You’re calling me a racist

You’re calling me a racist.

Ah, the final defence. A last, rash weapon thrown in desperation. You know your argument, so painstakingly rationalised, is failing. But it won’t work on me, I’ve fought this battle a thousand times within myself and without and your arrow can’t pierce the armour I’ve developed. I’ve thought through the sides of this argument long and hard for many years and from many angles now. Here, let me explain…

I would never throw that word around. It is used too much as a weapon, just as you use it now. And it is part of the problem, not the solution. I would never presume to label a person’s thoughts and feelings with a single word. Nor would I be ignorant enough to boil a complex issue down to two syllables and dismiss it like that. Besides, attack gets me nowhere, and I need you to hear me.

I realise you’ve had a bad experience or two and truly I’m sorry that this is the case. There are bad people out there. But they are the exception, not the rule. I need you to know that those experiences don’t epitomise a whole religion, a whole race, a whole demographic. You say you know this but your language says otherwise.

I need you to listen to your own language. You don’t hear the words ‘they’ and ‘them’ creep insidiously into your speech. You don’t hear the hate-inciting media tag lines regurgitated from your mouth. I need you to listen and hear. You don’t realise that this language is infecting your mind, and your mind in turn allows the language. Already the process has begun to diminish whole swathes of individuals to a generalised lump, all dripping, filthy with tar from the same brush that paints the worst of humanity. With each ‘them’ uttered a line is drawn, with you on one side – the ‘us’ – and ‘them’ on the other, the invaders, the strangers, the outsiders. I ask you who ‘they’ are. You don’t reply. I know you hear me, but you’re not ready to admit it yet. I must tread carefully, when belief systems are threatened, anger swiftly follows.

When I challenge you, you say you know ‘they’re’ not all bad and think this sufficient, but even in your good example you slip back into illustrating the bad. It’s all you want to see. I resist the urge to give you the many examples I have. I don’t want you to have them, don’t want to watch them fail against the walls of your locked down mind to fall, faceless into the generalised mass you’ve reduced all these individual souls into. My memories of people I’ve lived, loved, laughed and cried with are worth more to me than that. And their sacrifice won’t change your mind. Besides, I couldn’t give them all if I tried, there isn’t time. I have lived these experiences, lived my way into this thinking. They have touched my life and changed me because I allowed them to.

I used to think like you, it’s how I know you are wrong. Like you I was aware it didn’t feel right. Does that surprise you? That I say you know it doesn’t feel right? You see, I never came close to calling you a racist, it’s an accusation you’ve already levelled at yourself. Some part of you still hears the language you use. Some part of you is still struggling to make sense of it all and rectify the anger and fear you have with the good you believe in. Right now, you’re taking the easy route and rationalising your hate with examples to back up your point of view but that feeling won’t go away. No amount of stories will justify judging an individual by another’s actions. On some level you know it and you resist it. It’s the only reason I’m engaged in this struggle with you to try and make you see there’s another way. If your mind was already shut down hard I would have walked away from you many minutes ago. But there’s a spark worth fighting for here. I just need to get it right and not let my anger at the situation attack and alienate you.

You illustrate your supposed justification with stories of company and government policies to positively discriminate. I ask you, who is at fault there? Who deserves your criticism? You know the answer and try another tack. You tell me the ones who benefit don’t want to work anyway. I ask you, how do you know? More generalisations, you can’t answer me. You’ve never spent the time to engage and ask the individuals you condemn to find out how they feel about being pitted against the natives of a strange land by an unfair ‘advantage’ that was never asked for. When phrased like that it sounds less of an advantage doesn’t it? I know you hear me. If I were to contrast this ‘privilege’ you begrudge so much with the privilege of your birth, of your ethnicity, could you see the similarities I wonder? Would you be so quick to condemn someone for having an advantage they didn’t ask for? But I know all you’ll hear is me telling you to feel guilty for that which you cannot control. You can’t yet comprehend that what I say is the opposite: accept the privilege without guilt, only with the gratitude and responsibility it should engender.

You tell me the terrorists have already won. I see that on this at least, you’re almost right. The battleground of your mind is very close to being taken. But what you don’t yet grasp is that you let them. You speak of ‘their’ responsibility to work hard and be grateful to the country that gave them sanctuary – that has treated them with such compassion as yours! – and yet you won’t take responsibility for even your own thinking. Victim. I will call you that. But no, I’m letting my anger take control again, I must try harder to explain.

You tell me I’ll be disappointed if I ever encounter these bad people you speak of. You try to scare me to your point of view as a last resort by insinuating that I’m naïve. Do you not realise I’ve lived? I know the difference between blindly and naively trusting people and blanket judgement of everyone. I’m so sorry that you don’t though. I will take each person as they come before me and respond then, not before. I’m not so naïve as you think. Mine is a position based on living life the hard way. I refuse to take the easy road and give in to a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Lazy thinking. You would know that about me if you opened your mind and listened to me, questioned me. But you’re too busy defending your position to yourself to be aware of who I am.

No, I’m not calling you a racist. What good would that do? I’m not here to draw battle lines. I’m just trying to understand what turns a healthy mind to hate with the material I have in front of me. Because now, more than ever, it must be understood. Your way isn’t working, and we need a better way. A more human way. I think I have a better insight now, thank you. Beneath the bluster, the stories designed to distract and the language, you seem afraid. Confused. A lost child in the face of the complexity of the world and you desire to make it simple to reduce your emotional burden. I understand that, I’ve been there many times. But now is the time to show courage. Face the brave new world that’s evolving faster than we are, we need to actively pursue our humanity or all will be lost. Forget those that don’t wish to, those that thrive on chaos, don’t let them mire you in the hate they sow.

You have misunderstood the battle. The battleground is not out there, for our land, our nations. The fight is not a bodily one, but a spiritual one. It is being fought in each of our minds as I write this and we each have the capability and the responsibility to join the fight. So, no I won’t call you a racist. But I will ask you a simple question. What will you choose to fight for?


Ahead of the journey: Article for Overland Magazine


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