Discriminate This

Let us talk about discrimination. Let us talk about being categorized, labeled, branded, or generalized – Muslim, Jew, Christian, black, brown, Asian, Indian, fat, gay, native, nerd, Abo, and more. Let us talk about grouping people based on the color of their skin, the religion they practiced, the language they spoke, the job they have and had, or the places they were from (sometimes, where their parents or grandparents came from). Let us talk about fears and insecurities attached to the categories that our brains seemed to be inclined to map out. Let us talk about how you prefer to stand on a bus even though there is an available seat, only there’s an indigenous fellow seated beside it. Let us talk about how you will not sell your house to that woman wearing a hijab despite desperately praying for a buyer for months. Let us talk about how you equate Filipinos as maids, Thais as prostitutes, African-Americans as thieves, or men with beards as terrorists. Let us talk about your crass jokes about gays, lesbians, people with disabilities, poor people, even women and dissect the relevance of these jokes, if there is even any. Let us talk about how “colored people” are eyed suspiciously in convenience stores because they are commonly perceived as shoplifting suspects. Let us talk about how much you are earning, what designer shoes you’re wearing, and what posh club has allowed you entry lately. Let us talk about that infuriating sense of entitlement just because some were taught that being ‘white’ meant that they were above everyone else.

Let us talk.

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Street art is common in this windy city Geraldton in Western Australia. You can see abandoned buildings and old walls creatively painted. This rusty gate in Foreshore Drive is my favorite. It says so much of Australia’s struggle in helping people acknowledge that it is a multicultural country – that it did not matter where you’re from, which religion you practice, and what color your skin is.

I’m brown, you’re blue, she’s red, and he’s yellow. They are orange and there’s a green lot just ahead of us. Does it really matter? The world is better off being colorful.

Before I left for Australia, I was told to watch out for these major things – Sydney Opera House, koalas and kangaroos, aquamarine waters, Aussie hunks, and “in-your-face” discrimination. Yes, that last part was not a joke. Apparently, this is a big issue in the country and it was unnerving to be told this. I would love to say that I did not experience any form of discrimination (with my very obvious oriental glory) but I did. I never experienced it with people within my age range or older, but I did receive a few tolerable blows from young people who obviously did not know any better and needed to be re-educated by their parents. The impact hardly rattled my cage because I was secure of who I was and what I can bring on the table (meaning, I was not going to waste my time with kids who have not contributed anything to society yet), but for other people, even worthless ramblings of the rebellious youth can cause depression.

This is not just happening in Australia. It is happening in every corner of the world and people should really start paying attention because depression is just one of the many results. Some resort to violence, some commit suicide, some remain pacifists, some return the favor by misplacing their aggressions elsewhere and this might probably be the reason why the world has gone crazier than it already is. People waging war in the name of religion, attacks happening based on ethnicity, deprivation of services and access to basic welfare all because of social hierarchy, withheld opportunities just for being a woman, for being poor, or for being a person with a disability, amongst others.

Discrimination is everywhere and it comes in many different forms, but I believe that this is not naturally embedded in people. What I do believe is that discrimination is a product of deep distrust that may have been passed on and nobody falls under the innocent race, gender, or religion category. Many people will probably go to great lengths to rouse a debate that discrimination is targeted more towards a particular group (which if using the current trends in social media, the followers of Islam being in the hot seat) and I respect this; but this should not be utilized to correct past wrongs. Using the mistakes of the past in  order to define current behaviors, hence creating current wrongs, only fuels a cycle which we can no longer trace the root cause of.  Let’s admit it, can we really clearly point out who started what? If we even try to stretch how far we can point our fingers to, we might go all the way back to Cain and Abel and end up scratching our heads.

The cycle has to stop at some point and we all – you, me, legislators, parents, students, teachers, workers, activists, soldiers, brown, white, black, yellow, those who believe in God, non-believers, fat, skinny, tall, short, people with disabilities, women, men, gays, lesbians – have to make a conscious (and consistent) decision to do so.

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