Walking out of Tuesday’s ‘Values’ module, I felt an ironic sense of negativity that I joked about to my peers. After a two hour lecture on biological discrimination, I felt bad as an atheist, straight Caucasian male. Once I had left the company of human communication, I delved a little into my own thoughts as I processed my own interpretation on the matter. One of the largest morals that I hold in life is the emphasis of equal opportunity. I don’t believe that equality is the answer, as I believe that presents problems as seen in the image below. Instead, equal opportunity is the basis to give people of all backgrounds the platform to live their life.
Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire
As a child, I grew up in a street within Dundee that would be referred to as a cul-de-sac in French. Here, I had a group of friends from the street and the lane connecting us to another similar set-up. We were just like any group of young boys from any part of the world. It took me years to realise that one of us was black. That boy would be Joshua. Joshua’s parents originally came from Nigeria and their professions were that of dentists. Not in one instance did I pick up on Joshua’s complexion because I never had reason to. We were young boys who enjoyed playing with each other. It was never a case of a group of white children playing with that one black child. Not once did I question Josh’s skin colour. The only difference I noticed from his household — a home that I regularly entered, be it for dinner or to play in his room, with only the warmest of welcomes — was the distinct, yet odd, smell of the accommodation due to the wooden African ornaments on display.
It was only several years later whilst in Primary 6 that I became aware of what the term ‘racism’ actual meant and represented. Up until that moment, my young brain could not comprehend why a person would differentiate their opinion on someone due to their complexion, as if it wasn’t a biological conclusion. To this day, I still cannot comprehend why people get so flustered about such aspects of life. As a blue eyed adult, not once has someone treated me differently due to the colour of my eyes; so why should an individual be mistreated due to the pigmentation of the skin they find themselves in.
I’m proud to state that I have never once bared witness to racial abuse in my lifetime in Scotland. That makes me proud as a man of this country. Naturally my experiences online is different due to the anonymity of users online, however I often regard such forums like Twitter and YouTube to house a cesspit of the ignorant uneducated. For myself? I just continue to treat those with darker skin, and of any race, with the respect they deserve. The respect I expect to receive. The respect that I held for a black athlete in Thierry Henry as a youth. My idol. A player that no one focused on about what colour he was or where he originated from. They just enjoyed him for what he was: a world class footballer, regardless of what team they supported.
Another factor that got me thinking was the topic of sexism. Unfortunately, with regret, I have to hold my hands up and admit that as a youth I got stuck into the mindset that boys did everything superior to girls. It’s hard not to at that stage of your development. Up until a few years ago, I would tell you that women’s football was rubbish and that men are better prepped for life than their female counterparts. I’m glad to announce that with age comes maturity. As a big, big fan of combat sports, it had given me an appreciation for a term used within the confines of the community called the “pound-for-pound” rankings. Broken down, this just ranks a fighter’s value after being stripped of any unfair advantage that might derive from height, weight or gender. Why do we have to compare women’s football to men’s football? That is a very unfair and silly metric. They do not compete against each other, so why compare? If you have to compare, it’s little more than a fact that the women are besting their male equivalent after our recent successes of qualifying for the Women’s World Cup for the first ever time.
Now I know what you’re asking yourself: why am I just blurring the lines between superiority and sports? Well that correlates to academic success, too. Last year, I had the opportunity to watch a BBC documentary named ‘No More Boys and Girls‘ [authors edit: I did not anticipate this being part of the upcoming module] that set out to test the waters of a young class when eliminating the importance of gender from the establishment. What they found was that whilst young girls were, on average, outperforming boys when it came to academic results, their confidence and self-esteem was in fact lower than the boys. This arose from the social belief that boys are stronger and more confident, whilst girls are timid and fragile. The documentary stated in spite of this, boys and girls are both equal in mental and physical ability until puberty. These shortcomings were attributed to the attitude of society where girls have to believe they are beneath boys in social standings; a perspective that continues in to adulthood and is instilled during infancy. Blue is a boy’s colour, pink is a girl’s colour. In reality, how can a colour, a natural saturation of nature, be a component of one’s gender? Instead, this ludicrous deceit is a human-made divide that separates both genders from birth.
Lastly, the final subject that I wanted to document is another instance in life that I have experienced firsthand from the perspective of the perpetrator: homophobia. As a young male growing up in Scotland, the biggest insult to my character was my masculinity, or lack thereof. Unfortunately, we associate homosexuality with a lack of manhood and therefore, many young boys hurl the insult of being gay as if it is such a negative crime against someone’s character. In the time since, I’ve had the pleasured to become acquainted with several people who identify as gay and have come to realise that their sexuality is nothing more than part of their DNA and thus does not alter what they are or aren’t capable of, both professionally and personally. One of my good friends is homosexual and that doesn’t change what he is to me. My friend. To deny or restrict his lifestyle as a result of who he truly is would be nothing short of severe discrimination.
In conclusion, Tuesday’s lesson was an incredibly important session that got me thinking of my own experiences towards the biological makeups that I am not. Just because someone is different to me, does not make them different to me. The story of people should be celebrated and shared, not restricted as a result. What makes us different, makes us similar. These sentences may appear to be clichés; but to me it is another instance of a university lecture where I find myself leaving with the promise of treating my future students, colleagues and fellow members of society with the same respect that I expect to receive myself.