Umbrella Topic: Stereotyping and Discrimination Specific Topic: The root cause of Discrimination Question: What is the root cause of discrimination, society or self? Thesis statement: Society may influence discrimination, but discrimination comes from a person’s need to elevate self-worth. Dominant Mode: Definition: Exemplification and analogy It was our Freshmen Orientation day at the university. I was with my new found friends and we were reacting to the presentations that each organization was presenting.
One of the speakers of a particular organization had a particular accent and was wearing a “not-so-typical-trying-hard-to-be-hip” attire, while trying but failing to speak and act cool at the same time. “Korny nito parang bisaya! ” I quipped, trying to solicit a good laugh from my new friends. “Bakit? Bisaya ako! ”, my classmate quickly replied, with a slightly provoked tone. “Wala lang! ” I quickly said, trying to dismiss the issue as if nothing happened.
Coming from a province in central Luzon, it was normal for me to use those remarks and most of the time the crowd I am with will erupt with laughter. But it was not that time. Deep inside, my heart sunk. I felt so bad and so small compared to the bigger world that I am slowly being a part of. That was my first lesson on discrimination. The bigger your world gets, the more real the issue of discrimination becomes. Wikipedia defines discrimination as “the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on his or her membership – or perceived membership – in a certain group or category. (Wikipedia), with the keywords: prejudice and category. The bigger your circle gets, the more categories you get exposed to, and the more people falling on different categories. Being one of the top schools in the country, I should’ve expected that students from different parts of the country who are part of these different categories. But soon I would realize that it wasn’t just me who was discriminating. Almost everyone around me had a certain prejudice over someone and in a way have discriminated someone else.
The school alone has bred different categories to put people on; the school jocks – the members of the varsity team who wear their varsity jackets and carry gym bags; the nerds – big and thick eyeglasses and always carrying a book; the cheerleaders – the preppy make-up wearing girls with painted nails and designer jeans; the fratmen, the geeks, the toxic med students and everyone else. And when you go out of school, there’s a bigger category, the Ateneans, Lasallians, Maroons, etc. and even bigger categories everywhere – the province you came from, gender, financial bracket, intellect, skin color, ethnicity, language, music preferences, etc. nd it seemed so normal for us to put people in these categories. Putting people on categories and treating them according to their prejudged categories seemed to be normal in our country. Yes, it maybe taboo to discriminate our countrymen based on their language, but aside from language and ethnicity, there is little to no opposition in labelling people and placing them in categories. When you watch TV, you watch the report about the “Noranians” lining up for their favourite actress who is a “green card holder” arriving from the US.
You turn the channel and you hear the news about the “Maroons” defeating the “Archers”. Move to another channel and you see the “gay” parade from the “LGBT community” happening somewhere in the city. It gets worse when the media place their own biases on these categories. We have not only allowed, but accepted and patronized television shows like The Biggest Loser that promote an ideal weight bias, advertisements like Likas Papaya Soap that endorse fairer skin tones, TV news that have put labels on politicians and even movies like Brokeback Mountain that highlight gender and sexuality.
And because we are not critical of what we watch, our society has allowed media to define and redefine our own biases on labels and categories. These observations may lead us to think that our society has unintentionally bred discrimination in us. By being complacent with creating categories and allowing media to place their own biases on these categories, our society has given us permission to also put other people on categories and exert our biases on them, and treat them according to those biases.
But does this mean that our concept of discrimination comes solely from our society? Think about it. A child does not react when someone of a different skin color plays with him on the same playground, or talks differently from the way he talks. But we’ve seen the typical OFW who doesn’t have problems communicating with his English language abroad, but gets laughed at when using the same language only here in our country. I think it is safe to say that our complacent society has played a part in the reason why we discriminate.
But at the same time, discrimination isn’t something that is unique only in our society. I have had my share of outside discrimination when I went abroad to work in Libya. From the Dubai airport, to the airport in Tripoli, to the workplace that I was assigned to, I interacted with different people from different races and I can sense it in the way they look at me, the way they speak to me – a sense of belittlement coming from them. As if I was a part of an inferior race that didn’t deserve the attention of a superior race.
If you’ve been abroad, you could probably identify with me. Then Americans also have their case of discrimination issues, the rednecks, blondes, Asians, Canadians, etc. Discrimination may be a social issue. A society that allows media to put biases and labels on categories may have contributed to discrimination. But is it really the society’s fault? What can the society do to prevent it? Would banning media and putting people who publicly categorize people to jail stop discrimination in a society? Should we condemn our society from influencing us to be discriminant?
Could it be possible that discrimination comes from something deeper in a person’s being? On the earlier example, a child rarely discriminates. But if we observe a child’s growth closely, at one point his childhood, the child cries when an unfamiliar person carries him, but stops crying when he is returned to the arms of his mom – a prejudicial bias on security that is present on almost every child, even without the influence of the society. Could this prove that our tendency to discriminate does not come from our society but from our own self?
Why does it feel better when we go to your highschool prom and we’re part of the “elite” few who brought a car with them? Why does it feel secure when we take a job interview and we came from the university with students who are the “creme of the crop”? Why does one feel better when looking down on someone else on a lower category? Do we unconsciously categorize ourselves against others so we can feel better for ourselves and give ourselves a higher self-worth? Did the society really influence us to discriminate? Or are we innately discriminant?