What is discrimination?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to discriminate is “to make a difference in treatment on a basis other than individual merit.” Unjustifiably, this is the case for people from all walks of life. Discrimination is an act that has been normalized for centuries. This thought process comes from a “better-than-you” attitude, which is an ideal that should not be condoned.
Those who experience discrimination in their own lives can describe the encounter as a feeling of judgment based on appearance or lifestyle. A person of color may feel judgment from a peer or a complete stranger because their skin is darker or their hair hangs in coils, both of which are beautiful. A person with a low level of education may feel uncomfortable or unnecessarily pressured when standing next to a man or woman who holds a master’s degree. This stigma that has taken up residence in our minds and is constantly telling people to be ashamed or to shame another person needs to cease.
Discrimination is everywhere.
I am not a person of color and I am striving to enhance my education. If that is the case, then what do I know about discrimination? The answer is simple. I am a Christian. More specifically, I am a Christian who wears skirts and maintains long hair. I have experienced the underhanded comments, the backhanded compliments, and the sly insults. I have been on the receiving end of glaring looks. I have even been humiliated in public by a man yelling at me concerning my religious beliefs. I was told repeatedly, “I wasn’t your friend at first because I thought you would judge me.” This comment hurt the worst, considering I have strived to make my attitude judgment-free. I understand that my lifestyle must look strange to many people, so who am I partake in discrimination because of theirs? I was forced to smile and laugh the incident away. If I spoke up for myself, then the person felt validated in their statement.
My question is this: “If they are making the assumption that I would judge them without first getting to know me, aren’t they the one actually judging me?” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the answer is yes.
Tolerance is key.
Despite this evidence, hope is not entirely lost. I have a close-knit group of friends who do not value me because of outward appearance, but because of my “individual merit.” I do the same in return because tolerance is a key factor to a peaceful life.
Read more about discrimination and social issues from our GirlSpring contributors: