Discrimination : A Tainted View

Discrimination based on physical appearance is perhaps the oldest form of discrimination. It is unique in that it has no basis in politics, religion, skin color, ethnicity or ideology, but is based purely on physical appearance. There are many varieties of physical discrimination. Biases based upon someone’s size–too fat, short, tall, skinny, etc.–are probably the most common, and we all have them. In this context we are both perpetrator and victim. Even if it’s not outright discrimination, it’s some form of judgment, usually based on an association of some kind or a personal preference (e.g., people are overweight because they are lazy). Judgments are not inherently negative or stereotypical, but they limit our perceptions and ideas about people. They can categorize, pigeon-hole and condemn other human beings before they have a chance to show us who they are. We are not limited spiritually by stature, weight, skin color, scars, gender, sexual preferences or anything else external. We are more than our appearance. Knowing that is a gift, because regardless of what you look like now, you won’t always look that way.

I believe that judgments based on negative assumptions, ignorance, fear, unfelt emotions and feelings, and even personal preference are the cause of all division in the world. These limiting factors can be destructive to those who feel them and to everyone around them. My beliefs, fears, ideas and feelings about the people in the world and the world itself were developed in my formative years and beyond. They were greatly influenced by my parents, siblings, relatives, friends, teachers, neighbors, religion, TV, music and other forms of media. As an adult, I realized at some point that a lot of the information I received was based on opinion, hearsay, lies, faulty logic and reasoning, fairy tales, old wives tales and the prejudices of others. As a child, you really don’t get to choose your ideas. You have no real “intellect” or adult way to reason. This, coupled with the fact that my survival depended on the people around me, meant that I was extremely dependent on their views of the world. My limited experience with life and exposure to the world around me also added to this equation. I never really knew what I believed in or questioned anything about my ideas until I decided to learn more about myself.

In exploring who I am, I’ve learned that beliefs, ideas, opinions and yes, even the truth, can change. I don’t have to cast anyone off anymore just because I have a reaction to their physical appearance. And I do still have reactions based on old information that no longer serves me. The difference is that I don’t believe these old ideas anymore. I know there is room for everyone in the world. We all have a choice in how we view the world and people in it–much more of a choice than we might ever imagine. It’s a daunting task some days, but no one said it would be easy. Choice involves responsibility. We are responsible for our choices and the results we get. If you like the results keep choosing the same. If not, just know you can always change your mind.

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Beyond Recognition

An intimate view of a burn survivor's life and recovery


September 2011

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