I had recently watched a movie where a young autistic boy asked his father why his classmates bullied him. His father told him “Because you’re different. They’re afraid of what you can do and what you are”. His neurotypical (normal) classmates bullied him for days on end because they didn’t understand who he was and why he was the way he was. He grew into an adult who knew money well and knew his way around a fight.

Why am I talking about this? In this world, a lot of people dislike, attack, or abuse those they don’t understand, or those who aren’t similar to them. Humans generally don’t like what they don’t understand because they haven’t bothered to try to understand it. Or history has taught them to not like it. Fear of the unknown creates ignorance which in turn breeds unfounded hate.

Muslims are constantly under attack because they’re painted in a negative light, they have been given a stereotype that majority of them don’t relate to. As a result they can’t live a peaceful life; the women are forced to fight for their culture because a large group of people see it as a threat. Lately they’re victims of a ban imposed by a man who believes every single one of them should be considered “bad people” despite other important factors that give them rights. Yet some people don’t fully comprehend their religion; a religion doesn’t equal a terrorist.

Black people endlessly face a struggle with law enforcement mistreating them through racial profiling; the women are disrespected for absolutely no reason (by both white people and black men). The history black people have had to endure places them in a different eye to those who haven’t had their experience. Black people, today, of all ages, come off as defensive but are simply being socially aware to understand but also help others understand more.

The LGBTQ, while society has progressed, are often victims of hate, online bullying, offensive slurs etc. due to a different sexual identity. It’s understandable why this happens and that’s because it’s something not within what is ‘normal’ to them. They’re simply people with different attractions.

However, I try to believe that there could be ways to get through this. Open your mind. Simply talk to different people and ask them questions, and have a discussion. Don’t push opinions and beliefs on to one another because that gets you nowhere. Remind yourself you’re discussing to understand, not to become a less progressive person in a society trying to grow.

Case in point: me. I’m not a religious person. I don’t believe in a higher being. As a child I just went with it because I didn’t know what to ask, and why I went to church etc. As I grew up, I separated myself from it and became more liberal.

Since then I was pretty harsh, internally, about others who were religious because I was misinformed about their religion. So I decided to start conversations with my own friends to gain more knowledge as to why they believe in their God, what religion does for them, and to understand the purpose of religion. I’ve come to respect religion for its power to help people in troubling times, or to guide people, or simply to have something or someone to confide in.

I initially didn’t want to write about this knowing how stubborn bigots, racist, sexists, homophobes and misogynists etc. can be about their own opinions and most people only digest new information if they want to learn and/or change. Honestly broke my heart having to realise this; however, it never hurts to bring to attention the importance of opening your mind.

All I’m saying is don’t be afraid to ask a question, opening your mind will take you to new places and give you greater knowledge that you can’t access if you decide to be close minded. As a society we will meet people from all walks of life, whether online, in person, traveling and will engross ourselves in conversations that are impossible to leave without new information that is most likely to change you.

Open your mind. Don’t play yourself.

Ines Makuza is a poet, singer, and dancer. She's pursuing a degree in mass communication