I just finished reading an op-ed by Aaron Hanlon, Assistant Professor of English at Colby College, that was not only well written and relevant to what we are currently seeing take place in the United States, but is interesting and drives home an important message. The article can be found here: The use of dubious science to defend racism is as old as the Founding Fathers.
Over the years, I have had many conversations with racist people (in my case they were all from a much older generation), who always liked to throw up “well that’s how it was when I grew up and it was no big deal,” or some other nonsense about some pocket of society making all this up or trying to stir the pot, or political correctness, or it doesn’t happen where I live so it’s not true, etc. The simple truth is that this manner of thinking, and continuing to raise the younger generations with this manner of thinking, is a huge part of the problem. It perpetuates hatred towards others who don’t look or act the same or have the exact same beliefs. Just because that is how people acted or thought years ago does not make it acceptable. And continuing to go along with this thinking is most definitely not ok.
As someone who has an extensive background in the sciences – including biology, chemistry, genetics, medicine, and so on – and in the humanities, what I can tell you without a doubt is this: we are all created equally; we all start out the same, we live, and we die. Sure, we all have different outward physical characteristics, but by no means does this make anyone superior or inferior. Genetically and medically speaking, we are comprised of the same building blocks, share the same genome (just in variation, which makes us each unique), and all look the same inside (trust me, I successfully completed gross anatomy and we dissected people from all across the board). How someone looks on the outside is absolutely no indication of what they are capable of physically, intellectually, or creatively.
What make us different are our life experiences, what we “are born into,” our personalities, and our strengths and weaknesses. Just because I’m not as good as you at something does not mean I am inferior, it just means that is not one of my strengths; in fact, I am pretty positive there is something I can do better than you. This is what makes life interesting and brings us all together. If we were all perfect at everything, then life would be pretty boring and it would be difficult to learn from each other, which is one of the great parts of life. The sad truth is that there are many people who never have the opportunity to reach their full potential. This is largely because of what some people are born into; whether it’s country, state, poverty, or lack of resources, unfortunately, some are stuck by consequence. For various reasons, not everyone is able to break this cycle; only a few do. Privilege makes it much easier to “succeed” in life. Throughout history, we see the vicious cycles of poverty vs. privilege and that is the sole reason why some people do better and have more.
So, I guess what I’m trying to get at here is this – rather than going along with an idea that “well that’s how I was raised,” or “that’s how people around me act,” think for yourself, and look outside the box. If the manner of thinking by those around you requires you to look down on others based on race/color, nationality, creed, sexuality, gender, or any other characteristic, start questioning why, and don’t stop. Try to look beyond and understand that this is not alright. Try to realize that maybe you have more “success” than someone else because maybe you were born into a better situation and were therefore better able to take advantage of opportunities. Sure, some do get out of their circumstances, but not everyone is able to. Try to educate yourself and know that oppression does still exist all over the world (including in America), and work towards a solution to finally get everyone on equal footing. Use common sense – if you think we’re all equal, then question why large groups of people live so differently from one another. Instead of judging, reach out your hand to help others realize and reach their full potential. And help out those in need – you never know who may be the next Einstein, Mozart, Picasso, or great leader of the world, and they just need a little boost to get there.