We are living in turbulent times, where many social norms are being questioned and traditional outlooks challenged.
Each generation has certainly had a different experience with racism, and today I’ll talk about my experience as a member of so-called Generation Z (or Gen Z for short).
It has always been instilled in me from a young age to accept people for who they are. I am lucky enough to have travelled with my family and to have been exposed to a great many cultures, ways of life and amazing people from a young age. I believe this is the case for many of my peers today.
What is interesting is that, as a young child, I didn’t see differences as anything important. When travelling, I loved to try to live my life the way the people living there did. It was exciting and new and I felt privileged to learn about these people and their lives.
As a six year old in Japan, I accepted and embraced the fact that I would learn to use and eat with chopsticks and that I would sit and eat my dinner on the ground around a low table.
As a 12-year-old in Malaysia, I accepted and embraced the fact that it was not considered appropriate to show my legs or arms while in public. I adapted without needing to know why, without caring why — without realising the societal norms I was conforming to.
The religions, the histories, the traditions and the social and political influences that created these societal norms.... to me, as a young girl they didn’t matter.
And today these differences still don’t matter to me.
I don’t need to be the same as someone to respect and value them and, in an ideal world, neither would anyone else.
This inability by some people to accept individuals, cultures and lifestyles that are different to theirs is one of the main causes of racism and discrimination in our society today.
It frustrates me that we have so much information available to us but this ignorance and behaviour persists. That we have the potential solution to a problem and are not utilising it.
Generation Z are an extremely well connected and informed group of people. With social media, we can speak our minds and fight for what we believe in, all before we eat breakfast.
That is the reason that Generation Z have been so active in challenging racism and discrimination in these past months. It’s because we have all the necessary materials to educate ourselves about age old issues. To educate ourselves about different cultures and lifestyles. To understand and respect them.
We as a generation have proven our active approach in battling issues and racism should be no different. We have power to campaign for change and for what we believe in.
From what I have seen and experienced, racism is not as prominent in my generation as others, but there are still many issues. It is the inherited biases and attitudes. It is the stupid ‘jokes’ and the slurs that are not acceptable nor funny.
It’s the passive attitudes towards blatant racism that we see and hear in our everyday lives. It is these failures that we must work on.
This year especially has taught me, and I believe the rest of my generation, to see how important it is to stand up for others, to be anti-racist. To be openly active against those who choose to use their power and privilege to kill, hurt and demean others.
I hear often ‘you can’t say anything these days’ or ‘everyone’s so sensitive nowadays’. These sentences annoy me. They anger me.
There is a mindset in this country that it is OK to disrespect someone who is different from you. A need to be free in what we can say. And I get it, of course we have our freedom of speech, but we also have a choice in how we use that freedom. The choice of how we use your voices. These comments are holding us back. These comments give power to those who disrespect anyone just for being different. These comments are preventing change and equality in the world today.
If you want to call me sensitive for correcting an unfunny and racist joke, or correcting the old fashioned slurs that remain in your vocabulary, I am content with that. Better me be sensitive and fight for something that I believe in, than be passive and ignorant to a problem that affects men, women and children every single day across the globe.
Racism is certainly a big issue among my generation. And by that I mean the vast majority of us view racism as an extremely prevalent problem that we are responsible for solving.
As a generation, we have grown up with access to every piece of information that we might possibly need. We have the ability to inform ourselves and speak up for what we believe in with the internet and our social media.
This year, all around the globe there has been an outcry for change. For equality.
As a generation, I believe the vast majority of us are extremely tolerant and in favour of this desired diversity and equality. But there is more work to be done.
Racism will only remain acceptable in our societies if we choose to accept it. We now need to be anti-racist. We need to carry on with the fight and continue to campaign, so that the next generation can live without this unacceptable and disgusting problem.