This I Believe

March 19, 2018

Picture this; a darkness so total that you were no longer sure you had eyes. You grasp out in hope of using one of your other senses to understand where you are, but nothing. And then, you hear the screams of another human. What would you do?  Would you pause to wonder what their race, gender, religion, social status, mental ability, or what language they scream in? No, you wouldn’t. You would rush to them, holding on to the hope another human beings presence brings.


98 percent of Americans feel there is at least some discrimination in their community, but what is discrimination? The word originates from the latin discriminatus which means to make difference between or distinguish as different. Now the word is used as a substitute for “racism”.


Unfortunately that is completely incorrect. Racism is a belief that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others. While discrimination is making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit. They may be comparable, but they are not equal. Notice that one definition involves a belief while another involves an action. One can have racist ideas and not act on them the same way a person can commit a racist act without having any racist beliefs. Both racism and discrimination are nouns meaning a person is able to possess such attitudes. However, of the two words only discrimination can turn into a verb. Therefore, discrimination involves an action.


Perhaps it would be clearer with an example. A person could be racist, have prejudice ideas and choose not to act upon them. Say a fellow employee is of a different race. Even though that individual's co worker may have racist thoughts, he or she may refuse to act upon these thoughts or attitudes out of fear of being criticized at work. If they did act upon those attitudes, that would be discrimination.


So we should be able to stop discrimination by stopping racism, but is it that simple?


Not according to Gwendolyn Keita, PhD, executive director of APA’s Public Interest Directorate. “ Humans are naturally motivated to categorize people and objects. This is normal cognitive behavior.” Basically we used discrimination as a natural instinct to help us survive, thrive, and multiply. Weather deciding between fruit or a future mate, discrimination helped us as a species survive.  Now is it a hiderence on our daily life? Yes, thinks Tanu Priya, author of the article The Effects of Racial, Sexual or Religious Discrimination. “Discrimination is an assault on the very notion of human rights.  Discrimination is the systematic denial of certain peoples’ or groups’ full human rights because of who they are or what they believe. It is all too easy to deny a person’s human rights if you consider them as “less than human”.” Many studies, including one by the American Psychiatric Association, also state that being discriminated against causes stress and heart disease as well as many mental health disorders.


Various authorities, companies, and texts all agree that discrimination hurts not only the individual, but our nation at it’s whole. That leads us to the next question. Is it really discrimination, or racial discrimination? It is impossible to stop discrimination, we use it every day. For what clothing to wear in the morning, to the salad we eat for lunch, and what pajamas we sleep in. This can’t mean we give up. We can’t give up.


Racism’s forms include biological, sexual, cultural, internalized, spatial, institutional, colorism, xenophobia, age and aversive. It goes by many names. Discrimination should not be one of them. I believe that a student should be a student if they want to learn, regardless of what they are. What we need is not “tolerance” or “acceptance”. What we need is kindness. Utter and complete kindness to other people just like us. That is the only way to fix the world.






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