“A lot of people become unattractive once you find out how they think.” – Unknown
I was privy to a conversation this week; the discussion was about a problematic staff member at a local business. This post is not about whether the staff member was at fault or not – just to be clear about this. What upsets me is that when the story of the staff member was relayed it came out like this: “… the boy did…”
If it was a staff member who was White I can assure you that the message passed on would have been more like “[Name of staff member] did…” or “The [job title of the staff member] did…”.
Unfortunately, more often than not these days, I am finding out how people I have known for years actually do think, and their biases signal alarm bells loud and clear. It’s not that I have been completely oblivious to what can be best described as ‘personality flaws’ but as I have been exploring and interrogating diversity, equity and human rights over the past 15 years, any racial bias really upsets and infuriates me.
I am tired of hearing excuses made for proponents of blatant hate speech, racism and bigotry. That to me is the equivalent of justifying Hitler’s actions because of his childhood and upbringing, or for shaming and blaming a victim of abuse for their part in the situation.
“It’s just how he was raised.”
“There are always two sides to the story.”
The reality is that all of us walk in the shadows of everything we have witnessed, been taught and have experienced. Our past is what it is – there is nothing we can do about that, but we all have a choice as to how we take our next step. Do we turn left or right? Do we look up or down? Do we speak what we have been told, or do we speak what is right?
We all have the opportunity to make the right choice, every second of every day. If we choose to defend our immoral and inhumane biases, then we are actually trying to justify why we believe we are more superior to others of different class, Race and nationality, religion and spiritual beliefs.
Here’s a reality check: How did you react when you heard of the Adam Catzavelos ruination? Did you perhaps say something like “I am not as bad as that!”?
Racism is the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.
Hate Speech is speech that attacks, threatens, or insults a person or group on the basis of national origin, ethnicity, colour, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.
Bigotry is the possession or expression of strong, unreasonable prejudices or opinions.
I explain the epidemic of this social dysfunction as follows: a bigot exercises what they believe to be their entitlement to voice their superiority over others and expresses their thoughts by inciting others to agree with them.
When Nelson Mandela said that if people can be taught to hate then they can be taught to love, I don’t believe he meant that we should ignore and forgive any racism; my interpretation is that he was pointing out that we need to take responsibility for teaching the (morally) right behaviours to improve ourselves and our society for future generations.
Here’s a reality check: How do you view drug dealers? Seriously. Are White dealers entrepreneurial rebels? Are Black dealers jailable degenerates?
Here is my contribution to keep conscious or unconscious bias in check:
- Racism is real. If you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Maybe take another look with a new lens.
- Try viewing people as unique individuals and refrain from painting similar people or groups of people with the same labels.
- Shock! Horror! Gasp! Racists also have friends of different colour to themselves. Racists also employ people of different colour.
- The cure for racism is not mixed race children, nor is it multi-racial marriages or partnerships.
- You can be woke in a multitude of other areas but your homosexuality, disability, class background and women’s liberation doesn’t automatically prevent you from being a racist.
My mother always told us “if you have to say it, you’re generally not”; this applies really well in this context. If so many people are saying “I’m not racist” then why are there so many racists out there? You cannot state your allegiance to the cause and then carry on regardless when confronted with racism at home or at work, it doesn’t work that way.
Just be better.