personally see cultural differences as a beautiful thing, but people sometimes take their culture as a form of superiority above others, religiously so. Culture slowly becomes some form of dogma for the elite.

Who's to say what is considered superior?! Who gets to decide? Such vain notions will do you no favors. And if these are notions of those around you, they can eat your dust. Why succumb to the insecurities and intolerance of such small-minded people? Don't let it dictate your life; if you do so to please others, they will never be pleased. The sad reality is that people will always find things to criticize, things to talk about, things to misconstrue. What you do to please one group of people, will likely disappoint another. You will never win and only you will ever pay the price for it. Is it worth the sacrifice; jumping through hoops just for the approval of a group of people who are unlikely to have your best interest at heart to begin with? Think of those who actually matter, those whose happiness are directly linked to your own. Those people will want the best of you regardless of whether they agree or not, because they love and support you no matter what.

The truth of the matter is I am no better than any other schmuck, unless he eats babies or something. Everyone walking this Earth has a story that you don't know about, a story that made them who they are, who they will become. Each person's life has formed them as a person, and we must respect that. We are all different in so many ways, but I bet there are a lot more ways we are similar if we think about it. A beautiful initiative started by Brandon Stanton called "Humans of New York" shows exactly that and so much more (now sponsored by the UN on a journey of 10 countries to raise awareness for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals). As hard as it is to respect the difference in those who are very different, I try, knowing full well that I am unlikely to be paid similar respect. At least I can say I tried, and I will continue to try, until someone threatens to eat my babies.