The caption may sound like I am going to write about some serious global issues. Trust me, that’s not what I’m going to do. I try to write only from a commoner’s perspective because I’m not a celebrity nor am I a politician, I’m not even a philanthropist. I have no idea about their lives and how exactly they deal with their problems. But as a human being, I believe everyone of us has to confront prejudice every now and then.

We, humans, are discriminated against in many ways and over many issues. We confront prejudice and discrimination due to things like our intelligence, our socio-economic status, gender, how we talk, how we walk, how we look, our success, our achievements, and so much more. So, I am going to write about my personal experiences in different stages of my life for my readers. Not to prove that people do discriminate, but to encourage those who need to know how to overcome discrimination or any kind of humiliation. 

The Dream of a Dreamer: A Beautiful World Without Discrimination Photography: Shajiya
The Dream of a Dreamer: A Beautiful World Without Discrimination Photography: Shajiya

Scenario one

Discrimination in the family between siblings /Discrimination due to gender

Mostly in Asian communities can you find such discrimination, which unfortunately has become an unconscious bias. As a girl, sometimes I felt discriminated against when my mother would favor my brother over me. My mother would always cook my brother’s favorite meals and even put them aside in a different dish for him. When I confronted my mother, she’d say, “why are you so jealous? This is a very simple matter, don’t make it an issue.” Luckily, it never created a big issue between my siblings because we have always shared a great bond. I did, however, feel bad whenever I would respond and shout at her after she would say that to me.

What I’m trying to get at is, you don’t need to react to every comment given by those around you especially when you have the mental strength and mental support. 

Discrimination due to intelligence 

In today’s competitive world, some parents and guardians judge their children based on their academic results. Recently, my colleague shared with me a painful incident that happened in her family.

Her sister has twins – one twin is very sharp and academically successful while the other tends to grasp things a little more slowly. The parents started to condemn the latter twin while constantly praising the former twin. Due to this, the twin who needs to take their time on things developed signs of anxiety, depression, and personality disorder. Luckily, my colleague and her husband came forward to rescue the child. They also tried to help the parents understand how they were putting their own child’s future in danger. The crazy part of this story is that the twins are only seven years old!

I believe social awareness is key to confronting such prejudice in our society. The government should provide mandatory rules to all schools and colleges that they have to have a counseling course for both students and parents. This can play a great role on this matter. 

Scenario two

Discrimination in Education: expectations vs reality 

Everyone’s first semester at the university is difficult as it’s a major step up from college – making new friends, meeting new advisers, and having new experiences.

Fight with your own fear

About 24 years ago, I started my first semester at the top and most reputable Engineering University in my country. At the beginning of my university life, I was struggling to cope with being a student in the Architecture Department. It wasn’t exactly my cup of tea as I didn’t know anything about architecture. I was panicking when I learned that most of my classmates were already in the process of being Architect( what I meant they were mentally & totally prepared).In the meantime, I was being influenced by the course that challenged my creative potential in the conceptualization of my own, authentic designs that have given me a sense of direction and meaning. So I started to believe that my progression into a career in Architecture seemed natural even though I knew my design teachers were not so fond of my work.

Always have some patience

I’ve had to face several bad experiences from my design teachers and sometimes even the theory course teachers I had. There wasn’t really any rhyme or reason for it. I assumed it was because I wasn’t that popular or not as creative as my classmates. When I was in Level Two, one of the most well-known teachers on our campus asked me,” why do you want to be an architect? You aren’t qualified to be one.” And that was while he was assessing one of my designs. I wasn’t able to come up with an answer to that question even though I should’ve already known. He got really mad at me and told me he was disappointed. I was devastated by his comments and that ended up affecting me badly.

It was tough because as someone who was so well known in the architecture community, his opinion meant a lot to so many people. However, I think as a mentor, he shouldn’t be that hard on any student. We’re all still learning while he’s got years of experience under his belt. A little compassion and help go a long way, especially from someone like him. 

Deal with an unfair teacher…………………………….

Another incident that I recall was when I was in the third level of my graduate studies. During our individual design assessment, the guidance and criticism by our design teachers were so important that it affected if we could proceed any further in that particular project. At that time, a very well-known architect was our design teacher along with two other co-teachers. Most of us were so eager to hear his analysis of our designs since he was so well respected. When it was my turn, I was ready and excited to show him my project for the final assessment. When I went up, he glanced at it for a second and walked out the door. He told his co-teachers to look at my project and give me a grade. That was really hard for me because I was waiting for his feedback and really wanted to hear what he had to say. He would give guidance to the students who were already popular due to their designs and creativity, but couldn’t even take a look at mine. He had no interest to invest his time and energy into any of the average students. It was a heartbreaking day for me.

Although I’ve had these hardships in my life, my biggest strength is that I don’t carry grudges that can overburden me and instead can motivate myself to move forward. I, however, don’t forget. When you’re a student, your teachers have a huge influence on your life and can leave a long-lasting impression. I have always believed that teaching requires having the ability to deal with differences. Differences like social status, intelligence, race, sex, appearance, and economic background.

My experience has been a mix of both positives times and challenging ones. Those challenges were difficult to face in the beginning but now have made me strong and independent. 

Scenario three

Fear of being Discriminated

In 2014, I went to the Netherlands for a postgraduate diploma. It was a one-month intensive course. Although it was a short trip, my experience in the Netherlands was a mesmerizing one. I found it to be such a picturesque country. Whether you’re walking along the canals of cities like Rotterdam or biking in the safe lanes of the street, there is always something nice to look at.

In my program, there were 15 participants from seven different countries all in Asia and Africa. Both of our course coordinators were Dutch. Having such a diverse group of people with different cultures, personalities, and experiences made the journey more extraordinary. Throughout that time, we had site visits to different localities as well as different cities. After visiting a site, we would sometimes attend meetings with organizations or people in the area and hear their concerns. One day, while we were having a meal during one of these meetings, one of the hosts asked if any one of us is Muslim and if we can have the vegetable sandwich instead of the pork. Out of our whole group, I was the only Muslim. Suddenly I felt uncomfortable with raising my hand and picking the vegetable sandwich. I was nervous that someone would start judging me for my religion, but I don’t really know why I felt that way.

In fact, nobody even lifted an eyebrow. The host had asked that as a genuine question. I realized right after I looked at everyone’s faces, that the doubt and fear of being discriminated were inside of me.

Another incident that I remember was when some of us were crossing the street and a car stopped at the signal. Through the glass window, the lady in the car nodded her head and smiled at us. Unfortunately from a distance, her gesture looked to be more negative. All of us had darker skin and felt like the lady was teasing us. One of our friends even got a little riled up and shouted at her, “why are you looking at us?! We are just crossing the street, nothing to stare at!” I do not know if the lady even heard that comment. Later on, when I recalled the incident, I realized that we had a preconceived notion. The lady in the car didn’t disrespect us. It was us who took it the wrong way. She was just showing a polite gesture as we were foreigners to her. We know a lot of people are discriminatory to others based on their race, religion, skin color, etc. but not everyone is. We shouldn’t judge everyone the same way.

Rotterdam: The cityscape photography: Shajiya
Rotterdam: The cityscape photography: Shajiya

Dear readers, sometimes having an inferior complex can lead us to such negative thoughts. Sometimes, it is our confidence that needs to be fixed and uplifted. That one month trip to the Netherlands was one of the best trips I have ever had in my life. I am so glad I became aware of my own fear. It made me bold enough to lead a more meaningful life.

7 Responses

  1. It was a good read indeed. Discrimination is everywhere unfortunately even in first world developed countries.

  2. Mimi, you just hit the nail on the head. Specially about the bitter experiences we, the “Average Joes”, had to go through during those challenging period while we were being shaped to the world of Architecture. The so called “boss designers” were always praised one way or another while we had to experience bitter humiliation. But it made us more resilient in our profession. Now I just look back to those days & find a lot of those spoiled brats couldn’t even survive in this particular “savage” profession, neither did some of the mentors. We, the average Joes learned how to survive & thrive while the pampered ones didn’t get the chance.

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