Discriminated Groups And the Need for Perfection
When everyone forms their opinion of you based on some person’s mistakes.
If you are a member of a minority group suffering discrimination, you will know the pain when you hear that one of the other members of your group did something bad. I mean, it is felt on some deep and personal level because you know that everyone will think you did it. And, to the outside world, it is as good as if you were the one, the guilty.
I’m a member of one of those minority groups, in fact, I think my group is like a minority within a minority: a refugee, specifically from Bosnia.
The war that turned me into a refugee happened in 1992–1995, so many people I work with today don’t even know about it. And I’m kinda pleased about that. Honestly, I wish I could just leave it behind, but that’s not an option for me. That war is still, very much, part of my daily life.
I’m white. I have that Eastern European look (or so I’m told). I do have height and waistline that should be an asset (again, this is what I’ve heard), but you’d be surprised how little that can get you. Or maybe I’m not using it right. I don’t know. The fact is, my waistline, though ‘perfect’ by today’s standards, has not got me anything. Nothing at all.
Joking aside, after all this is a serious article about a serious issue, for many people, even my name is weird. And, I mean, who knows what you can expect from a person with such an odd name. I guess it can be scary. Here I am joking again. Oy! My name, though some might consider it odd, does not say much about me as a person. In fact, it means beauty. So my name, if it means something, it should be something good. But, what’s in a name? Honestly, I’m just trying to get by in this crazy world. And it is a crazy world, right?
When I was younger, every time I heard that someone, anyone from Bosnia did something bad I wanted to write a strongly worded letter to that stupid Bosnian who is making it harder for all of us, because my name and their deed has turned me into someone suspicious.
Years passed. I grew up defending the truth about the atrocities carried out on ‘my people’ in Bosnia — BTW, when I say ‘my people’, this is not just a sympathetic, emotional claim, this is me saying that if those who carried out the crimes reached me and had a chance to kill me, they would have done it. I wouldn’t be alive to write this. And this is true for any ethnic cleansing. So whenever someone says ‘this was done on my people’, what they’re really saying is that they were a target.
Another universal truth about victims of ethnic cleansing is that their voice is soft and weak. Lot’s or reasons for that, but one of the main reasons is that those who would side with them are dead, and the dead so not speak. Plus, those who carried out the crimes were NOT killed, therefore there are more of them, which means that their voice is louder, making the voice of the victims’ even quieter in comparison. So, it’s a tough battle, especially in the age of democracy; we’re wired to hear the loud voices, the voice of the majority. And, trust me, those who carried out crimes against humanity are NOT inclined to tell the truth. So the lies spread ever so fast — I’ll write a book about this, as soon as I sort out some priorities. Yes, I have more important things to do than writing this book. Shocking, I know.
Anyway, in this fight, I would cling to every person from Bosnia or interested in Bosnia. I did not care where they were from, what they looked like, their religious beliefs, I didn’t care about anything except that they were willing to side with the victims of the atrocities carried out in Bosnia.
It didn’t take long for some of these people to find themselves the target of all kinds of public humiliation and ridicule. I stood by each and every one of them. I didn’t care what they said about me, I wanted people to stop saying bad things about my friends. However, some of those bad things that were being said were true.
And that’s when it occurred to me: Why was I expecting every person from Bosnia or supporting Bosnia to be perfect? No one is perfect, why should these people have to be?
Because there are too many plonkers out there who judge a whole group by an individual they’ve met. You know the sort. They’ll say things like “All you women are…” As if they’ve met all the women and they know that all women are… something. The more likely scenario is that one woman hurt them and they can’t handle it like a man (I use this intentionally), so they go out there and spread the hate. I guess it makes them feel protected or something. But the fact is, they’re turning their problem into my problem, and I already have a lot to deal with, so we have to change this.
Discriminated groups should not feel the need to be perfect in terms that EVERY member is perfect. That’s not even possible. We’re only human. And that’s the main point: We are HUMAN! We deserve the same rights because we’re human. However, it also means that we have faults and virtues like any other human. We should not be expected to perform a miracle before we are granted rights that every human should get. And being a perfect group is nothing short of a miracle.
So my message today is:
Dear discriminated groups, NO you do NOT need to be perfect. Feel free to disagree with one another. Feel free to have some of your members do stupid things. That’s fine. We’re only human. Do not let anyone tell you that you’re all bad, when you’re only human. It took me a long time to learn this about my own community and use it to show how some people’s expectations are the real problem, and the problem is that their expectations were impossible.
At the end of the day, we should all keep in mind that to understand others, we must ask ourselves how many people do we understand, and what can help us understand them better. And sometimes, it is about stating the obvious: there is no society (or even a group of people) that is made of flawless individuals. We’re all just human, and that should be enough to get equal treatment. After all, the way we treat others is a reflection of us not of them.