“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Over the history of the United States, people have been judged by appearance, mainly gender and ethnicity. Although life has changed for minorities in America since Martin Luther King, Jr.’s lifetime, there is still a struggle for people who don’t fit society’s standard of what is normal.
Autism is a disorder that affects one in sixty-eight children, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2014. Apart from interacting with autistic children during my college education and throughout my years of teaching music, I have not experienced the struggle of being a parent with an autistic child.
However, I recently had the opportunity to watch a film portraying the struggles of a fictional character with a high functioning form of autism. This provoked a series of thoughts relevant to issues Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed during his lifetime.
“If we let the world set expectations, they’ll stay where they are.” – The Accountant, 2016
We have been programmed to judge people based on appearance and to fear and reject those who are different from us. Even as a minority, an immigrant at an early age, I have still been fortunate to have the support and the acceptance I needed to become the person I am today.
As a parent, I am overwhelmed at times with what children have to experience compared to the simpler days of my childhood and adolescence. It has been difficult at times to help them battle the different stereotypes, bullying, and social pressures that are common among adolescents today.
I have found several ways for both children and adults to instill confidence, to encourage individuality, and to build a foundation for love and acceptance for all:
1. Recognize the differences in others as an extension of their personality, not as a threat to the individual.
2. Take time to become acquainted with people of different backgrounds and to learn about their cultures.
3. Encourage children to identify both strengths and weaknesses, understanding that they are what define them and what can help them relate to others with the same struggles.
4. Show a positive example of tolerance and open-mindedness to those around you.
5. Find opportunities to discover and to experience other cultures, such as ethnic festivals and other multi-cultural events.
Even amidst all of the chaos and war in this world, it is a relief and an encouragement to know that there are many who are already living a life of love and acceptance.