This I Believe...
This essay was inspired by NPR's This I Believe essay series. It was originally written for my senior thesis course.
I believe in parity. No matter what class, race, sexuality or gender we assert, at our core, we are all the same. We are human. So, the notion of discrimination has always caused me great dissonance. I cannot fathom why some people believe they are more deserving of happiness and amity above another. In third grade, I confessed to my mother that I had a crush on a black boy named Winston. She chided me softly, saying, “Be careful. You might not want to marry someone like him one day. It’s not generally accepted.” I still harbor the shock of her words.
I am a white woman. So, although I experience oppression at the grace of my supposedly inferior genitalia, I still carry a resounding amount of privilege in my race. In the middle of high school, I moved to Switzerland, where I attended an international school. But don’t let the word “international” fool you. There was representation from a mixture of cultures among my classmates, however diversity was reserved to the differing pale tones of Europe. I got the feeling most of my classmates were unaccustomed to having friends of color. And I could feel a gaping hole where the lack of LGBTQ support lay. This was nothing like my old public school.
Although many of my new peers were well mannered, and most were astoundingly aware of their upper class, white privilege, there were a few who abused the power which came along with their identities. Senior year, a group of my girlfriends decided to host discussions during lunch, to celebrate International Women’s Day. I was asked to help them produce a promotional video to advertise the week’s upcoming events. I worked tirelessly with my friends to create what we believed was a very fun, inclusive video. It didn’t attack men, it simply celebrated women. Or so we thought. The next morning, we watched the video in homeroom. The response was devastating. In fact, the tension in the room was palpable. The guys were in uproar:
“Why isn’t there an International Men’s Day if you’re calling for equality?” “Why are you all so man hating?”
I felt betrayed and was angry that the boys had missed the message of the film. But society has done a clever job of disguising the socially constructed nature of her rigid ideals. Until we make spaces for conversations about the fabricated nature of society, in the way that International Women’s Day does, we cannot uncover our own invented biases. I believe discrimination is learned, and that it takes more effort to polarize our communities than it would to love one another. I believe that change is possible, but I know our work to abolish discrimination is far from finished. I believe we are all responsible, and it starts with examining our own privilege to understand that some of our voices are louder than others...