Bring Up Racism – When systemic discrimination hurts people

I want to start by stating that I am not an activist, nor am I pretending to be. What I am is an intellectual trying to communicate, what I can observe and interpret from my own experience, with the rest of the world. From this you can surely come to the conclusion that I do not join walks, protests or anything similar, and you would be totally right. However, this is not because I don’t support the vision of a world based on equality. It’s because I truly believe that real changes come from within us. We may try as hard as we can to convince people to change their mind and habits, but you may never achieve it at the end. However, despite the fact that we’re all flawed human beings, we all have the potential with some deep introspection to find the willpower to improve. In light of the recent events, I want to share with you the thinking process responsible for racism and other discrimination. Although this process starts early on, the only way to fight its perversion is awareness.

There were clearly many events characterized by injustice happening this last year, too many of you want my opinion. Amongst the one that reached the front page of newspapers, we could count the death of George Floyd which led to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, and also the indigenous woman Joyce Echaquan that died soon after recording slurs made by hospital staff. These are only two of the many, but it speaks loudly about the possible consequences of racism. It is worth mentioning that racism may affect any visible minority, even though the media tend to focus on only one group at a time. 

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Last year, Mr. Floyd, an African-American man, was arrested by the police. To apprehend the man, the police officer found it necessary to immobilize the suspect by using excessive forces on his neck resulting in the sudden and untimely death of Mr. Floyd. Before his life was taken so abruptly, he clearly expressed to the police officer that he couldn’t breathe. That the police officer could not adjust the restraint, following the hearing of such concerning complaints, is totally despicable. Although other explanations were suggested, this may still be the result of discrimination against black communities, which has always been completely misplaced. The silver lining of this tragedy is the sudden emotional unrest that has emerged giving enough fuel to start a movement called Black Lives Matter. The movement carried by the unleashing of walks and protests worldwide had the honourable objective to fight police brutality led against black people.

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Joyce Echaquan, an indigenous (Atikamekw) woman, first went to a hospital for stomach complaints and subsequently got hospitalized. While she was hospitalized, she was giving morphine, a pain medication, in order to soothe the profound discomfort she was experiencing. The amount of morphine given seemed to alarm her; therefore she proceeded to record a cry for help live on Facebook, stating that she was being overmedicated. Shockingly, by the end of the video we could hear the nurses exchanging racist comments about her. Soon after, she died of what seemed to be an adverse reaction to morphine. We don’t know yet if the death resulted from mistreatment, but it is obvious that the treatment was unprofessional and blatantly inhumane given that it took place in a hospital. The main role of a hospital is to provide care and this is certainly not how you care for patients.

Government officials are also not impervious to racism, we could hear Trump about four years ago making unsubstantiated statements about Mexicans. To support his ideology to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S., he went on to claim that Mexicans are all either stealing American jobs or are criminals such as drug dealers, rapists and thieves. To reduce a complete nation to such a negative view is not only completely irrational, it’s also utterly unfair. Mexicans may have different opportunities than Americans, but that doesn’t make them lesser in any possible ways. 

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Racism is a form of discrimination that reduces individuals to their skin colour. To associate any specific attribute based on physical characteristics is wrong and science has invalidated many times already. There are absolutely no scientific grounds that support a link between what you look like and what you can or cannot do. That isn’t how each of us is programmed. We are all individuals with differences, and we all must have a chance to make our proofs. Everyone must stop judging the book by its cover.

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To do that we must understand where it all comes from. Let’s start by acknowledging that, like most words in our dictionary, race is a man construct. It’s a noun used to indicate the morphological and cultural differences between men. As I said this has no scientific basis whatsoever and multiple DNA studies have repeatedly been unable to observe any significant differences between the so-called races. Race is a human construction that is a total myth. That is why we shouldn’t refer to races any more than we should call all eccentric women, witches.

We have to understand that people, including you and I, have an innate ability to discriminate at a very young age between situations and objects to better establish the safety of our surrounding environment. However, when we come into adulthood, discrimination may be influenced by outsiders and come to reinforce some of our already formed biases. What I’m trying to convey here is that discrimination isn’t what’s wrong but what we’re all doing with it that is. Discrimination can’t be stopped. Still, what we can control is how we come to understand it. It’s easy to use our discrimination as an overgeneralization and use it to justify our behaviour, but this isn’t OK. Also, I can’t believe I have to say this but committing a hate crime to justify another hate crime is petty and awful. As the saying goes: “An eye for an eye and everyone ends up blind.” 

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We have to remember that crimes can be committed by anyone and that everyone is responsible for their own behaviour. And thus I would like to extend awareness to all discrimination forms be it from a different skin colour, a different job, a different health status, a different economic status, a different sexual orientation or identification, a different ideology, a different culture or other. The way you talk, you think, you move, you care and more shouldn’t make you inherently more or less prone to mistreatment. You all ought to be judged entirely on your actions and not on your looks.

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To achieve this we have to question our biases and dig deep. Some biases are so ingrained that we don’t even realize their nature. As an exercise to help you distinguish biases, brainstorm about subjects currently inducing polemics, which could stem from any of the aforementioned subjects. For example, let’s take sexual orientation as a category and let’s pick women as the subject. During the brainstorming process, you might come up with words like weak, fragile, crazy, emotional, natural parents, etc. These are all common descriptive features, but at this point you must ask yourselves how applicable are these ideas to the women around you. You will surely find out that not all women actually fulfill these characteristics. You may also try to relate all these ideas to men, this time. You will probably easily find that many men do possess those characteristics. My expectation is for you to discover, at the end, that no specific characteristic is able to properly describe a group of people. By coming to this conclusion, you will come to see these as what they really are, biases. Eventually, if you keep repeating activities like this, you may succeed undoing some of those negative biases, or at least stopping them from committing injustice to the people around you.

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We, including me, can all benefit from this exercise. One of my most recent experiences involves a person that was a true look-alike of someone who, in the past, has hurt me. That person was a perfect stranger, but somehow, I felt a compulsion to distrust the person right away. After analysis, I realized that I was actually mistakenly expecting that stranger to behave exactly as that lousy person did. With that awareness, I decided to fight the compulsion to naturally distrust that person who was yet completely blameless. This experience may seem mundane, although it’s a clear example that everyone, including me, can be guilty of acting based on biases. So let’s all pledge this year to be a better judge of character and try as hard and as compassionately as we can to improve the way we treat and think about people.

I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer as soon as humanly possible.


Bring Up The Beginning – How it all started

I remember the night just before my first day of school, I was totally terrified. I had a nightmare that I was lost in the school and no one was willing to help me find my way back. They would instead ask me what was wrong with me. I was panicked. When I finally woke up, I unsurprisingly didn’t want to go to school. However, I have never mentioned it to my mother, since I knew what she would tell me. She would tell me to snap out of it and that I would have to go to school like any of my siblings. Let’s say that I never felt like there were any place for drama, or at least emotions, at home. So, I kept that detail for me.

Turns out maybe this dream may have been a warning for what was to come, but scientifically speaking it couldn’t. Reasonably speaking, it was probably only the expression of my worries. I always had trouble with changes and that was essentially an enormous one. There are probably multiple factors to account for my difficulties adapting to school. However, I think that the strongest factor was my emotional over-expressiveness. Difficulty controlling the expression of my feelings possibly made me a very easy target for intimidation. And so, by the middle of elementary school, I started getting bullied by a guy and that lasted through most of my high school years as well. This could probably have been enough for most people to become bitter about school and rebel against the institution, or, at the very least, produce a strong desire to quit attending school. Fortunately for me, this was far from the feeling I had toward school. 

Daria Shevtsova|
Tima Miroshnichenko|

Let’s say that school was both a nightmare and my safe haven. Well, you may understand why this was a nightmare, but it isn’t all that clear why this was my very safe haven. You might think that home should have been my safe haven, but it wasn’t. At home, I never felt like I was doing enough. Everything I was doing was judged to be done badly. Additionally, things I was craving for like admiration or, at the very least, respect was nowhere to be found. On the contrary, at school, there existed both admiration and respect. I could make my teachers proud by using my knowledge to answer questions and when I answered correctly, they showed me praises. But moreover, there was no name calling or insults thrown. But sadly, I can’t say that all teachers were like that. I had one teacher in elementary school that picked on me. To this day, I regret not standing up to him, but what could I have done? I was only a kid.

Then again, most teachers were all very supportive, so by rules of generalization, I loved my teachers. Yet, what I like the most about school was its seemingly infinite source of information. Information that could potentially be knowledge. Knowledge was ultimately my escape. My escape from boredom, from loneliness, from intimidation and from injustice. As a kid, I perceived that knowledge could help solve all problems. With it, I could extrapolate answers to behaviours or to just any basic fundamental questions. My curiosity knew no boundaries and with curiosity arose multiple questions. School then became necessary and provided me with endless possibilities to see the world through another lens.

One question that I’ve had and that is now left mostly answered was the reasons behind my childhood harassment. I always wondered why children could be so hurtful and then I realized that one major difference between children and adults is their openness to differences. Pre-teenager and, to a lesser extent, teenagers have a strong desire to fit within a group (sense of belonging). They do it in such a way that their appearances, their thoughts, and their experiences must be kept as similar as to the rest of the gang. However, by the time they leave high school, they recognize that a quest for normality is vain and they have to develop a better awareness of themselves (identity). For example, the eight-year-old me talking science to classmates was probably interpreted as me pointing out what they ignored. This fact was enough to confirm that I didn’t fit in. Alternatively, adults realize that one human in its lifetime can’t learn everything the world has to offer. Most won’t feel offended or confronted by an individual possessing information that they don’t have.

Then, from my quest to gain knowledge came a natural appreciation toward science and eventually an admiration and a love for it. I was first introduced to science with a special book: a science encyclopedia for children. This book was lying in the bookshelves in my bedroom and since I had to stay in bed after waking up in the morning, I decided to open it. This book was perfectly designed and got me to be amazed by everything nature had to offer. Two articles really grabbed my attention. The first talked about the size of the largest mammal on Earth, the blue whale, which can measure up to three buses long. The second introduced the difference between the terms: storm, lightning, and thunder. 

I absolutely rejoice in acquiring knowledge, but acquiring it was only part of the joy it brought me. The most satisfaction I got was when I decided to share the knowledge. I genuinely thought that people would like to know everything as much as I did. Turns out this couldn’t be far enough away from the truth. It took me a few years to realize this. With this cluelessness came insults from my family and my friends telling me that I was a weirdo, that I talked too much, and that I was a big know-it-all. All that hurt led me to change my approach to science communication. With time I learnt that science can be communicated more easily to people that are truly interested and that interest is most often expressed through asking questions. If you pay attention to the questions, you can be there to answer them and thus communicating knowledge. My second realization is that too much science content on the internet right now is overly specific and needs previously acquired material to understand it. 

Karolina Grabowska|

I believe that this leads people to believe science is only accessible for educated people, but the truth is that everyone is doing science. Moreover, everyone is doing science every day. Your body is constantly doing chemistry by measuring blood sugar content and releasing corresponding levels of insulin. It is also doing physics every time you walk or run. It is also doing physiology whenever you experience pain or mathematics whenever you purchase something in a store. Science is not for an elite population; it’s for everyone. 

This is the reason Bring Up Science got created. My goal is to bring light to the science behind different elements of our life. From the first leaves in the trees in spring to the way we perceive pain. Science is a beautiful thing that everyone deserves to enjoy and that might just start with Bring Up Science. So, no matter where you are right now, what you’re doing or even if you know the fundamental principles of physics. What’s important is that you open yourself up to the amazing potential and accessibility of Science. It will make you appreciate life in a different perspective and maybe allow you to see all of yourself as a beautiful orchestra of science.

I thank you infinitely for reading this post and if you would like to know more about the mysteries that surround us, please join my subscription list to keep up with my newest content. If you have any questions, please add them to the comment section and I’ll make sure to answer as soon as humanly possible.