It feels like the world is in the grip of a wave of xenophobia, and we just seem so far from a solution. From extremist Muslim terrorists through to the Donald Trump presidential campaign and the British ‘Brexit’ vote, the is a worldwide rise in at least the visibility of intolerance, if not intolerance itself.
Here in Australia, the problem is also very evident. From the national political obsession with refugees and the disturbing measures to manage refugees, through to the ‘Cronulla race riots‘ and the recent rise of the political party ‘One Nation’ which has a voter appeal often associated with a message of intolerance.
This week one Australian television station has been running a series of programs examining these issues, and I was watching ‘Hack Live‘(episode 2) from this series when I heard what I felt was a very telling slip, that exposed the cycle of racism and xenophobia. One the panellists on the program who was a voice of reason, “Nayuka Gorrie“, made what I consider the slip. The point is that if she made this slip, anyone and everyone could make such a slip. There is no criticism of Nayuka Gorrie here.
The slip was to point the finger a set of injustices at a race, rather than at racists. It may seem a fine point, but I feel this is a very key point and that even the best of us should be oh so careful with our words. A point was being made in deflecting inflammatory accusations against Muslims, by pointing out the injustices against Indigenous Australians, not by Muslims, but by ‘whites’. And this was the slip. It is oh so important in breaking the cycle of racism to be accurate in that it was not a ‘race’ who created the problem. People of the same ‘race’ who live in, for example Norway, are in no way connected to the problem, and it is entirely possible that some of those to blame for injustices against Indigenous Australians were in fact of Muslim faith, given that no faith is exempt from having racist members. In fact, so strong was racism during the time of some of the injustices against Indigenous Australians listed that many did not even consider Indigenous Australians has as full human beings. But the problem was not a specific race, but rather racism itself, and we have to be so careful not to slip in to blaming a race for racism, as this just creates an ever strengthening circle.
A wonderful example is set from world war II, where the victims of racism have managed to keep blame focused on the racist regime and key racist individuals, and avoid blaming a specific race for the horrific racism they suffered.
It is so difficult for the victims of racism to avoid the trap. The victims are victims as a result of racists, who out of fear commit racist acts, these racists themselves believe they are acting for a race, and as such invite reprisal and blame across the whole ‘race’ they believe they represent. Victims can so easily follow the logic of the racists and the result is that racist acts breed reciprocal racism. The reciprocal racism feeds and intensifies the original racism, and on in goes in an ever intensifying spiral.
So much caution is required, to blame racism for racist acts, and not attribute the blame to a specific race. Even though the racists believe they represent a race, do not blame that race.