When I reflect of my time studying abroad in Sardinia, I realize that that aspect of this experience that has resonated most with me, both in terms of identifying what is wrong with our society back home, and what I can do to expand my own consciousness, is to focus on how I view people.
I have always thought of myself as open minded, and welcoming. I’ve always been the type of person who loves, and who is fascinated by people who seem different than me. The first week, we visited Vel Mari, and participated in the activity where we drew pictures of where we’re from, what we want, and what we can do to help our community. During this activity, I realized that everyone in the room, no matter where they grew up, all wanted similar things in life: family, a good job, opportunity, love, support, and happiness. This experience, as well as the rest of my time in Sardinia, has made me realize that back home, in the U.S., we are not conditioned to see people as humans, but more as the traits that comprise them.
Back in the States, when we meet people, the first thing we see is an Asian man, a white woman, a black man, a transsexual person, a refugee, a homeless person, etc. When we do this, we place people into little boxes which contain all of our stereotypes and preconceived notions that society has taken liberty of assigning to people with certain traits. It is beyond ignorant to believe that we can know anything about an individual, and who they truly are, simply by knowing noticing what color their skin is, what language they speak, how much money their family has, or any other characteristic. Labeling people in this type of way limits the potential of the relationship, it others people, and it stifles your understanding of the world, and the people around you. I think everybody, including myself, needs to challenge themselves to try harder to see an individual first and foremost as a human. Don’t neglect their traits, just don’t let them define who that person is to you, because many of the traits we label people as (race, sexual orientation, gender presentation, country of origin, etc) are entirely out of the person’s control, and it doesn’t change the fact that beneath the traits, is just another human, like you are I.
When you grow up in a society like ours, even if you are open minded and welcoming, it’s easy to embrace the norm of labeling people if you don’t hold yourself accountable. After embarking on this journey, I’ve learned that even when people seem different than me, at heart, they are the same as me. After taking time to think about this, I want to be better about holding myself accountable.