IT’S THE SMALL THINGS
By ALEX M. EDUQUE
Discrimination. A word we all tend to shy from, but which more likely than not, we have either been victim to at some point in our lives, or, whether we admit it or not, we have somehow been a perpetrator of. It is undeniable, even today, the 21st century, that discrimination exists. And in some corners of the world and some sectors of society, much more prominently than others. In the same light, one may also argue that in some areas, it is tolerated. In some countries, it is a result of colonialism in the past, and the stigma that history has brought about. Maybe it’s human nature to stereotype, or perhaps it is a result of how we were raised. I am admittedly a product of the latter – not entirely because of my family and society, but because of the environment I was raised in as well, and the sheer notion that it is an inevitable part of reality, and thus was somehow discouraged to challenge it.
I myself have fallen victim to discrimination when travelling abroad. Whether it is choosing to ignore me at a high-end boutique because I do not appear like their typical customer, or the quintessential “Why do you speak English so well?” (In other words sans the accent) dialogue when they find out where I am from, these are examples of when our biases influence our day-to-day interactions. Oftentimes, we leave these comments unchallenged, perhaps because we have been shaped and reared to believe that this is the norm. While there is a higher chance of these instances happening when we are abroad because we are foreigners, we simply let it pass with the notion that we have no right as a tourist (or even as an overseas worker) in a foreign country to go against the grain.
That being said, I am not always just another victim. Admittedly, while never intentional, I do tend to stereotype as well. While a big reason I attribute to misconceptions and myths passed down from older generations, and having been brought up in a very niche environment, I now know that no one particular race is an offspring of monkeys, because we all in fact are descendants of apes. It was not until I entered an international school and become exposed first-hand to a multi-cultural and multi-racial environment on an everyday basis that I realized for myself that we indeed share more in common than we differ.
So the next time you encounter someone who may seem different from you because of the way they look, they dress, or the language that they speak, do not be so quick to assume that they are less educated than you, or less worthy of a place in your world. Be kind, because everyone deserves kindness and respect. I write this article to remind us all to be proud of ours, and most especially, each others culture and heritage. In the Philippines alone, there is immense diversity within the archipelago. Unfortunately, despite the distinct uniqueness of our country that we should be proud of, a lot of tribes have heavily suffered from marginalization and discrimination. Only recently have the ingenuity and traditions of indigenous people been highlighted and celebrated, thanks in part to social enterprises and compassionate gurus who have provided a platform for their talents to shine, and their voices to be heard.
I wrote this piece as well to remind myself (and hopefully all of you who read this too) not only of how blessed I am to be part of a very diverse nation (and world), but also to re-assure everyone that while we may have our individual opinions and biases, and while no single upbringing is perfect, we can all overcome our preconceived judgments through collective kindness and respect.