Genuine Humanity Can’t Be Condensed In A Stereotype

If you go across the world and talk to people, you will learn that the people you’ve been taught to hate are humans just like you. Maybe you can’t go jet-setting to China or spend a month in Afghanistan. But you can meet and understand one another on Fair Observer.

October 04, 2023 06:52 EDT
Dear FO° Readers,

In late 2016, I bundled my possessions into a large blue suitcase and boarded a one-way flight to Zhengzhou, China. I didn’t know a lick of Mandarin. I was to teach at the Henan Institute of Engineering, to students who could be only two years younger than me. To be immersed in such an unfamiliar and novel culture was a mind-expanding experience.

Credit: humphery /

Coming in with little prior knowledge of China, I became a student in my own seminars and in the smoggy streets of Longhuzhen. After three years in the country, I had not only learned to speak Mandarin, but I had gained invaluable insight into a misunderstood culture. 

As a Muslim who had grown up in New York City, I knew how easy it is for abstract identities to replace reality, remove personality and silence human voices. To the kids I grew up with, I was not Bilal Rahmani; I was a child of Afghan refugees. To outsiders, China is not its people; it is “the world’s factory.”

Credit: agsaz /

In China, I found a rich, vibrant nation of incredible depth and history, far from the backwards and obtuse image that the West has of the nation. I found its people to be kind, warm and genuine, only trying to find their best way through life like the rest of us. When I returned to the US, I had even more questions than I had come with. If we share so much of our common humanity, why are our societies on such a collision course?

It is true that geopolitically, the emergence of China as a global superpower poses a threat to American hegemony. But it is one thing to have a geopolitical rival; it is another to translate that state-to-state rivalry into antipathy between two entire peoples and cultures. This kind of animus can quickly become a whirlwind of blind ideological and political fervor.

Something is clearly getting lost in the conversation. A one-dimensional understanding of each other is standing in the way of real dialogue. The “enemy” does more than polish weapons. They think, ponder the universe, write poetry, love. If we recognized this, we would see the other less as a headline and more as a human.

Fair Observer as an institution has always stood for the democratization of our global narrative, allowing people around the globe to share their own stories, their perspective and their humanity. That is why I am proud to now join this team as a Contributing Editor.

Global peace only advances when people rise above shallow politics and approach each other with open minds. With the rise of the internet, connecting everyone, this task has ironically never been more difficult. Social media algorithms elevate anger-fueling clickbait. Media outlets lean into punchy headlines to compete for attention. Governments grow increasingly uncomfortable with free speech. The rest of us are lost in the middle.

Only by bringing forward fresh, well-reasoned, challenging first-hand narratives can we break this downward spiral towards collective oblivion. By bringing these voices forward, we can discover our agreements and disagreements and strive to build a collective understanding of our shared human experiences. In this way, we can build a buffer against agenda-driven narratives that seek to divide us. 

Together, we can create lasting peaceful societies, but we are only together when even the smallest members of our community are able to share their truth. In my role at Fair Observer, I hope to provide our growing audience with voices from across the global spectrum, bringing insightful analysis and first-hand information from truly authentic people.


Bilal Rahmani 
Contributing Editor
We are an independent nonprofit organization. We do not have a paywall or ads. We believe news must be free for everyone from Detroit to Dakar. Yet servers, images, newsletters, web developers and editors cost money. So, please become a recurring donor to keep Fair Observer free, fair and independent.

Read from anywhere

This email was sent to *|EMAIL|*
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences

For more than 10 years, Fair Observer has been free, fair and independent. No billionaire owns us, no advertisers control us. We are a reader-supported nonprofit. Unlike many other publications, we keep our content free for readers regardless of where they live or whether they can afford to pay. We have no paywalls and no ads.

In the post-truth era of fake news, echo chambers and filter bubbles, we publish a plurality of perspectives from around the world. Anyone can publish with us, but everyone goes through a rigorous editorial process. So, you get fact-checked, well-reasoned content instead of noise.

We publish 2,500+ voices from 90+ countries. We also conduct education and training programs on subjects ranging from digital media and journalism to writing and critical thinking. This doesn’t come cheap. Servers, editors, trainers and web developers cost money.
Please consider supporting us on a regular basis as a recurring donor or a sustaining member.

Support Fair Observer

We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.

Will you support FO’s journalism?

We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.

Donation Cycle

Donation Amount

The IRS recognizes Fair Observer as a section 501(c)(3) registered public charity (EIN: 46-4070943), enabling you to claim a tax deduction.

Make Sense of the World

Unique Insights from 2,500+ Contributors in 90+ Countries

Support Fair Observer

Support Fair Observer by becoming a sustaining member

Become a Member