The world is an unpleasant place. That someone acknowledges the extent of its unpleasantness instead of hiding behind utopian platitudes doesn’t render the person an advocate or an apologist for whatever the unpalatable aspect at hand may be. Reality knows no good or evil. It cannot be wished away nor can it be suppressed out of good intentions; the latter does not eliminate the animus at its core but simply causes it to fester on a subterranean level, in turn generating a false sense of safety and entitlement in the target of the hostility. Because of this misguided sense of comfort, then, this person grows bewildered when he is suddenly shocked out of his complacence by a resurgent strain of the original virulence. He has come to take his integrated status in a foreign community as guaranteed and so has lowered his guard, making himself susceptible to attack from quarters thought long-defeated.
My views on racism are these: racial differences obviously exist and certain races are better suited to specific vocations, especially in the physical domain. Technological evolution brings relative homogeneity to the way we make our living, and so these physical differences are pushed temporarily out of immediate consciousness, but, crucially, not out of existence.
However, a man should be judged – and judged cruelly – in the greater reckoning on non-physical, idealistic criteria. Call it an idealistic elitism if you will, a standard that many of us have subconsciously learned to appreciate the presence or lack of in our fellow man. The one characteristic emblematic of this standard is nobility, in all its varied shades and applications. Nobility of thought and the physical acts it finds release in cannot be learned solely from the thoughts of another; it is entirely internalized through introspection and brutal honesty.
But keeping in mind the stubbornly non-conformist course of reality described above and the drone-like nature of humanity, we are far from realizing such an unbiased, elevated state of consciousness. Therefore, what manifests is petty racism that focuses on irreconcilable differences between two people of different genetic origin. Racism arises out of fear, distrust, and disgust of the other: other appearances, other languages, other customs, and other temperaments, in turn leading to asserting one’s superiority and relegating the other to the role of subaltern. It stands to reason then that racism comes about when these conflicting, mutually incompatible aspects are thrown into the blender for considerations other than the spiritual upliftment of the base population.
Some might say that the only way of countering racism is in fact by making people overcome their inhibition of the other and by getting them to know the alien as human being. I can understand the common sense in this line of thinking when the colliding groups are in the same general vicinity of intellectual and cultural awareness to begin with, and are willing to partake of each others’ experiences in the long term. But my unease lies in the lingering suspicion that to achieve such an amiable confluence, it implies that one of these groups – by the very nature of this arrangement, the “intruding” one – has to necessarily give up more and more of its identity and heritage. The extent of this compromise on the part of the “intruder” is proportionate to the degree of difference between the competing groups.To raise itself above its otherly status and to achieve complete, undoubtable assimilation, it has to co-opt manners inherently foreign to its sensibilities. This is no desirable scenario to me and it certainly isn’t a proud or noble one either.
Reality says that though there may be many people across the world genuinely curious and accepting of foreign cultures, the fact that such an assimilation is forced upon natives in the name of globalization and market economy means that a pocket of dissent, unable to overcome its initial reservations, is liable to remain embedded in the populace and will find a vent to express its discontent from time to time.
Racism, real or perceived, is painful to the recipients but the same recipients also place themselves at the mercy of the above unreconstituted element. In modern times, this may be out of unfortunate circumstance at home or through a willful pursuit of material benefit; in times gone by, the result of their incapability as a group of people to stand united against a common adversary. The thing common to both epochs is a vulnerability that is all too palpable to the racist mindset, a weakness that bigotry sniffs out and thrives on.
A few questions worth thinking about:
(1) Can a change in global cultural consciousness be effected by simply shoving unpleasant reality under the carpet?
(2) Will racism go away if we make offensive expression verboten?
(3) Can racism be phased out of humanity’s collective consciousness through successive generations forcefully inoculated against hateful thought?
Answering the above in the affirmative seems to me to be a case of confusing effect for cause. The cause is the vulnerability that allows the racially inclined mind to adopt the higher ground, justified or not, against a people that have compromised the safe haven of their own homes and so have consciously placed themselves in a potentially hostile environment in return for tangible advantage. I understand that for many, fleeing persecution at home might seem like the only chance at survival; their plight is indeed commiserable, and solutions are few yet uniformly prickly. But for a far larger proportion of immigrants, earning more money is the sole driving cause behind making a life in foreign lands, lands which have their own complex and innately different realities to deal with. Do they then have the right to naivete when confronted with the stray strain of intolerance that may be lurking under the shiny exterior of their new neighbourhoods?
This is not a defense of institutionalized bigotry in organs of government; the state is, or should be, committed to certain normative frameworks and is, or should be, expected to implement them without prejudice for the people under its purview, as much for its own functioning as anything else. Daily interpersonal transactions, however, fall outside this purview and are not obliged to respect official proprieties. Contrary to popular thinking, I believe that decrying racism is a topical solution at best, one that invests far too much faith in variables beyond one’s immediate control.
This effort is better spent combating the vulnerability that leads to intolerance in the first place. Developing a healthy recognition and appreciation of who you are as a people and a tradition, and avoiding placing oneself in compromising positions, by forgoing material interests if need be, appear to me to be the only safeguards against this unfortunate reality. This prospect of self-denial is naturally unappetizing to man’s nature and he is far more willing to betray his pride for immediate gains. But while doing so, he needs to remember that the chance at a better life is not a right written in stone nor is the phrase “a better life” an all-encapsulating, holistic one. Reality isn’t homogeneous; it speaks of great gullibility if one fails to adequately reason for its multi-faceted nature.