People say, “You can judge a man by how he treats his inferiors.” I say no! We don’t have inferiors! Some people have more apparent talent or money, better positions, fancier cars, higher functioning brains, or genes that make them appear more attractive, but there is no reason for anyone—and I do mean anyone— to hang on to an illusion of superiority.
There’s a lockstep mentality that passes from generation to generation. Parents teach bigotry, and, to many, their parents can never be wrong. With a subconscious or even conscious fear of not being accepted or not fitting in with their loved ones, these children embrace the ideologies passed on to them and, in doing so, form alliances that continue to reinforce them into adulthood.
In terms of religion, I never want to shut people down for believing or not believing what the various holy books say. I can’t dismiss the cherry-pickers seeking to find a safe middle ground. If a person has genuinely “lost their way,” they can find it again. I’ve met good, kindhearted people of just about every faith, so simply believing and practicing a religion isn’t the problem. People are entitled to their beliefs so long as they’re not committing or otherwise condoning crimes against humanity.
As someone who is fifty percent Latina, I’ve also experienced racism on a minor scale, and it gave me some idea of what it might be like for people who experience hate, discrimination, and oppression on a much larger scale. If you are a member of any group that is oppressed to one degree or another, you are acutely aware of the global and systematic imbalance. As a result, many of us have a pretty good idea of how terrorizing it can be when your rights are denied, or you’re not treated with the respect and dignity you deserve.
For me, opposing bigotry is not about being “politically correct.” Having empathy for others is simply correct. People go to war over bias and entitlement. They discriminate and violently target others based on the same. It becomes a case of “We hate the same faction, so it’s clear who the enemy is.”
It’s not about tolerance, either. There’s a lot of destructive and harmful behavior that I can’t and won’t tolerate. But who am I to merely “tolerate” a person’s ethnicity, sexuality, socioeconomic status, or religious philosophy? Those are things to be welcomed, not tolerated. I don’t want anyone’s rights to be denied any more than I’d want my own rights restricted. There was never a time when that did not feel inhumane to me.
Detractors are fond of saying that people who defend the rights of others who are denied whatever privilege they enjoy have a “savior complex.” When I first heard that, I allowed myself to ponder it for a bit, given that I’ve been speaking out against bigotry since I was twelve. It was instinctive then, and it’s instinctive now because I never wanted to live in a world where bigotry was normal. It never made a difference to me if people on either side were happy or unhappy about my stance.
It always made sense to me that you cannot know a person just because you’re aware of their race, ethnicity, religion, or sexuality. No group is perfect. You need to get to know individuals because we are all different.
For many people, when someone who is not like them hurts them, they postulate that it reflects on that group’s culture. They won’t consider their own people who’ve done the same thing or worse. Without having genuine relationships with the people from whatever culture they shun, their impression is based on limited experience. They go by stereotypes or by what they’ve read in the news or learned from TV.
I’ve experienced unprovoked attacks from people who did not look like me, but I’ve also been attacked by my “own” people, and although my worst experiences of sexual trauma were at the hands of white, Italian Catholic males, I’ve always known that not every white, Catholic Italian guy is that way. That same benefit of the doubt should be extended to people who belong to different groups.
Among the things I’d been taught, what truly stuck with me in life was the whole “love one another” thing. Yes, I really liked that part. Isn’t it a fundamental theme in all religions? No one is perfect, but if we can do better, we should. Life’s hard enough, and it helps if we cheer each other on along the way.
If we must keep influencing our children with our thoughts, let those thoughts be reminders that we are all divine, and divinity surrounds us, and in that way, we have much more power than we realize. We have that power for a reason. We don’t see everything yet, and we don’t know everything, but we are creating the future—the world we want to live in, and the world we will leave our children. We can keep evolving toward a much higher consciousness and create the idyllic world we envision.
I read something recently that said we should treat everyone as sacred until they begin to believe they are. That is the ideal way to live, isn’t it? It might solve many problems in our world, individually and collectively. I’d love to commit myself to that, to remind myself of that always.
So, whoever you are, you are beautiful! You are a divine creation and the very essence of love. Don’t let anyone take that away from you!
Feature photo at the top by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash
“Make People Feel Loved Today” photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash