Cultural Prejudices, and Why They Must Go

Photograph/Boston University

Photograph/Boston University

We’ve all experienced that moment; maybe you were trying to talk about a race issue with your family, and you were silenced by your mother. Perhaps you made a joke about being on your period with your cousins and they looked away in embarrassment. Almost every outspoken teenager knows the feeling: the shame of being silenced, the feeling of confusion, because you know what you were saying was right. Why, then, were we silenced so quickly? Why are our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, so reluctant to talk about certain issues? There may be many reasons behind a person’s silence over a particular subject. One of them is cultural taboos.

Most cultures have some sort of topic that is strictly never discussed. For example, in most Indian families, there is a stigma behind periods. Commonly, when girls are menstruating, they forbidden from touching any religious objects and are expected to keep the fact that they are on their period hidden from the rest of the family. In some more superstitious households, the women can’t even stay in their homes, and are forced to stay in a menstrual hut. These superstitions stem from cultural prejudices, and they can stay in families for generations. They can include stereotypes about specific people, genders, and sexualities.

Prejudices can harm us both directly and indirectly. Directly for the people whom these prejudices are in reference to. For example, due to the superstition behind women on their periods in Indian culture, a young girl was forced to live in a menstrual hut during a hurricane, during which a tree fell on her hut and she died. Prejudices can also hurt is in ways we may not notice. They are almost a form of “social pollution” so to speak; everyone absorbs the biased attitudes and society suffers.

Regardless of whether the superstitions are directly or indirectly harmful to you, we all must work to dispel these old fashioned beliefs. It can be hard to confront your family and friends, but at some point, someone has to stand up and address their wrongdoings. At best, these taboos are sexist, homophobic, racist beliefs. At worst, they turn into actions that get people killed.