It would mostly likely be a lie if anyone of us says that I am not prejudiced or that I don’t discriminate. What stories do we tell ourselves about ourselves?
What are our most subversive beliefs or biases?
Everyone is talking about hidden superiority complexes, racial discrimination (said to be more pronounced in white people) yet we all have many hidden biases, whether we acknowledge them or not.
If we wish to stand up for the rights of those who are being trampled upon and if we want to bring any lasting change then the change has to begin within each and every one of us. We have to address our own prejudices first.
When I look within myself, I find an army of prejudices that need to be addressed, biases I learnt from the society I grew up. I was born in Nairobi, Kenya under the British rule, a highly stratified society. Everyone had their own schools – whites, browns, blacks and we did not mix. It was only when I moved to the UK and found myself to be the first brown girl in an all- white school that I realized there was something different going on here.
Most of our core beliefs are formed when we are children. When we are born, we enter this world with a clean slate and without preconceived beliefs. We are not born prejudiced but we cultivate biases at an early age influenced by family, friends, religion and first-hand experiences. Stored in our subconscious mind, which does not even care if the belief is true or false, we cling to an endless supply of prejudices which create automatic thoughts and responses. It is hard to stop that first emotional reaction that goes on inside of us.
All human societies have prejudices in some form and to some degree. Let’s examine some behaviours, multiple prejudices that we as Sikhs or Indians may be inflicted by. In spite of our Masters command – Bandeh Khoj Dil Har Roj – O’Human Being search within your heart every day, we enshrine many biases:
Colour Bias – White/Fair/Gora complexion is favoured over darker ones. In fact, when we look for marriage partners this becomes a priority! A learnt behaviour from the British Raj we inadvertently contribute to the white being better complex. In fact, in India there are creams and facial procedures that claim to make you ‘white’.
Gender Bias– Even in these so -called modern times, women are not allowed to have full rights. Wife-beating and worse abuse is tolerated. Rape is still rampant, not enough people speak out. Women still do not have all the privileges in education and jobs. Males still rule. Girls are still being murdered before they are even born.
Weight –We have no qualms about making jokes about someone’s size – fat or thin. Thin and fair is given preference because of cultural indoctrination.
Religion- Most people think that their own religion is the best, in spite of the fact that each one urges us to embrace the principle of oneness.
Social Stratification– Prejudice exists not only at the personal individual level, but also at the collective societal level. Rich/poor, Higher caste/lower caste. Particular biases that Sikh Masters tried to eliminate but which are right back in our society.
Educational Preferences– We still give preference to Doctors, Engineers and Lawyers over Musicians, Plumbers or Artists.