We can discriminate (often subconsciously) when it comes to friendships and social relationships.
If you perceive yourself as an angelic being incapable of such actions, you’re either simply not aware or in a minority within a minority. The sooner we acknowledge this uncomfortable truth, the sooner we can move forward and incorporate inclusivity into our lives instead of merely mouthing our support for it and contradicting it with our actions, or inaction.
Just look (pun intended) at the way in which one’s visual appearance (clothing, symmetry, facial features, body size etc.) plays a role in the way we are prone to making snap judgements about people before they’ve uttered a single word, walked a single step, or even gazed at our being.
Naturally, there are hierarchies of to what extent we bestow preferential treatment. We can consciously try our best to not fall into these tendencies, but people are complicated things and we cannot fight ourselves for very long. People often make friends with others based on a wide variety of variables; for example, personality, tastes, sociability, education, age occupation and others are many of the categories that we may consider. This is where our patterns of subconscious discrimination became all the clearer.
There will be students who do not want to associate with people because they are quiet. Some, because they are loud. Some will prefer to be with people that are more like them in temperament. Some, because they are more attractive. Some, because they are funny. You get the idea. People are social animals, yes, that also includes introverted specimens such as me—sorry to disappoint. Now, trying to suppress morality from my core points (it’s impossible), I do not think people having preferences, which may or may not lead to subconscious discrimination when choosing friends, is inherently a good or bad thing.
We are all free to choose the people we associate with. And thank heavens for that. But, despite our natural/socially conditioned tendencies, people are miraculous creatures that are capable of unequivocal kindness, truth, and virtue. I am, not for a moment, claiming that you should be friends with every single person–that would sharply contradict what you’ve just read. However, we can train ourselves to be more aware of our social surroundings and act accordingly when needed. What I’ve suggested so far and what will ensue are guidelines, not rules, which with enough practice and mindfulness, society can be improved. When other people win, you win. Everybody wins.
Picture yourself in a lecture hall, surrounded by the usual group of students you sit beside. Now gaze into the corner of the upper hall and you see a student who is always isolated. A simple smile, gaze, eye contact, wave, or if you’re feeling bold, a verbal greeting, may enrich that person’s life. It could be the case that it doesn’t, and that person wants nothing to do with your kind gestures, but that’s completely fine. You are not a mind reader and you are doing your best.
The peaceful times are often the most dangerous times because we narrow our environment and develop wilful blindness. As my linguistics professors often tell me, language is a special feature that separates us humans from other primates. Perhaps we can do more to use it beyond our comfortable and already established social circles. If you always stay comfortable, you will never grow. Associate with people that improve your life and are good for you. Dissociate with people that are making your life hell because they are not worth your temporary and ephemeral life. Most of us can and would be wise to pay heed to the following: listen, look, and consider the people in the middle.
Last modified: 3rd December 2019