Sara Zaini Al-Watan
We grew up in schools that taught us to be proud that we were Saudis. They made us only respect the Saudi identity and educated us to attach extreme importance to our origin and our green passport.
We graduated from the schools, worked and traveled abroad for higher education. There we discovered that Saudi Arabia has many other bright faces that we have, for one reason or another, completely ignored.
We were not taught that the Saudis, whether Hijazis, Nejdis, urban, tribal, white or black, are all citizens who have equal rights and duties. A Saudi might be from Bukhara, Yemen or Palestine and he is still a full-fledged citizen.
They all belong to Saudi Arabia on the same footing. In school, we were taught that we were Saudis and that was enough.
When we went out into society, we found that it had created a number of negative stereotypes. We were not taught how to respect the pilgrims who come to our country for Haj or Umrah or to discuss the cultural differences available in one classroom.
We were taught to be proud that we were Saudis and that was all.
The cultural differences that enrich the country consist of Saudis of various origins and the expatriates among us. Our differences are not limited to our looks or dialects but include also our minds, lifestyle and opinions in religious, social and economic issues. The fact that the door was not opened to discuss these issues did not cancel them or mean that they did not exist.
The Saudi schools annually receive students of various nationalities without giving them any sort of training to their Saudi colleagues on how to deal with them. Teachers and students may not understand the behavior of the other students coming from different cultures. This is because Saudis were not taught about the culture and ethics of other countries.
The solution to this problem is to adopt the pattern of a multi-cultural syllabus that was initiated by the West to deal with the migrating Hispanic, Arab and Asian minorities.
Under this syllabus, the students will talk about their cultures and social norms to make them known to other students. Accordingly, students from countries like Yemen, Indonesia, Syria and others should not be looked down at by their Saudi peers just because they have different cultures, languages or dialects.
There are no syllabuses in our schools to teach the students the histories and social fabrics of Egypt, Indonesia, Yemen and other countries. Our teachers were not trained on how to moderate discussions on cultural differences without embarrassment or hesitation.
We are not used to accepting the culture or viewpoints of others simply because we were taught to deny the existence of others or to look upon them with disdain.
Racism in schools is a link in a larger chain that extends to our society at large. Our society does not teach its sons and daughters to respect others. It also does not allow them to marry except from certain tribes or clans.
This lack of recognition of others is feeding into the mentalities and capabilities of those able to run big companies and make scientific and intellectual contributions to the country.
The students in the schools learn from society how to be arrogant, boastful of their nationality and disrespectful of others.