Today, I’m giving you some homework. Ask a traveller, an immigrant, or a refugee about the great “melting pot” or “stew” that they are now a part of. What does it feel like to be the key ingredient?
Don’t know a traveller, an immigrant, or a refugee? Then it’s time to get out there and meet someone a little different.
It’s human nature to define the world in binaries. I’ve heard it all in people’s descriptions of “us” and “them”. They, the others, are referred to in various ways, not all flattering.
(Side note: my stream of thought was just derailed by a woman yelling at another woman not to touch her. Incidentally, the second woman was veiled. The irony of witnessing this while trying to write a post about assimilation is astounding. This is the second time I witness aggressive behaviour towards a veiled woman in a week).
Being different is quite difficult. It’s also exceptionally difficult to have to change in order to fit in with others, and consequently give up your own values, ambitions, and dream for your life. Every Disney production encourages children to embrace what makes them unique and to fight for their dreams against all odds, then they grow up and the world tells them to get in line and keep their heads down. Be like everybody else, so nobody can judge you. If you can’t change your skin, change your mannerisms and accent and hope to God nobody will notice. Blend in, but please identify your ethnic background, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation accurately when prompted by your workplace/community centre/census so that they someone can use you as a statistic to boast their equity and diversity indices… like a refurbished trophy.
What is it like to be seen but unseen?
I can tell you a thing or two about that.
I’ve come to the realization that the world is just one big high school, and people carry forward in their respective cliques until their dying day. Then, they’re often buried in a multi-ethnic cemetery because the world is just too diverse and there are just too many people to organize by “type” underground. You may be buried alongside a political enemy, or someone who doesn’t look like you, or someone who believes in another God with the decline in religious cemetery space. So… maybe it’s worthwhile to get to know them and share the earth before, you know, having to physically share the earth.
Nobody is better than anybody. No race is superior. No religion is superior. Ignorance breeds hatred and, with hatred on the rise, none of us are safe. So your homework is to stand with me today and be a beacon of light. Guide the way for a better world by making the effort to understand what it’s like for someone else to live in a strange new land with a new language and culture. Ask them about blending. You may come to realize that the person you’re speaking to is not very different from you.
And if you are, like me, often the stranger, try to connect with anyone who is willing to listen. I know they seem to be few and far between, but many people would like to get to know you but are afraid of offending you if they note that you are indeed different. It’s the phenomenon of selective ignorance. Give them a chance.
You may come to realize that the world is just one giant high school and it’s time for everyone to take a stand against bullying.
Now, excuse me while I get off this train quickly and make sure that rude woman doesn’t take another jab at the nice lady who just looks a little different.
And remember… we design our own luck!