A Vaccine for Racism
If the events of the past few weeks in America have enraged you, I hope it also moved you towards change within your own life — because, while we watch tyranny unfold through screens from thousands of miles away, we are not immune to the biases and prejudiced beliefs that underpin acts of injustice towards other human beings.
Racism, or really any form of discrimination based on a fallacious conviction of superiority, is not a disease endemic to parts of America; it is a global pandemic perpetuated by centuries of misguided peoples, living through outdated ideologies — be they religious, cultural, or nationalistic — which have served to divide us and give us comfort in familiarity, while leaving us suspicious and fearful of things we don’t ascribe to or take an interest to understand.
If this sounds alien to you, or you feel like pointing fingers, understand that you may well be a part of the larger problem. If you belong to a certain dogma of faith which excludes those that are not of it, you were already born a part of the problem. If you prefer to deal in business with or hire someone from your own narrowly defined religious denomination, you are still a part of the problem. If you prefer your son or daughter to marry a suitor from your own culture, or reject the notion that two people with the same physical characteristics can fall in love, you continue to be a part of the problem.
If a call to change, for something as fundamental as the way we treat another human being, is to be realised, we all have a role to play. Often we see protests and marches lose steam and fizzle into mere footnotes in history, only for things to return to the status quo. But for those who are consistently victimised and live through broken systems — systematically working against them day after day — the pain continues long after the cameras of the world’s media have panned away.
Real change, lasting change, does not occur, except when its preceded by the shifting attitudes of enough men and women who put love, compassion, and mercy above all else. In his book Just Mercy, Bryan Stevens writes;
“We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. The absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimise others.”
One thing the current COVID pandemic has shown us, is that we are all bounded by the same vulnerabilities, the same laws of nature, and the same matter that make us human. The imagined stories we tell ourselves, or the unwarranted labels we attach to others, or the judgments we pass devoid of empathy, have no relevance in making life worth living. So here’s my vaccine for preventing racism — for current and future generations;
Live, and let live. A phrase which is quoted often, but practiced rarely. Conformity was never part of the human condition. The beauty of creation (or evolution — depending on what you choose to believe) is in its diversity. Freedom, on the other hand, is a non-variable. The freedom to live, love, and die the way you want, so long as it doesn’t encroach on the freedom of others, is an inalienable right. It’s what makes us human. And the true measure of our worth as humans, is not in how we treat people most like us; it’s in how we treat those that are most different.