We can all be victims of discrimination

Date: January 1, 1970
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I recently met a woman from Angola named Arlete. We were both on a project called “Musicians Against Xenophobia,À to raise awareness about discrimination against migrants.

When I first met Arlete, I discovered that she did not like gay people, which surprised and upset me. I asked myself, “Since she’s an immigrant, and we are doing a project about xenophobia, why should I be involved in this if she discriminates against gay people?”
At some point, I decided that I would try to educate her about gay life. I told her that we are also human and, like everyone else, need to be loved and appreciated. So I told her: “Let’s sit down and talk about equality in this country and stop pointing fingers at each other.”
Since we were fighting together against discrimination, I thought we had to reach common ground on the issue of equality for all people.
Since we have talked, she now understands me, she likes me and she even wants to know more about gay life. All it took was for us to talk about our differences for us to appreciate one another.
My experience with Arlete is proof that people can change their minds. If we want xenophobia to end, we can do it; we just have to educate people.
As for me being gay, many uncultured people in South Africa do not believe that people have different sexual orientations. However, most of my friends understand me and respect me because I have been able to talk about it with them one on one. They know that I am still a girl—just to the second power.
There is no major difference between migrants and South African citizens. The only difference is that we speak different languages. We are all Africans, so we should treat each other like sisters and brothers.
It is not difficult to do, but we have to open our hearts and minds to learn about other people’s lives, especially African migrants. We South Africans tend to hate African migrants—our own brothers and sisters—but appreciate European or North American migrants.
What I would like to say about my African brothers and sisters is, “Let’s live life according to our dreams and goals and forget about people who are always saying discriminating things to us.”
Discrimination can build or destroy you, it just depends how you take it.
Right now, I am doing research on xenophobia and migrants. Some of the stories I have come across are so sad, they make you wonder how South Africans could be so discriminatory against their fellow Africans. They are here not because they want to take over our country but because of problems in their home countries.
We should also be appreciative of what migrants bring to the country; they often create jobs and employ South Africans. We should also remember that our current political leaders were once refugees seeking asylum in countries all over the continent.    
Life is not easy for my migrant friends and for my gay friends. What can we do to stop discrimination, hate crime and other insults against humanity?
My suggestion is to sit down and talk with someone from another background, like I did with Arlete. At first, she didn’t know anyone who was gay, but now she’s happy with people like me.
So, we must stop discriminating against each other for whatever reason and start listening to each other. Each and every one of us could be the different one, somewhere and sometime.
Dikeledi Sibanda is a South African working with CMFD Productions. This article is part of a special series produced by CMFD highlighting lives of migrant women and being carried by the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.

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