It’s August 12, 2012 and I’m writing this with an aching lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Doing the right thing is hard. It is also part of growing up.
Today, I became painfully aware of the fact that despite that the year is 2012, the world still has a LOT of growing up to do. Mob mentality, jumping on the bandwagon, or blindly following the (dumb) masses never ceases to amaze me. I realise that I’m more open minded and liberal than many of the people I know, but what I cannot, and will not tolerate in any way, shape or form, is racism of any kind. Coming from a white, blonde girl who has had an extremely privileged upbringing, I realise that it may surprise some people that I have such strong opinions on the matter, but I firmly believe that every single human being is 100% equal. I don’t give a shit what colour your skin is, where you were born, where you grew up, what you look like, or what god you pray to – or if you don’t pray to a god. I believe that from our conception until our demise, we are all completely equal. No one will ever be able to convince me otherwise.
Growing up, I attended an (amazing) international school in the vibrant and multi-cultural city of London. Now is perhaps the best time to be writing this – as London hosts the Olympics, an event that celebrates every race and every country in the world. London’s busiest airport, Heathrow, is the most trafficked airport on a daily basis in the WORLD. More people pass through London Heathrow Airport every day than any other airport in the world. Heathrow is a great representation of the city of London. It opens its borders to people from all over the world, every single day. It does not discriminate.
Perhaps naively and overly idealistically of me, I see the world like London Heathrow Airport. I think everyone, regardless of their race, religion, sex or sexual preference, upbringing or financial background, health or physical appearance, is deserving of the same opportunities. I have absolutely no tolerance or comprehension for racism or discrimination. It actually leaves me a little dumbfounded when I come across racism today. How have we as a society not moved past that yet?
Today, August 12, 2012, I was shocked and deeply disheartened to hear a story about a racist encounter that someone I know and love not only allowed to happen, but that they actually agreed with. I’m not referring to racism in the context of a fleeting comment or joking expression, as many of us casually tend to do (despite the political incorrectness of it), I mean true racism and discrimination. Today I listened to a story about someone being denied a position in an organisation because of the colour of their skin.
I was overwhelmed with emotion – anger, sadness and disgust, when I realised that this person I love really believed that they were right to deny another human being a right because of their skin colour. And I felt sick to my stomach.
How is it that we, as a society, have witnessed so many wars, and so much blood, because of religion, racism, and discrimination, and yet we continue to allow such ignorance to pervade our thoughts and actions? How can anyone honestly believe that they are better than someone else because of the god they worship, the colour of their skin, the people they chose to love or the privileges of their upbringings?
When I (abruptly) concluded my disheartening and deeply upsetting conversation, I was overwrought with the emotions that ensued. I very quickly felt a lump form in my throat and before I knew it, tears were streaming down my face. I cannot even begin to imagine ensuring someone’s denial from something because of their race, sex, religion or sexual orientation. Every part of me struggles with the concept of thinking I could possibly be important enough, or superior enough, to make such a decision. Surely such an action, such tunnel vision and narrow mindedness should be the very definition of ignorance: to only see things (or believe in something) in one (your) way, and believe that that way is right and all other ways are wrong. Are people really still that ignorant? Sadly, it breaks my heart to admit that, yes, they are.
Perhaps my favourite quote of all time, from the late (and great) Eleanor Roosevelt, is, “Well behaved women rarely make history.” I firmly believe this to be true (and I also believe that this applies to men). In order for growth and progress to occur, it is necessary, essential even, for people to break the mould and rock the boat. Women didn’t earn the right to vote by sitting back and waiting for men to just hand us the privilege. A few strong willed “trouble makers” had to break through the cultural and societal barriers that were formerly in place in order to earn women the right to vote.
In the history of mankind, the ones who made the history books were the martyrs, the rebels and the Rosa Parks. The people who instigated change were the ones who had to rustle some feathers to make society see its wrongs. It wasn’t the masses following sheep-like mentality that changed society, it was the few who dared to stand against the masses that changed society’s wrongs.
Today, we all know that black or white, we were all created equal. Yet, as I saw today, sadly, there are still those who believe that some people are better than others. And there are many, many, many more who are willing to quietly follow the masses of fools that continue to wrong others – sheer ignorance.
In short, in the words of Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Don’t sit back and watch injustice before you every day, do something about it. This isn’t easy. This means you will likely have to upset a few people along the way and you will likely have to do some “controversial” shit. But no one said ever said that doing what’s right is easy. Doing the right thing is hard. But it’s the right thing. Do it. Be the change you wish to see in the world.