The story of George Floyd comes as a painful reminder: we haven’t even tackled racial tolerance, when we should have tackled so much more already. Besides color, there are many other forms of discrimination that thrive like a fungus in the damp darkness of our indifference. Physical appearance, age, gender, professional status, sexual orientation, religious choices, skills and conformity to group norms – are among the most common forms of discrimination, part of our daily routine.
Prejudice and discrimination are so deeply ingrained that we are unaware of how often we treat unfairly our fellow humans. In turn, we are also quite often the recipients of unjust treatment. We take it as a normal fact of life or, sadly, we believe we actually deserve it. At times we do fight back but, alone on the battlefield, we are defeated. George Floyd lives in each of us. Yet in each of us there’s also a police officer placing a knee on the other’s neck.
We have normalized prejudice both through our silence and through our voices. We have lowered the bar when it comes to human dignity and embraced double standards: shouting we’re helpless while keeping our knee on our brother’s neck. We turn a blind eye to the bullies who fill our offices yet we promote a culture of openness and feedback. We are inert when a woman is offended or belittled yet we advocate for women empowerment.
Our words and actions are incongruent. We are oblivious of the subtle nuances of moral soundness, equality and equity. We fail to stand up when we witness injustice; we fail to set boundaries; we fail to respect others’ boundaries. Our inner compass is broken – fairness, tolerance and respect for others’ differences are overhyped in our vision & mission statements, yet devoid of essence.
To ALL of us who, in one way or another, have become complicit in prejudice and discrimination – it’s time to STOP IT! It’s been ENOUGH.
To the new colleague who quickly scans you and mistakes your youth for incompetence, concluding she needs no training from you; she was a senior executive by the time you were born!
To the recruiters who ask “when do you plan to have children?”.
To the employees who roll their eyes when they hear their new colleague is part of the LGBTQ community. “OMG, they hired a freak?!“
To the doctors who dismiss women’s symptoms as “emotional” putting their health at risk through a delayed diagnosis.
To the friend who is disappointed when she hears you work as a waiter. “You are smart, you could be so much more!”.
To the men who toot their horn when they see a blonde driving, assuming right away she is unskilled. She must be – she’s blonde!
To the distant relatives who ask how much you earn so they can assign you a rich or poor label in an informed way. “Thank goodness my son earns more!”.
To the peers who scan you with disapproval when they see no engagement ring on your finger. “How come you are 30 and not married?”.
To the colleagues who always have a mischievous comment about the food you eat, the clothes you wear or the music you like. “Oh, that’s gross, how can you eat that?!“.
To the girls who “LIKE” the Facebook videos that portray women as pimps, yet feel offended the next day when their co-worker treats them accordingly. “We are not all the same!”
To the women who accept a toxic behavior from their partners, shrinking themselves voluntarily so that their abusers can easily step on their dignity.
To the men who conclude “you are such a girl” when you fail to distinguish between concrete and cement.
To the fathers who label their sons as pussies if they cry. “Real men don’t cry!”.
To the men who make fun of “fat” women, without knowing they struggle with thyroid imbalances. “Stop eating from KFC, hon!”
To the preachers who, instead of uniting us, segregate communities by dividing people into “children of God” and “children of the world”.
To the parents whose lack of affection turn their kids into people-pleasers unable to stand up for themselves, thus not giving them an equal opportunity to succeed in life.
To the media who reports that the “old man” had just celebrated his 55 anniversary when the assault happened.
To the politicians who constantly treat us as if our intelligence was comparable to that of a fly.
STOP IT! It’s been ENOUGH.
**Image via Claudio Schwarz, Unsplash