Oct. 4, 2006 – As she wrote this essay, a 17-year-old student from India learned about her own ‘deep-rooted prejudices and intolerance. ‘She’s applying her message to her own life and hopes to inspire others.
By Anupreet Kaur
Can you eat the same bread and butter everyday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Or can you wear a single color throughout your life? No, because we all crave variety or diversity. The diversity of multicolored flowers in a nursery, of clothes at a store, of food at a restaurant, of animals at a zoo – all of it attracts and excites us. But why then, are we so wary of the diversity among the people with whom we share this world?
We humans have different races, religion, cultures, sexual identities, age groups, physical attributes, abilities, beliefs, views, ideas and opinions. This diversity is clearly visible in our homes, our neighborhoods and classrooms, on TV – practically everywhere. It enriches and lends beauty to humanity. Just as the biological diversity of an ecosystem increases its stability and productivity, the diversity among people brings together the resources talents and experiences of many people for the mutual benefit of all. Sadly, the differences among us have always formed the basis of fear, bigotry, harassment, conflict and even violence.
We fear diversity simply because we are used to the way things are, and change makes us feel uncomfortable. Some of us perceive it as a threat to our own power. Factors like ignorance, misunderstanding, misinformation, lack of education and awareness, too, make us resist diversity.
When we don’t understand another’s values, lifestyle or beliefs, it becomes easier to belittle them. As a result, on the basis of differences, we start categorizing people, labeling them unfairly or saddling them with stereotypes. These stereotypes are generalized assumptions concerning the characteristics of all the members of a particular group. They are reflected in the media and our surroundings in statements like: “All Indians are…” or “Old people always…” and so on.
Stereotypes often give birth to prejudice, i.e., a premature judgment about a group or its members, made without proper knowledge or thought. It demonstrates an unfair bias, violating the standards of reason, justice and tolerance. It is this prejudice that has conjured the feelings of suspicion and hatred and is manifested in personal bias, discriminatory practices and violence.
As a result, the world is now splintered at each and every level. Families are fragmented on the grounds of economic status or personal differences. Schools categorize students according to appearance, athletic achievement, style, race and academic achievement, so they are included in one group and are excluded from others.
The atmosphere at our workplaces is stiff, and now at the slightest provocation, we snap all ties with our neighbors