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Not A Career Post!!



Let me begin with a disclaimer – this post has nothing to do with career coaching, so if that is what you are currently seeking…feel free to move on without reading any further!

My mind is currently overcome by what has happened over the past week. An innocent man (his guilt in the “fake note” incident still unproven), lying handcuffed on the ground…a uniformed person who is supposed to be a protector of the public, slowly and deliberately suffocating him by choking off his blood supply, till the helpless man finally stops breathing!!! Nearly 10 minutes of extreme cruelty even as the man is begging to be allowed to breathe – the most basic right of all! How can this be happening in this day and age, in a developed country, in full view of cameras and onlookers?

What could have prompted the perpetrator of this horrific crime to go through with his intent? What was his intent? Was it an open-and-shut case of racism – white on black, a show of power? Or was there more to this? I read somewhere that both the policeman and the victim worked together in the same security firm. Was this a case of personal animosity? Why were the other policemen on the scene not intervening? So many unanswered questions!

The protests that have rocked the US, sending flames through many cities, have focussed on police brutality, specifically against one race. Is the “Black Lives Matter” movement addressing just the symptom and not the cause? In one of the online forums discussing this incident, I posted about the culture of an organization and mentioned that good culture needed to percolate down from the leadership to the rank and file. My post was focussed on the issue of police brutality and cops being drunk on power, seeing themselves as a freewheeling force, dishing out punishments. At the outset of my post, I did mention my view as being one from outside, as I’m not a citizen or a resident of the USA. One feedback I received stated that this wasn’t just a police issue, it went deeper than that. When I asked if the person replying was hinting at widespread racism in American society, the reply I got was “Of course, there is racism in the US. Are you saying there is no racism in NZ?”. That set me thinking, as my reply went along the lines of “NZ is not a racist country, but…”

The fact that I had to reply “Yes, but” made me introspect on this whole phenomenon of racism. As an immigrant to NZ, I’ve been fortunate not to encounter any instances of blatant and open racism. However, I must confess that there have been times when I’ve felt some strains of subtle racism, especially in the work environment. Be it the foreign-sounding name, or the different accent…there is a certain “us versus them” that does creep into the human psyche. As a country of immigrants and a country with a relatively young history, New Zealanders have come to accept the different ethnicities as part of the population make-up, especially in the larger cities. But that doesn’t naturally translate into equal opportunities for all in the workplace. Now, it is easy to feel victimized by this and develop a bitter attitude…and sometimes I admit I have felt bitter and hard-done. However, I have managed to adopt a broadly stoic approach, and accept that a lot of the “us versus them” feeling may be sub-conscious and unintentional. And this is not specific to any country. When I think back to my home country India for instance, we have so many things to discriminate on – region, religion, language, caste, etc. I honestly don’t think any country in the world can truly claim that every one of its citizens and residents is treated equally and fairly.

Why is the human race so fixated with the external appearance? Why does the skin colour or facial features or the accent matter so much? When we receive a gift all wrapped up, do we focus all our attention on the wrapping? Do we not just rip off the wrapping, put it aside, and receive joy and pleasure from the gift inside? Think of this in terms of humans – our skin tone, our facial features, the way we sound…are these all not just the wrapping around our real selves? After all, physiologically, on the inside, all humans are the same. Why are we, as humans, unable to see past the outside shell and experience the person inside?

If you are a rose lover, do you discriminate against roses based on their colour? You might have a preference for one colour, but that doesn’t mean you would hate or destroy the other coloured roses, would you? If you are a dog lover, do you love dogs based on the colour of their fur or the shape of their nose? Again, you could have a preference for a breed and/or colour, but that doesn’t necessitate hating the others.

Human beings are meant to be the most evolved species on the planet, the very tip of the evolution pyramid. We are supposed to have an intellect that makes us superior to all other living beings. And yet, we are unable to accept this simple fact – all human beings are essentially the same! We may look different, sound different, eat differently, speak differently…but that must never be the basis for acceptance or rejection, liking or disliking. We are all entitled to preferences, but we are not entitled to prejudices.

I would love to hear your thoughts and have a robust, yet respectful discussion on this issue.

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