Tag Archives: racial hatred

Some Questions on Eradicating Racism

How do you eradicate racism?

How do you educate deeply engrained racist attitudes out of people?

How do you rationalise with individuals who see nothing wrong in the fact that the hatred they have of certain others is based on nothing else but their race or ethnic origin?

How do you explain to racist individuals, when they are firmly immersed in it, why their world view is morally repugnant and socially unacceptable? What type of occurrence would be strong enough to disrupt the logic that fixes their patterns of beliefs?

What type of emotional shock treatment would be required to undo the acceptance of race as a reason for discriminatory treatment or as an uncontrollable cause of hatred towards anyone of that race? What type of change would be needed to disconnect the two?

Why does it still seem impossible to imagine a situation in which racism has been completely eradicated through education? Why do well intended initiatives fail to bring about the right type of change in enough people?

Why does it seem easier to imagine a situation in which racism remains a fact of life, despite numerous programmes and projects to tackle it, than it does to imagine a situation in which our politics and economics are not designed to protect the preferences, pockets and privileges of our country’s minority?

Does the difficulty lie in the fact that the latter would be necessary to even think about the former not being the case? Does the fact that racism thrives in unequal societies like this one, with an arrogant pride in its historically self-approved right of way, mean that we will never be able to eradicate it?

Indeed, are we making the mistake of starting with the wrong set of beliefs and attitudes, simply because they appear more obviously abhorrent?

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The Inexcusable Appeal to Heritage

Celebrating a heritage is good and important.

However, celebrating a heritage in a way that is felt to be offensive to other sections of the very same society surely cannot be considered in the same light. Clearly, there is something not quite right about it.

It is undeniably true that some of our current social problems – particularly sectarian bigotry and racial hatred – have their historical roots in many of the shameful ethnic and religious conflicts that ultimately helped form the much vaunted, and highly esteemed, constitutional structure of this country today.

Yet many people still strongly believe in the right to celebrate historical occurrences of this nature, because of what they are assumed to represent, and regardless of the negative impact the style and location of their celebrations have been known to have on others.

And they tend to justify their commitment to this belief by claiming that the historical occurrences in question constitute ‘their heritage’, and therefore feel entitled to immerse themselves in the traditional behaviours that help preserve it.

In other words, the idea of ‘having the right to celebrate your heritage’, becomes a means of intellectually legitimising a lapse into what could otherwise be described as offensive, or at times irrational, behaviour; and arguably, we have all been guilty of misappropriating history in this way, at some point or other. No side is entirely innocent.

Whether you respect this way of thinking or not, and it can be found on every side of the debate, I think there is something unsettling in the fact that there are many individuals who feel more committed to keeping historical injustices and prejudices alive, than they do about addressing the problems in society today.

I think there is a level of emotional inauthenticity in some individuals that makes it much easier for them to react with passion, and a sense of triumph, to a romantic version of destructive historical occurrences, than make the effort to shape a more cohesive and peaceful society for the future.

This is particularly so when the history that is perpetuated through cleverly crafted stories, rousing tunes and colourful ritualistic behaviours, is often made to appear more glorious to the insular and bigoted mind than it ever was. Ethnic discrimination, religious persecution, murder, terrorism, theft, misery, displacement, starvation and intolerable hardship; these are hardly notions worth glorifying and celebrating.

Yet sadly, it is not too uncommon to find these occurrences interpreted in today’s terms in a manner that is believed to justify celebrating them still, usually as having been the only rightful means of ensuring the removal of the wrong type of religion, or the wrong type of ethnicity, as barriers to the monarchical and constitutional objectives that were pursued at the time.

But this is the crux of the problem: in thinking this way, we are guilty of distorting the importance that certain occurrences in history may have for the way we ought to understand the world today – despite the fact that, given the utterly different world view at the time, they may have been regarded as absolutely necessary measures and completely within the law.

In other words, we run the risk of burying ourselves deeper and deeper into an inescapably depressing and anachronistic rut, every time we refer to a version of history to support an agenda that is no longer commensurate with how the majority of people live their lives today.

There is no getting away from the fact that there are elements on every side of the debate who feel the urge, from time to time, to make the inexcusable appeal to heritage to justify their own descent into offensiveness, their own mode of defiance, or their own form of retaliation. And this, as history has repeatedly confirmed, gets us absolutely nowhere.

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‘…take this badge off of me, I can’t use it anymore’

Difficult endings that leave new opportunities in their wake are intrinsically valuable.

Scottish football has been heading towards one of these difficult endings for quite some time now.

One of the main problems with Scottish football today is that it offers very little to appeal to audiences outside of Scotland. In fact, it could be argued that there are days when it offers very little to appeal to any audiences whatsoever. It has been that way for quite some time now.

The standard of our game has failed to develop and improve at the same rate experienced in most other European countries; even in countries smaller than Scotland. But at the moment, this is the least of our problems.

It is impossible to talk about Scottish football without talking about the bitter rivalry between Celtic and Rangers. And sadly, it is impossible to talk about that without getting involved in a discussion about generations of racial bigotry and sectarian hatred.

The long standing rivalry, and at times deeply troubled relationship between these clubs, and everything that is associated with them, tends to be captured by the badge, the ‘old firm’. It is a badge of dishonour. It tarnishes one with the dirty brush that touches up the other.

Not only does it refer to the commercial dominance of Celtic and Rangers in the Scottish game; it is also a complaint about the ugliness of their relationship as it is perceived by the majority of other supporters, and by other people not even remotely interested in football.

Whatever happens in Scottish football over the next few weeks, the outcome of the situation at Rangers Football Club will be a defining moment. Whether we care to admit it, or are ready to accept it, it will be the end of the game in its current format.

It will also be an opportunity to ensure that the ‘old firm’ badge of dishonour is no longer used by rendering it redundant; but that will only happen if Celtic and Rangers are no longer perceived to be inextricably linked for the wrong reasons.

Regardless how Celtic and Rangers supporters view it, the ‘old firm’ badge will only be removed when the sectarian hatred that has ruined Scottish football for generations is dissolved.

But that will only happen when the histories that define these clubs are either reconciled, or removed.

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Racial Hatred

Racial hatred is an ugly, wretched blight on our society.

It comprises many manifestations of bigoted and discriminatory behaviour, some of which have been quietly ignored, unofficially tolerated or actively encouraged, by various groups and organisations at different times throughout our history.

The true extent of this ugliness has been brought into sharp focus once again this week with the sentencing of two men in connection with the racially motivated murder of Stephen Lawrence, a mere 18 years after the event.

It is widely documented that had the relevant police authorities taken the appropriate action at the time, and not made certain misguided assumptions, it would never have taken such a long time to bring two of the gang to justice.

This has been an outrageously disgusting story.

One of the better outcomes of this despicable case is that significant changes were made to the policing and criminal justice system to prevent similar situations arising in the same way again.

Institutional racism was challenged in a way it had never been challenged before.

This can only be a good thing, provided that it is not short lived and that there is a real and honest ambition to eradicate racial hatred from every facet of our society.

My concern is that there will always be individuals who have been brought up outside the rational space of responsibility and consequence that the majority of us inhabit.

There will always be individuals who find themselves in situations from which they believe they will never escape, except through a life of crime and violence. If indeed they have any desire to escape it in the first place.

Their space is often full of irrational hatred of others, particularly those who do not suit their mould or fit their image.

This suggests that racial hatred, just like religious hatred, will remain with us for as long as we hold the political, economic and social frameworks in place that created their possibility in the first place.

The Stephen Lawrence case has been described as a watershed in British society.

But the worrying thing is, no matter how high profile this case has been, it won’t change the deeply held attitudes and beliefs of the majority of people who already think and behave in this vile manner.

Tomorrow morning they will wake up and still think and feel the same. Their hatred won’t disappear and it will impact the rest of us at different times and in different ways.

Until we completely overhaul the unjust, elitist economic, political and social frameworks that have created the backdrop of many of our beliefs and attitudes, their irrational space of no consequence will continue to exist, and inevitably spill into our space again and again.

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