This I Believe

Cullyn - Sequim, Washington
Entered on April 29, 2007

Discrimination, Leave it at the Door

Far too many people have exposed their ignorance by asking, “why do we have to read about the Holocaust, again?” Why? For the same reason we learn history in general. In the hope that by understanding our predecessors’ mistakes we will not repeat them. The Holocaust is one of the most potent examples of the horrors brought forth by the discrimination against fellow human beings. In Elie Wiesel’s personal account of the Holocaust, he sheds light on a dark shadow in history. Millions of deaths could have been prevented by eliminating one vice from our daily lives, discrimination. Take a stand against discrimination.

The roots of the belligerent weed of discrimination are imbedded deep within the essence of humanity, our language. Our lexemes echo with dissonate phrases that whet the blade of discrimination. “That’s gay,” “Don’t jew me down,” and, “gyp me” are just a few examples. Such exclamations vitiate those with whom they are associated. Each statement implies a negative action or purpose about the race, gender, or religion to which they refer. Elie Wiesel describes several situations where he and other captives were called “filthy Jews.” This interjection insinuates not only that he should be identified by his religion, but also that he is “filthy” because of his beliefs (Wiesel 28). Currently, a common utterance to hear is, “that’s gay,” intimating that something is fatuous. It is completely disrespectful and inaccurate for someone to use “gay,” the slang for homosexuality, to describe a moronic action. Phrases of this kind are entrenched in our daily vocabulary. The first step to eliminating discrimination is to find alternatives to these statements, which do not relate to a race, religion, or gender.

Directly correlated with the hidden labels in our language is another type of discrimination far more depraved. The process of dehumanizing fellow human beings is the underlying principle of slavery, the Holocaust, and many other crimes throughout history. By choosing to see those with different skin as inferior, narcissistic slave owners believe they have the right to treat their slaves as animals. In Night, Elie Wiesel delineates a terrible moment when a German officer says, “There are eighty of you in the wagon….If anyone is missing, you’ll all be shot like dogs.” (Wiesel 22) This threat was a perfect example of dehumanization. To the German officers Jews (or anyone else, who didn’t fit their criteria) became animals and could be mistreated in any way. Even to this day, many people believe that a particular race or gender is to another. For instance women are still paid $.71 to a man’s dollar.

Elie Wiesel mentions another occasion, when discrimination “…murdered…[his] soul and turned his dreams to dust” (Wiesel 32). Nearing the end of his odyssey of terrors and mistreatment, he and a hundred other passengers were shoved into an open roofed train car. Those in the car were not fed nor given shelter from the snow and elements. One day when the locomotive halted at a station to clear out the dead bodies from the train cars, some train workers threw bread at the living. The starved souls dove at the food with a ferocity strong enough to kill each other. The railroad workers watched and laughed at the men wrestling with each other for a crust of bread. Many years later the author witnessed similar actions. A tourist throwing coins at impoverished “Natives” and laughing while watching them fight over the miniscule amounts of money (Wiesel 95-96). This inhuman and selfish style of amusment at another human’s physical pain should be stopped.

It is time for discrimination to end. The Holocaust and other equally horrific acts should never occur again. By eliminating discrimination in our day to day lives prejudice should also cease to exist. The end to the demeaning of your fellow human beings starts with you.