“Prejudice is a burden which confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.”~Dr Maya Angelou
There are only a few things which actually upset me. I suppose I can group them under the category of injustice but mainly they include discrimination (of any sort towards anyone – racial, gender, sexual orientation etc), dishonesty, deliberate cause of harm to others (physical, mental, emotional or personal) and not taking full responsibility of one’s actions or reactions. I have personal experience of dealing with discrimination based on social status and religion in my home country of former Yugoslavia during the war in that region in the ’90s. (I write about some of this in blog ‘Lifetime: My Reminder’ http://wp.me/p1AZhb-1G )
Living in a big metropolitan city such as Toronto, it’s great and inevitable to meet people from all over the world, of different races, cultures and religions. Working in healthcare, I come in contact with people of not only different races, cultures and religions but also different social statuses, mental and physical capacities and capabilities, and most striking of all – different mindsets and emotional states. Hence, I am not simply immune or tolerant to the variety of people in my every day surroundings, which I embrace, but have a sense of awareness. Unfortunately, discrimination and prejudice still exists even in a big multicultural city…
The two incidents I’ll describe both involve a close friend of mine, Rajeev – a very good-looking gay non-Muslim man of east Indian origin – who I met about three years ago when I completed a student rotation at the hospital where I work now. He is funny, intelligent, talented, a great baker and cook, and a great friend. I’d say we have an interesting but close friendship. Most of the time we make fun of each other but when push comes to shove, we’re there for whatever without any judgement or hesitation.
For his birthday, this past March, I made my Facebook profile picture that of us taken in Jaipur in December. I’m not sure if even a few hours passed before a random Facebook ‘friend’ who was a dentist made a comment which read something like “f***ing Muslim terrorist!” (I had deleted over 2000 ‘friends’ off my list after coming home from India in January but I guess a few randoms remained).
At first I thought that the notification was a glitch on Facebook as it couldn’t possibly apply to anything on my page or profile. Then anger came and along with it remorse and embarrassment when I realized who the comment was made towards. Those feelings rolled into one and climaxed as the following thoughts ran through my head: Did Rajeev see this before I deleted and blocked the jerk who wrote the comment? Today is his birthday!…How is it that in 2011 a white man in his 30s (who happens to be a dentist!) could possibly think this way let alone be so blatant and publicly state it?!…I was ‘friends’ with this person?!…How is it that hatred, ignorance and judgement exist in such a multicultural city and at such an absurd level??…Un-excusably, even if one did feel such things, what would make a person think that it’s okay to make such a comment on another person’s photo?…My Facebook and those who are my ‘friends’ on it is about to become a lot more private…
Unfortunately Rajeev had seen the comment, although I deleted it, through his email Facebook notification. He was upset at the jerk who made the comment, not me, but I took full responsibility for the fact that this person was even my ‘friend’ on Facebook.
Just this week, Rajeev and I went to Starbucks to grab some unsweetened iced teas and were walking to work when a white man, who was unkept and filthy, looked at us and started screaming “F***ing Paki!” as he approached. I said something in my friend’s defense and then he proceeded to call me words which aren’t necessary to repeat but suggested that he assumed we were a couple and I, a promiscuous woman. At this point he had passed us and I yelled back “You need to respect women and not talk to us like that” which fell on ears attached to a head whose mouth screamed back some more profanity and other despicable things. Rajeev told me not to waste my breath or energy on such an ignorant person but it really upset me.
What makes this man feel this way in the first place? Does he think that being from Pakistan makes one a bad person?? In addition, what makes it okay for another person to be so ignorant and assume that my friend was from Pakistan just because his skin is brown but on top of that be so brave to scream towards us in the first place? And really who made him think that having white skin colour made him superior to others who didn’t? Does he not realize that his ignorance and unexplained, misplaced anger is negative, bad and wrong? I mean I know we all see the world a little differently but he was definitely misguided! I doubt he cared enough to know that he was talking to two educated health care professionals. What if we were doctors and he came to us for help? Would he scream the same things then? (Sadly there have been instances at our hospital where there were patients who had refused care from non-white nurses – it happened before I worked here and was a story confirmed by my coworkers.)
The year is 2011 and this type of mindset still exists!?!?!
I know that there are way too many stories like the ones I described and maybe even worse, which too many people can recall. It is difficult for me to put into words all that I feel towards the entire issue as most of the feelings highlight my disappointment in our society and those mindsets of the past which have crippled many into a box – those who discriminate and those who have been discriminated against – and are holding us back from elevating ourselves as people living in this society, into something greater and better which we can be proud of. It does start and end with one person – self. Your self and my self need to accept our differences and enjoy all that we can learn from one another.