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Discrimination - and how it hinders development

Avatar Student, Writer, Scientist, Kenya's Ambassador to Tunza Eco-Generation and W.Y.A. member.
Yvonne Wabai
Member since November 8, 2015
  • 31 Posts
  • Age 23

Many advancements have been made in the 21st century, with the most revolutionary one being the internet. Not only has the internet revolutionized the way we go about our businesses but also opened up a portal for people all over the world to connect from right where they are. The internet has done many wonderful things, one of them being shining a light on what is arguably the biggest issue that faces the human race – discrimination.

Wikipedia defines discrimination as the “treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing is perceived to belong to rather than on individual merit. This includes treatment of an individual or group, based on their actual or perceived membership in a certain group or social category, ‘in a way that is worse than the way people are usually treated’. It involves the group's initial reaction or interaction going on to influence the individual's actual behavior towards the group leader or the group, restricting members of one group from opportunities or privileges that are available to another group, leading to the exclusion of the individual or entities based on logical or irrational decision making.”

Proceeding by these definitions, there are many types of discrimination. These include discrimination due to race/ethnicity, nationality/origin, religion/lack thereof, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, caste/financial disposition and others. Looking at it from the surface, it doesn’t seem like much of an issue. Perhaps this is why global leaders have failed to deal with it for such a long time. However, an in-depth examination of the issue explains why this is a situation that needs to change as soon as possible.

Firstly, discrimination disrupts peace. One of the biggest forms of discrimination is racism.1 According to the F.B.I, 47% of hate crimes are racially motivated. In the U.S. for instance, there are active hate groups such as the Ku Klux Khan in every single state. Also in the U.S., black men are far much more likely to be shot and killed by the police than white men, black men are far much more likely to receive longer and heavier sentences than white men in a ruling for the same crime, blacks consistently earn less than whites and black women are routinely raped, beaten and killed by the police. According to Listovative the 12 most racist countries in the world, from bottom to top, are: South Africa, Saudi Arabia, the U.S.A., the U.K., Australia, Rwanda, Japan, Germany, Israel, Russia, Pakistan and India.

Across the world, darker skinned people are more likely to experience discrimination. At times race, ethnicity, nationality and origin are grouped together in that they are similar, though not same, and that issues concerning these factors have a high potential to become a full scale war or conflict, with examples being the American Civil War, the war against apartheid in South Africa, the 2016 xenophobic attacks in South Africa, the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the Sudan genocide, the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, just to name a few.

Tension and war has also been noted to arise due to religion. There are about 4200 different religions in the world, with Christianity and Islam being the two most popular ones. Most religions believe that the other 4199 religions are false and there are those that believe that all 4200 of them are false. This has brought forth a lot of heated debates between theists and atheists, and between theists themselves. Most terrorist groups have been blamed on religious extremists, with the most notable examples being Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, Taliban, Boko Haram and ISIS; all blamed on Islamic extremists. There are also records of Christian terrorism, starting with the Crusades and Spanish Inquisition. According to SALON, The Army of God in the U.S., Eastern Lightning in China, the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, the National Liberation Front of Tripura in India, the Phineas Priesthood in the U.S (greatly influenced by the Ku Klux Klan) and the Concerned Christians in the U.S are the top 6 modern day Christian terror groups.

Another issue that comes into play is gender identity and sexual orientation, with the most recent example being the attack of a gay nightclub in Orlando. There are at least 76 countries in the world where homosexuality is illegal and where gender identity strictly remains to be the gender assigned at birth, and in these countries there are laws supporting this discrimination thereby allowing for the bullying, incarceration and in worst case scenarios, killing, of members of the LGBTI community with no consequence at all because according to their laws, the victims are the perpetrators. There’s also gender-based violence such as rape and domestic abuse. Women are more likely to be raped and/or suffer domestic abuse than men are. Statistics stand at 1 in 5 for females and 1 in 33 for males, with some races having higher statistics than others. A most recent example of this being the case against Brock Turner where he (Brock) raped a girl but the blame was instead placed on the victim, with the judge giving him a laughable sentence, of which he only served 3 months. 2 There have also been insurgent attacks on refugees, especially in Europe.

Secondly, discrimination is an enemy of economic development and prosperity. Discrimination in the workplace results to low productivity, which in turn drives the economy backwards. According to the International Labor Organization, women are by the most discriminated in the work place, with the pay gap between the sexes still significant in most countries. 3 Race is also an issue in the workforce and women of colour make even less earnings than white women. The gender pay gap is even worse for mothers, and it grows with age. Most countries have tried improving on this by educating more girls and women, a move greatly appreciated because in most communities educating a girl/woman was considered a waste of resources. However, even though more education helps increase women’s earnings, it still doesn’t close the gender pay gap. Discrimination also plays a big role in global poverty. This is because inequality in opportunity leads to underdevelopment in the areas that experience this discrimination. For instance, being denied citizenship due to some discriminatory reason such as religious affiliation restricts one’s access to employment, education, partaking in government policies and other opportunities. 4Such is the case in Burma where discrimination has pushed minority groups into poverty. 5 In the U.S., black people were driven into poverty by being denied basic rights such as education, ownership of property, business licensing and segregation.

Thirdly, discrimination affects the health of its victims. Several studies have been done to show the effect of discrimination on one’s health and the results have been that not only does it affect one’s physical health but also one’s mental health. 6Victims of discrimination have been shown to have high cortisol levels and other hormone imbalances, a situation which leads to the disruption of immune, reproductive and cardiovascular systems. It also leads to stress, which leads to the development of 7stress-related illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, depression, anxiety, headaches, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, ulcers, chronic heartburn, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and even accelerated aging and premature death. Victims of discrimination have also been shown to have low self-esteem and confidence. Discrimination is also prevalent in healthcare systems where the less rich you are, the less likely it is that you will be able to have access to basic healthcare.

Despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) being proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, discrimination is still prevalent in many societies today. Global leaders have failed to enforce the UDHR into law, which will have been the first step towards ending discrimination. The second step will be reeducation and reintegration, as stated by the Nigerian government as part of their rebuilding process in the Boko Haram aftermath. Most education systems do not seek to address issues such as intrapersonal awareness and interpersonal skills. It is therefore necessary to reform our education systems in order to include such things and to create awareness over such issues. Also, learning a foreign language and being taught about other religions goes a long way in reducing discrimination by giving the learners different perspectives. Early childhood education should focus on giving the children basic education skills as well as bashing the common racial, gender and other stereotypes. Companies should be made to pay their workers by individual merit and not by racial, gender or other preferences. Women should be empowered in order to be able to advocate for themselves when it comes to salary, benefits and promotions. Television programs that glorify gender-based violence and hate crimes should be discontinued, as well as all hate groups. Governments should refrain from using the war on terror as a means to spread fear amongst their subjects and to pass discriminatory laws.

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