My grandfather and I got in a small tiff over dinner a few nights ago.
My dad and I were talking about my friend June, who is hopefully visiting in a couple of weeks. Knowing that my dad can occasionally be racist andor discriminate toward religion (though rarely to a person in particular), I took a moment to remind him that June is Muslim, and he has to be nice.
My grandfather, who is already seated at the dinner table, starts talking about how you can’t trust “those people” because “their nationality is brought up to double-cross everyone. Even their own kind.”
And I was just so…angry with him. I tried to reason with him – how many Muslims do you know? Are you sure they were Muslim, and not Middle Eastern? Regardless of that, grampa, Muslim is not a nationality, it’s a religion, and it’s not the religion that encourages that type of upbringing, it’s the country many of them live in, or lived in before coming here.
But no, the four people (I’m not sure if they’re Muslim, or Middle Eastern, or what. My grampa just kept calling them “towelheads”) he knows cheated him out of money, so they’re all that way. (I think this is a ridiculous judgment on his part either way, because my grandfather cheats people out of money on a semi-regular basis).
By the end of this argument, I had made a decision – I never ever want to be the level of racist and discriminatory my family tends to be. I somehow managed to make it out as an open-minded and accepting individual, and I want to raise my children to be that way as well. I want my children to understand that just because they know a few Muslims, black people, Mexicans, or what-have-you, and those few aren’t very nice, doesn’t mean that the next one you meet won’t be absolutely wonderful.
I know there are racial and religious stereotypes, and that they exist for a reason, but that doesn’t mean you should automatically apply those stereotypes to every person you meet. It’s sad that older people, and really just people in general, can’t understand that.
Could you imagine how many people we could become friends with if we just took a moment to understand them, instead of assuming they were like every other person we’ve met?
Peace, Love, and Acceptance,