She said to me, when I first received the news that I was HIV positive. I felt downcast, and I told myself it was the end of the world. All I thought about was how I was going to survive with this new status. Sooner than later, I accepted the challenge of possibly being rejected by my society. This I did understand as their way of close-minded thinking. With regards to going public, I considered the backlash my spouse, children, extended family, and friends would go through but then, I had to make it known. This for me was a means of being free from more shackles. A few months later, people began to stereotype me as an irresponsible wife and a mother. I was labeled.
My notion of stigma is separation and disgrace. Stigma has to do with stereotype, labeling, separation, loss of status, and discrimination. When people are interested in keeping other people down, in, or away, the resource that allows this to happen is stigma. Stigmatizers become empowered to exploit, control, or exclude others. Interestingly, the most effective ways of deploying stigma is mostly hidden or even misrecognized.
Mechanisms of deploying stigma
1. Direct person to person discrimination: This occurs when an individual openly expresses prejudicial attitudes to another. This is a blatant form of stigmatization.
2. Structural discrimination: This is a form of institutional discrimination whereby there are laws, policies, and so on that work against the stigmatized or the so-called socially deviant.
3. Interactional discrimination: Here, people bring expectations to the interaction. For instance, you naturally assist a disabled person even without asking. This is a form of stigmatization almost everyone does without knowing. There is no crime in helping, but beneath the help is the known fact that the person is disabled and would necessarily need help.
4. Self-discrimination: As a result of different social constructionism, individuals who feel and are termed different from the norm, tend to internalize and recreate personal stigma. Here, they are prepared for any form of stigma and discriminate themselves personally.
Stigma has eaten deep into the fabrics of our society such that we wallow in it unconsciously hence, taken for granted. Though challenging to tackle, whether you are a victim of stigmatization or you want to stand up for someone, here are a few ways you could go about it:
- Know the Truth: Knowledge always trumps discrimination. Find out as much as you can about the cause of the problem. Then, your judgments can be justifiable.
- Be conscious of your Language: Our words carry power, and as individuals, several meanings can be read to a word.
- Be conscious of your Actions.
- Challenge misconceptions: Know the truth and fight for it.
- Be Compassionate.
To build a just and sustainable community that looks beyond class, race, ethnic, age differences, among others. You should be supportive of others. Never look down on others. Be aware that people go through different situations at different times and different factors may be the cause. Therefore, decide never to be judgmental without the place of knowing. Love everyone for who they are; we are unique beings.