It’s strange to think about the fact that I could have been born anywhere. Not me, necessarily, with my genetic makeup, but the idea of me – these thoughts could be floating around the mind of a seventeen year old girl in Cuba, or in Zambia, or in outer Mongolia.
This is a common realisation, I know, but I think it’s one that everyone needs to come to at some point in their young lives. It helps give us that sense of worldly perspective that lurks in the shallows of white society – “think of the African children!” during dinner when you don’t finish, the comparison of your problems to the problems of a starving child in the developing world. Obviously, we can’t just think of other human beings when using them as anecdotes to feed our guilt – we can’t, because it doesn’t do them justice. They are so much more than their situations – they could be so much more than that even, if not for their situations. They could have been born in Connecticut to WASP parents, destined to be CEOs, their position in life pre-determined by their birth. They could have been born in the same suburb as me, sent to my school; they could have been a childhood friend of mine. Instead, they were born in a makeshift house somewhere outside Addis Ababa, with a mother soon to be struck down by HIV, and three siblings to care for.
I think that this is part of the reason that racism and bigotry, especially in our globalised world, are nonsensical. They’re throwback qualities to the days when folks lived in fear of anything different – and I think such fear is unfounded today. We have the internet, we have television. We have news outlets reporting from everywhere in the world, and we have the ability to talk to anyone with an internet connection. Yet people are still terrified of anyone different? Those who are privileged are able to travel everywhere, but along with their suitcases packed full of hand sanitiser and reminders of home, they’re carrying around this permanent sense of fear. I truly believe that fear breeds this sort of hatred we see towards anyone ‘not like us’. They are like us though. Sure, the pigmentation of their skin may be different, and they may have a different culture to yours, but underneath, it’s all blood vessels and muscular tissue. They are human, and so are you. We have enough problems as a species without discriminating amongst ourselves – it makes no sense to me. Why would you hate someone based on something beyond their control? They could be you. They could have your heritage, your skin colour, your four bedroom house in the suburbs. Don’t let fear control you – it shouldn’t dictate your thoughts and actions and treatment of others. For all our differences, for all our defining characteristics, a human being is a human being. What’s there to be scared of?