If our world is going to become less discriminatory, it’ll because we (re)learn how to see human
A friend of mine tweeted yesterday about the first experience her young girls encountered of being treated differently because of the colour of their skin.
It was a poignant reminder—as if I needed one—of the discrimination that so many people face on any given day.
Race, colour, sexuality, gender, class, politics…these are just a few of the many labels we humans use to discriminate against each other. Essentially we assign labels—both to ourselves and to others—in order to feel better about ourselves.
On the one hand, labels are simply a practical means by which we describe differences. But on the other, they all too quickly become means by which we judge others. And judging others, feeling superior, being convinced we are right or better, all ultimately lead to discrimination.
This discrimination isn’t always wilful or intentional. But, if we see other humans based primarily on certain labels, we will—at the very least—subconsciously find ourselves behaving in discriminatory ways.
What’s the alternative?
While I am an idealist at heart, I’m ultimately a pragmatic idealist. I’d love to see our world free from label-based discrimination and abuse. It won’t happen overnight though and, since our labelling system is so deeply ingrained, it may not even be possible for it to be fully removed.
So what I propose is simply something that I constantly challenge myself to do—and that is to always see human first.
We’re all the same
Before we see male or female, black or white, gay or straight, rich or poor, we need to see simply see a fellow human. As the author of Genesis wrote, ‘We’re made from the dust, and we’ll return to the dust.’
We’re all the same. We’re all different of course—and, appropriately, those differences should be celebrated and embraced—but at the highest, most significant level, we are the same. Equal. United.
We must never forget this. We need to remind ourselves of this every day if we need to. That person we disagree with so fervently? They’re human just like us. That person who’s sexual behaviour conflicts with our core beliefs? Human just like you and me.
Human, human, human.
What if we started to focus on the humanity we share rather than the labels that divide us?
Seeing each other through labels is a learned behaviour. Our children don’t do it from birth; we train them to. But if it’s a learned behaviour, it also means we can unlearn it.
Isn’t it about time we gave that a shot?
I don’t think we’re going to totally rid the world of discrimination any time soon, but if one-by-one more of us would choose to ‘see human’, who knows, maybe we might slowly make the world a slightly less discriminatory place. And, in the process, maybe a little more human too.