Societal integration, harmony and peace can be ensured if there is equality in the society. The concept of equality is very broad, it covers equality of law for everyone, but also the equal provision of respect, rights and opportunities for everyone in the society. One of the factors that makes provision of equality is prejudice and bias, which can act like a lens and may become the root cause of gross generalizations and blanket approach. A branch of such an approach is racism and discrimination which makes provision of an equal environment very difficult, in turn creating a negative impact in the society.
When the societies become inclusive, there is growth, harmony and prosperity, which means that as a society we all move forward and become progressive as there is no ground for conflict.
To ensure that we do not act with bias and discrimination against people who may have different ethnicity, family backgrounds, beliefs or no beliefs, orientation, gender, profession, disabilities and financial status etc, an easy parameter is to think how you would like to be treated if you were in the other person’s place? Following are some points that can help us maintain our behavior fair and impartial.
1. Humans are much more than their skin color, appearance and their life choices:
According to Stephen Covey, all humans are four dimensional i.e. they have a Body, Mind, Heart & Spirit. Ethnicity, gender, orientation, beliefs, disabilities etc., are one aspect of a person, not the entire person. People who act racist and discriminate against others, largely do so because they focus on only one dimension or aspect of a person. In reality, humans are much more than their appearance, their living conditions or the choices they make. When we start to see people beyond the one aspect that is different from us, it becomes much more easier to intermingle with people without being bias. We start to see people and their potential, we learn to understand and appreciate things about them, which in turn increases our knowledge of the world.
Remember that the more you know, the more you travel and mix with different people, there are less chances that you will act unkindly with others.
2. Diversity brings prosperity:
Imagine if everything and everyone in the world was exactly identical to everyone else, how would the world look like? It’s like if there was only one color in the whole world ,or if there was just one profession in the world, how boring and monotonous everything would be. It is the difference that makes things, life and people interesting.
When there is diversity in the society, there is freedom of expression and speech, which implies spurting of new ideas, exchange of knowledge and information, experimentation with new ideas and problem solving things from a multiple and collaborative approach. For example many famous scientists such as Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Isaac Newton are thought to be on Autism Spectrum Disorder. A study by University of Montreal and Harvard University found that people with autism were 40% more efficient in problem solving skills compared to their peers . Imagine if everyone acted discriminatory towards people with autism, where would have our world been today? It is only through equality of opportunity that their talents were able to bring fruits to the whole world.
People with different mindset, upbringing, different values, exposure to different conditions, diverse experiences can add a lot to the society and complete the bigger picture. For example Raplh Braun was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at 7 years of age, he went on to invent world’s first battery-powered scooter and wheelchair lift.
3. The overlap between natural inclination and racism:
It can be natural to relate more to the people with whom you have grown up with or spent more time with, or feel more strongly to the causes that may have affected you and your family. This may mean that someone wants to make their street, neighborhood, city and country better, but if they start to view other people as “inferior” and responsible for things that they have not done, preventing them provision of equal opportunities and respect, this is where a natural inclination may turn into racism. One way of avoiding such a bias is to call spade a spade regardless of the color, shape and size of the spade.
4. Avoiding pro-racism movies and jokes:
There are several mainstream movies and jokes which target people belonging from a certain group, or different ethnicity, appearance etc. The information we receive eventually shapes how we perceive things, unless we can scrutinize it logically and question the accuracy of the news. Even despite that, the subconscious mind can pick up a lot of influences which may result in influencing our opinion about different matters.
In the age of social media, we also have jokes ridiculing genders, people with different political views, people supporting different sports teams etc. It just takes the click of a mouse to share any content. While one may not find anything “hurtful” about such content and may share things for fun, it could be perceived very differently by the followers of your post. It is no surprise that there have been people who have committed suicides because of bullying posts . Imagine if someone felt discouraged, hopeless and went on to end their life because of a post that was just shared for fun? If you find a racist or a sexist joke, avoid sharing it, or focus on the humor of the joke only by removing the discriminatory elements (e.g. names, disabilities, races, political affiliations etc.) from it.
Another way of increasing acceptance of people with different background is to watch movies or listen to music from different countries, it may take some effort initially but it will help you to broadly accept the diversity within the human race. It will also help you appreciate beauty in every race.
5. Developing a respectful attitude and an attitude of learning:
Every culture, race, civilization and country has some positive points. Just like green and blue are different colours and not necessarily one is “better” than the other, learn to take differences between people respectfully. Here are few lines from a poem of mine titled “Revision of division” that explain the same concept :
“if we see our reflection in others, there will be no illusions
we may speak different languages but our voice is the same
we may act differently but our intentions are the same
we may be different from each other, yet we are also similar and same
like the flowers of different kinds
no one is greater than the other
no one is lesser than the other
no one is better than the other
just another language, another tune, just another color
I hope and pray for the revision of division
the cessation of this classification, this segregation”
Develop an interest in knowing about the differences respectfully, see what you can learn, there might be few things that you may totally fall in love with such as food, music, beautiful places from where they come from that they may be able to show and share pictures with you, hospitality, simplicity, manners and so much more.
When you have the attitude of what can we learn from each other without necessarily categorizing anyone as “better”, or “superior”, you start to give equal respect to everyone. Remember that no one is given an option or a choice form before birth that asks them what race, gender, color, family etc. they will like to be born in, so discriminating against such factors is not healthy.
If you think that something that you have said or done might have caused hurt to the other person, do not hesitate to apologize and explain your reasoning behind it. This is especially very much relevant in today’s age of communication via fingers (i.e. texts, chats, emails etc.) where messages can be easily misunderstood. Similarly if there is a difference of language and culture between you and the other person, it is important to let them know that let you know if there is something that you have said or did which they may find strange. Often it could be that either of the party is unaware of what they may have said or done because it did not translate very well. Talking about such matters with respect is definitely the way forward.
6. “Most people are good”:
When I read newspaper and sometimes think about sad things happening in the world, the song “Most people are good” by Luke Bryan and it’s lyrics acts as a ray of hope. It never fails to bring the smile back to my lips and restore my faith in humanity.
Where possible, avoid discussions which focus on making generalized statements and assumptions. When people talk with me with such statements as “99% people (from this group or region) will act this way”, I simply tell them politely that I do not have that much knowledge or research to evaluate the behavior of 99% people. Most of the times they would retract their statement by telling that they do not have either but in their experience, they think it’s the case. The latter is a relatively acceptable answer really because we all can have few experiences, not sure if someone would have experiences with 99% population.
Another aspect is that the vibes we send to people can influence their behaviors. Thinking and interacting positively with people can increase chances of them bringing their best behavior when they are around you.
7. Invitations and inclusions:
And finally take some time to be part of people’s lives who may be different than you, invite them to a dinner or to an activity. Move beyond the differences to find commonality, things of mutual interests. Similarly if you are being invited to, eagerly accept the offer and let your horizon of knowledge grow. Celebrate each other’s special occasions and where possible exchange gifts to promote social integration.
Remember “We all do our best when we know we are accepted in our totality”.
Written by Muhammad Wasif Haq (2018)
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