People have often said “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. As I get older, I find this to be more and more true. But, there is one even stranger phenomenon that I have found to be ever truer. Sometimes, things that seem like complete and total polar opposites can in fact be almost the same. It's all a matter of perspective.
Stay with me here, I promise that I'm going somewhere with this. What I'm referring to is people from different walks of life are more alike than we think. I recently discovered the character Kamala Khan. I have a lot of respect for her and really resonate with her, even though our demographics are different in almost every way.
So, why do so many people judge others in this way? Well, I've got my own theory based upon my experiences in life. I was raised in a way that I guess you could call extremely sheltered or insulated. I grew up in a town of 600 people, graduated in a class of 32, and didn't have a lot of contact with people different to me. Most everyone I knew was Baptist. I knew a few Catholics, some Mormons, and three Hindus. I met my first lesbian friend when I was 18. I had seen women getting busy with other women in pornography and such. But, that was the first time I had a female introduce me to her significant other that was also a female.
Growing up in a pretty homogenous mix didn't get me too much outside exposure. But, it also didn’t make me Xenophobic. I was raised in a pretty forward-thinking family. My parents' rule of thumb was “as long as they're not keeping your little red wagon from rolling, don't stop theirs”. It has served me pretty well in life. Unfortunately, I do know a lot of others who weren't raised with such an open mind, and it is tragic.
Despite all of our wonderful qualities, humans possess one very fatal flaw. We fear what is different and what we don't understand. Often, the subject in question isn't even a threat. We just feel that it is due to a lack of understanding. Now, there is nothing wrong with a lack of understanding either - it is in no way a bad indictment of you or your character. But, a lack of trying to understand and/or being able to live and let live most certainly is.
So, how do you understand what you don't know? That is where I'm getting back around to praising Kamala Khan. See, I was 20 before I met a Muslim person. It was in the 9/11 aftermath. I went to his clothing store at the mall and was looking at some things. He came up to me and offered help. So, I accepted and we began to talk about things. Honestly, I thought he was Hindu - it didn't matter to me, it was just how I perceived him. As I departed the store he became very emotional and asked to shake my hand and thank me. I was very confused, but obliged him. He began to tell me that after the 9/11 attacks many white people did not do business with him because of fear mongering about him being Muslim. This was the first moment I was aware of his faith. In turn, I thanked him for his service at the store and promised to do more business when possible and try to refer some business to him. That man never forgot me. Every time I came in the store he greeted me and always introduced me to people in there as his friend. It really felt good to make a difference in someone's life like that.
So, if you're like me and you grow up not knowing people that are different, how do you learn and gain access to people and cultures different to yours? Kamala Khan is a shining example. Comics are a great medium to introduce ideas and people. Other forms of entertainment apply perfectly as well. Though we may not know other people personally, we can learn of others in a positive light this way. I wish more characters would be embraced in this manner.
These are all of the reasons why I have developed a great liking and respect for this character. She represents the unknown good in this world. We always develop deeper bonds with characters that we can identify with. Years ago I never thought that I would have that much in common with a teenage Muslim girl. However, just like Transformers, life is often more than meets the eye.