Over the past few months, particularly after this year’s presidential election, there has been a lot of talk about hate crimes arising and what people are and aren’t doing about them. I’ve found it somewhat difficult to join in on the conversation. For the most part, I’m surrounded by a lot of positive people and mostly favorable circumstances, so it can be hard to see when these crimes actually occur. It’s also easy to forget about how innocent people are being discriminated against every day and we are not doing enough to stop it.
Recently some of my friends shared a Facebook post from an acquaintance of mine who I’ve only ever talked to a couple of times. He was recently harassed at a club because of his skin color and his life was put in danger. Just the thought that something like that could happen so close to Trinity and to someone who did absolutely nothing wrong makes me sick.
What frustrates me equally, or perhaps more, is that it can be so hard to talk about discrimination and racism, whether you’ve experienced it yourself or not. But I recently had a few conversations with members of Trinity’s Muslim Student Association that shed some light on new perspectives. While these are still heavy topics, I now feel like I have a better understanding of how we should discuss them on college campuses.
A few of the conclusions I came to from these conversations are that it is essential to listen to others and learn to accept perspectives that are different from our own, even if we don’t fully agree with them. Just because someone has different worship practices, dresses differently or has a diet that varies radically from yours, that doesn’t make them a bad person. It can be so easy to come to false conclusions about a person simply based on their appearance and that happens with people of all cultural backgrounds. I too am guilty of having judged people as being one way or another even when I barely knew anything about them. The real shift came when I started gathering knowledge before I made judgments about anything or anyone.
Education plays a huge role in this process because it gives people knowledge about cultures different from their own and helps them develop the cognitive skills needed in order to think critically about tough situations and complex works. I knew hardly anything about Islam before I starting taking The Qur’an this semester with Dr. Simran Jeet Singh. Even though we talked about Islamophobia early on in the class, it still took me several weeks to realize how people can spread false narratives about Islam and other religions so easily, especially if they know little to nothing about them. We need to question where we are getting our information from and who is giving it to us. Asking questions is a crucial part of this process as well.
Remember that not everyone is going to approach problems like discrimination and racism in the same way that you do. Keep in mind that everyone has been through some kind of struggle, no matter how much it seems like they haven’t. I am guilty of having once thought that I’d had a lot more struggles growing up than most other people and that my suffering somehow made me better than them. But then I did a Privilege Walk during training for my first year on Trinity’s Orientation Team and realized just how wrong I had been. People talked openly about their struggles, but without anger, pride or shame. We had all been through so much, yet made it to the same team, surpassing our various difficult circumstances.
So before you make all these assumptions about another person based on their religion, habits, skin color or really anything about their appearance, stop and ask yourself if your judgements are really sound. Think about how it would feel if people made all these snap judgements about you without thinking about what they were doing. We say that we want to stop hatred and violence, but do our thought patterns say otherwise? Just think before you speak and do some investigating before you judge anyone.
Courtney Justus is a junior English major. She’s also a Pulse reporter.