We all have our differences. I am a female; you might not be. I have brown hair; you might be blonde. I am very short, and you might be quite tall. But these differences are all skin deep. I love to dance, but you might like sports. I hate tomatoes, and they may be your favourite food.
One particular difference, though, has always defined me.
I am Jewish.
When I was very young, I was ecstatic to be known for this one big difference. In my elementary school in a suburb of Vancouver, my sister and I were the only Jewish kids. We did presentations about Hanukkah every year, we taught our peers about Jewish culture, and we got to pride ourselves in our differences.
It was amazing.
Then my sister went to middle school, and I was faced with the cruel reality of racism for the first time in my life. Students in my sister’s class were selected to paint banners, which were posted on the light standards around my city. My sister was asked to volunteer for this. She chose to paint a Star of David, a symbol of Judaism.
A week after the banners were unveiled, my family and I drove past the recreation centre where my sister’s was hanging.
It had a huge slash, right down the middle of the star.
Out of an entire city, Stacey’s banner was the only damaged one. It could have been a coincidence. A rock could have accidentally hit that particular poster, having nothing to do with the religious symbol displayed on it. But that wasn’t very likely.
Over the years, I have been faced with more and more racist comments. I’ve heard everything from snide remarks, to people making fun of each other for saving their money, a well known Jewish stereotype. Aside from some glares shot in the direction of the ignorant people, I try my best to hold my head high, still proudly wearing my Star of David necklace.
Somehow, though, it is a lot worse when newspaper feed into racism. There was a bus bombing in Jerusalem the other day, the first one in seven years. Although the fact that there has not been a bombing in seven years is something that Jews and Israelites are rather impressed with, the bombing still did happen.
But nobody knows what really occurred.
According to some papers, Israel fired missiles at Gaza City, causing the Palestinians to retaliate with the bomb. Others say the bomb was first, and the missiles came later in response. And the real story will probably never be confirmed.
To most of you out there, this probably isn’t a huge deal. So a bomb was dropped in Jerusalem and missiles were fired at Gaza City. Who cares? Israelis and Palestinians have been fighting forever.
But that isn’t really the issue at hand here.
Maybe Israelis fired the first missiles, or maybe Palestinians dropped the bomb first.
To me, though, what really matters is the media’s reaction. Each paper picks a side; everybody really does to a certain degree. They choose to support somebody and alienate somebody else. They choose to intentional hurt a group of people based on their differences.
And that is racism. That is prejudice. That is discrimination.
And that hurts.
It is something we all have to deal with every single day. We are all different. But we should be commended for our differences, not taught to be ashamed and offended by them. We should learn to love and accept each other for what makes us unique, not what makes us the same.
Our imperfections, our unique interests and traits and personalities and appearances are what make us special. Not good or bad or wrong or right, but special, and they give us each a different opportunity to make a difference.