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March 14, 2016

I’ve just joined Jeff Goins’ 7-day blogging challenge and the first challenge is to write our manifesto. Something we strongly believe in. Something that stirs up our emotions in a way few other things do. For me, this is prejudice and discrimination related to people’s backgrounds, culture, skin color, etc. Hearing someone condemn an entire population of people based on one experience, something that was seen in the media, something passed on to you as a child or just plain ignorance, ruffles my feathers like nothing else.

I was blessed to be born in the USA and grow up in a comfortable middle class family who encouraged my curiosity and love for learning. In this way I grew up loving languages and cultures and had many friends that were immigrants in elementary school and beyond. There was so much to learn from them and a whole wide world to explore! New music, food, holidays – I soaked it all up and it widened my life in a way that nothing else could have. Sadly, I know not everyone gets these experiences and some people are not exposed to other ways of life from an early age. They may even be actively taught that those “other” people are bad. But, I know for a fact that beliefs can change and that the world would be a better place if there was more understanding and dialogue between groups.

I truly believe that the antidote for prejudice is education, especially first-hand experiences. Of course there are still extreme (and heartbreaking) cases where a mother or father disowns their own child for being gay or something similar. But in general, if one comes to know someone from another walk of life, be that muslim, from another country, or gay; common ground can be found and those prejudices are chipped away at until they eventually crumble.

Alternatively, just hearing from someone they love and trust that those “others” are not necessarily bad can also facilitate a change in beliefs. My life’s purpose is to help facilitate those dialogs, to aid in cultural and knowledge exchanges so that others can see the beauty of the differences in all of us, large or small. Of course there will be things that people disagree on, that’s part of being human, but without the hatred and walls of prejudice we open up the path to dialogue and creating compromise. And that leaves us all better off in the end.

This blog specifically focuses on Swiss culture, purely because I was fortunate enough to marry into a wonderful Swiss family and I want to pass that on to my son. But I can assure you that we incorporate a lot of the wonderful cultures that surround us into our lives us and have amazing friends from all over that help with this. Sudanese, Indian, Mexican, the list goes on. If one of us does overhear someone saying something negative about an entire group of people we speak up and remind them that one person’s actions do not portray a whole population. Even better is countering with an example of a positive influence from that group of people.

It’s not always easy to stand up for others but it’s worth it in the end. I have to admit that when I moved to Switzerland I encountered a lot more racism and prejudice than I was expecting. Even within my own, new family. I took the time and countered their comments at every opportunity, in a diplomatic and understanding way, of course. Though it was hard to openly disagree with them at first (I avoid conflict by nature) I saw first hand how doing this repeatedly slowly changed their beliefs and they are now more open and understanding of differences. So it is possible for one person to help make a change. I would ask you to do the same and through our combined efforts I believe that one day we can overcome this issue.

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