Jul 22, 2013


If you have been watching CNN these past few weeks, you would know about the controversial verdict, passed last weekend that is polarizing the US right now. As much as some would say that the case was NOT race related, some believe otherwise. Personally, I think both sides are right. Cognitively, we look at things and interpret them through our experience. As someone who had never been discriminated against, it is hard for him/her to understand how deeply and widely such prejudice, conscious or not, affect people's life. Even President Obama talked about his experience while commenting on this case.

It is easy to live in a society where you belong to a majority, whether it is a majority based on race/ethnicity, class/social status, age, sexual orientation or religion, where the "we" outnumbers the "they". In a democratic society where majority rules, 'they' were told to blend in with 'us'. And most of the time, the minorities in all forms of societies/countries did just that. Yet, there is a waiver clause. No matter how small a group, these minorities should not be denied their basic rights, the same basic rights that the majorities enjoy. They should not get MORE rights just because they are the minorities, although some legislative protection can/should be given to prevent them from being discriminated against or abused.

birds of a feather flock together.. but constitute 'a feather'??
I for one do not believe that we can ever escape from this "we-them" mentality. We all discriminate.. we all judge.. even when we stressed over and over again that we don't.. And yes, I must confess that I do discriminate and I am prejudiced against certain people.. That is something I can't change, but what I can do is to be mindful of these prejudice when they occur and constantly remind myself that I should give both of us a chance - a chance to know him/her as an individual and not as the stereotypical archetype of the group he/she belongs to. And I must say I've been able to keep up this mindfulness most of the time.

We are all shaped by our experience, good or bad, consciously or not. It provides a readily available context from which we draw to explain and understand the world. The world might not be what we perceived, yet it is hard not to be influenced by this 'internal reference system'. We have to be mindful enough to be able to catch it 'in action'. It is easy, or should I say naive, to assume people know and understand what we went through. Even if we can read mind, we won't know with absolute certainty why people do what they do. That's why we can't predict human behavior with surety. And that's what make human such interesting subjects to study.

When you are a member of the majority, it is very easy to take things for granted. You don't have to be sensitive of the feelings, customs, taboo and/or differences of the minority. And it is not too far fetched to say that you may even fail to notice the existence of 'them'. Your way is 'THE' way. You are the main-stream. You don't 'see' certain things - the bias, the slight and the inequality that the minority might have suffered. We all look at the world through different 'eyes'.

No one has a monopoly on the truth, as there are many interpretation of it.. That is diversity. And we need to embrace and understand it.

No comments: