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Saturday, 20 July 2013

Same But Different

It's so easy to forget that every human being that ever lived shares a common ancestor. Too easy to see the differences rather than the similarities. Yet if we pause for just a moment it can be done, and perhaps we all need to try harder sometimes. How many of us have been quietly racist without ever opening our mouths? Perhaps chosen a white taxi company over an Asian one? Or secretly wanted to see an English doctor rather than one from overseas? If the answer to the above is yes, then it's hard to deny that there's a little racism simmering in the background. It might not be overt, might not be confrontational. Just a tiny ingot of fear and suspicion curdling away beneath the surface. Truth is, there's no moral way to justify it, so save yourself the hassle of tying yourself in knots. Just be aware if any of the above includes you.
Turning the screw a little tighter, lets exchange national racism for cultural racism. If you are seeking an example I will use the travelling community as an illustration. How many of you are suspicious of them? How many of you would leave your doors and windows unlocked if you heard there was a traveller event in the area? I confess straight off the bat that I fall into the above category, and at risk of flirting with cultural racism I'm going to add a caveat. The fact is that members of the travelling community are responsible for a disproportionate amount of criminal activity. This is not, I stress, a racist comment. It's a brute fact, supported by good empirical data. A high percentage of distraction burglaries are carried out by travellers. This is just one example among many. To be aware that a small subset of society is responsible for a fair percentage of criminal behaviour is simply to be versed in the facts on the matter. Now my issue is that this knowledge has informed my overall perception of travellers, and this is where i need to tread with a bit more care. Just because all my dealings with them are negative doesn't give me license to write every last one of them off. Caution is one thing, blanket condemnation another. I have often fallen into the latter category, and I'm working on having a more sensible attitude on the issue.
Summing up the above you will see the whole issue of race and culture is a potential minefield. You can't ignore facts, but we do owe it to ourselves to be aware of those inner racist perceptions we hold. If you want the most obvious fact of the day it is simply that not all folk are bad. I know some wonderful people from all walks of life.They like me, aren't cardboard cut outs that fit any given stereotype. They are people. They are individuals. Engaging, erratic, human to the core.
I know I need to work at my attitude towards people outside my cultural circle. I expect most of us do. I expect many blacks and Asians need to reflect upon attitudes they hold towards whites, too. I expect every last one of us, irrespective of our background, has an inner racist all too eager to muddy the water.
None of the above should be read as a sermon. I'm just wrestling with my own confusion on the issue, and doing it out loud, and inviting you to do the same.