In a scene of the Academy award-winning movie “12 YEARS A SLAVE”, the character played by Michael Fassbender says that one can easily see that his black slaves are nothing more than “baboons”. Actually, this association of black people with monkeys and apes are very commonly made by bigots and racists throughout the world. For some reason, they seem to think that black humans are closer to these cousins of ours than caucasians or asians.
I have just come across a very interesting article in last week’s issue of THE ECONOMIST (“The skinny on skin colour”) where they explain the reason early humans in Africa developed dark skins was to protect it from cancer, since their bodily hair had somehow been shed – the reason why we substituted melanin for a hair coat is still not completely understood. Some people’s skins only became fairer as they moved and lived in more northern regions of the globe. But what really struck me as ironic and very sobering is that, as they state in the article, the color of a chimpanzee’s skin is white, once you shave all that hair!
This only proves that bigotry and ignorance go hand in hand, and brave are the ones who, despite their not understanding completely a new phenomena, try to see through the surface and get to the core and truth of it, rather than reject things and ostracize people they don’t know anything about. Difference is always a source of fear and prejudice. I admit it may even be natural to feel afraid or cautious when confronted with something new and unfamiliar. But this is where the human mind and spirit need to impose itself and guide our consciousness and behavior. The senses and our own experience can lie, or at least, may not tell the whole story.
I keep getting back to this word in every article I write: empathy. The reason is I think it’s even more effective than “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from the movie Mary Poppins – whose 50th anniversary is being celebrated this year, by the way – in the sense that it makes people not only feel better as they say it, but it can have a huge effect towards accommodating and living with diversity when applied to real life.
The ignorance about chimpanzees’ skins being white can be equated with the lack of knowledge that gays DON’T choose their sexual orientation (the choice is either to hide it from others and live a repressed or duplicitous life, or come out of the closet and deal with it) or the myth that Latin Americans are not as hardworking as their counterparts in North America, Europe or Asia. To say nothing of men’s fear that women are their equal in all intellectual respects.
Wake up: chimps’ skins are white!
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