Having experienced xenophobia on my own skin, I have always felt the need to prevent others from it. I always thought it was natural for people who have suffered through whatever it may be to be more compassionate towards others who are suffering in a similar fashion. Perhaps wrongly, I have always been more judgmental of those who have experienced suffering themselves and stood back and did nothing when they saw someone else suffering, than of those who had not personally suffered and did nothing to help someone who was.
When I was 5, I was bullied for being an immigrant. Thereafter, I stood up for other kids who were bullied, not because they were being bullied for the same reason as me, but because I knew how it felt to be bullied and excluded. Preventing any kind of intolerance (even if it the subject matter of the intolerance was different to the one that I had experienced) has always been crystal clear to me, but for others it seems to be as clear as mud.
Some people only feel the need to step-in to prevent intolerance when it on some level, directly or indirectly, affects them. That would be like 5 year-old-me watching another child being bullied because they’re parents got divorced, and choosing not to stand up for that child because they’re not an immigrant and not being bullied for that reason. While it sounds primitive to me as I am writing it, its something that happens all the time, all over the world. Although regrettably I don’t remember all the details, I can recall one particular example that highlights this perfectly:
It was Holocaust Remembrance Day and my Bestie and I decided to go to a commemoration ceremony together. The commemoration consisted of a brief recap of what had happened during the Holocaust and the importance of keeping the memory alive so that history never repeats itself. Closer to the end of the commemoration, a representative of a Jewish youth movement (I can’t remember which one) started to talk about an African community (I don’t remember which one) that was being persecuted somewhere in Africa (I don’t remember where). The speaker’s underlying message was that while it is all well and good to remember atrocities of the past, it is necessary to actively try to prevent atrocities that are occurring right under our noses in the present.
It was a powerful message. A message I had full faith that the people in the room, who were affected by the Holocaust in one way or another, would interpret correctly. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The reality check was brutal. Some woman sitting behind had the audacity to say something along the lines of-
“This is Holocaust Remembrance Day. What does some African tribe have to do with the Holocaust? What happens to Africans in Africa is Africa’s problem. It’s none of my concern, it’s not my responsibility.”
My Bestie managed to hold me back from punching the ignorant woman in the face, but she couldn’t prevent me from loudly saying: “I’m sure there were some Germans who thought the same about Jews being exterminated in Concentration Camps”.
I don’t care if my comment offended her; she offended all of humanity with hers. Reality check lady, it’s not just Africa’s problem, it’s a global problem that is of our collective concern and our collective responsibility, which makes it YOUR concern and YOUR responsibility.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Although I am new to the blogging world and am completely incompetent at using technology (I only recently learned how to make hyperlinks), I believe that my message of peace and tolerance needs to be heard. To learn a little bit more about my background please read my post titled “A little bit about myself…”. To learn more about why I started this blog, please read my post titled “Introduction…”.