January is at its demise and we are fast pacing into the new year. However, I am sure that amidst New Year's resolutions and promises, racism and bigotry will, sadly, not have become part of the 2017 legacy, but will prevail well into the new year of 2018.
As you might know, I have recently moved to Vienna, the capital city of Austria, which is currently under a conservative, right-extremist regime which undermines the process of taking in refugees from war-stricken countries and even went as far as to propose setting up "concentration camps" for arriving refugees - and that as a country having been one of the chief instigators of the holocaust tragedies of WWII!
But let me not derail into the topic of Austrian politics because that alone could take for hours.
Primarily, I wanted to talk about the fascinating topic of racism and pose the rather philosophical, yet provocative, question how much of racist is in all of us and whether we're, in the end, not all racists.
Before we moved to Vienna, we, obviously, had to find a place to live and I couldn't help noticing how I found asking my Viennese friends which were the "superior" districts to live in. Now, what do we really mean by "superior districts"? Obviously, they are the districts with great infrastructure, best schools and an "upper-class" environment. However, this all usually translates to "district with little minority percentage", doesn't it?
We visited a couple of flats and each landlord, in more or less subtle ways, told us he/she wanted to "raise the level of the renters" and "get normal people", by which was meant no Polish, Serbian or Czech people, but white Austrians (preferably with a certain level of education).
Nearly all of the landlords wanted some evidence of work, a pay slip or something like that, which, in my opinion, is not only highly discriminatory but also none of the landlord's business, as long as I can pay my rent. Upon discussing this with a friend of mine, she added, "imagine being a non-White, it's almost impossible for them to get a decent flat."
We live in a supposedly enlightened and civilised part of the world; yet, some people still have a harder time finding a job or a flat, and I know this is common knowledge and it isn't going to be the major part of this post; however, the question is how much of these apparently deep-set prejudices are still in all of us, and does it necessarily make us bad people to have them?
Let's face it, racism is not a terribly ambiguous topic and decreases to be so every day. We have governments ascending which openly admit to being racist through their actions and even though there are plenty of people fighting against these prejudices (myself included), we have to admit that racism is probably not only a cultural problem, but may also have biological, deep-set roots.
Our basic survival instincts tell us to eye up everything with suspicion which is not, well, us. As stated in the quote "If it moves, shoot it, if it doesn't, shoot it anyway, it might move later."
Upon looking into systems applied by animals, we detect similarities to the above given quote. Animals cannot be categorised into good and evil, yet, they kill each other merely based on the premise that someone crossed their territory, the reasons being none of spite or hatred, but survival and fear. Animals aren't racist, they are territorial and, additionally, they do not, at least as far as I can tell, kill each other because of skin colour, etc (but they are mostly colour-blind, so probably that's how they deal with racism - you cannot hate what you cannot distinguish), so there are differences, but what we can agree on is that violent actions against another race or animal are based on basic survival instincts.
So as much as this analogy introduced the topic, I will deviate from it now and proceed to another thought. As mentioned previously, we pride ourselves for not being racists, yet we would, if we are probably entirely honest, prefer to live in a white, suburban area with like-minded people regarding class and culture, rather than in a minority-stricken, poor environment with rundown houses and three Polish supermarkets instead of a local shop (I am not suggesting that is what you think, I am just provoking a thought here). We will probably feel more uneasy if a Muslim sat next to us on a London bus than a white, middle-aged man because we know that the odds of neighbouring a bomber are higher with a Muslim than a white man - so, is that now racism or an attitude we have learnt to adopt based on data we have been fed which inferred a conclusion? Obviously, the whole topic of racism has become so intense that uttering a thought of fear might even be considered racist if it applies to a Muslim person more than a non-Muslim person - regardless the data we know.
We might all have the above stated thoughts; however, some might feel more ashamed of having them than others. Is it really true, as it has been suggested by many people in the past, that some people are just better at hiding their racism than others, but deep within we all are racists? Maybe, but I would see the major difference in people in this circumstance already. According to basic instincts, it is probably understandable to be racist - to fear the Other and anyone who doesn't share your set of values, but if I take this as my stance and justification to be a racist, I admit to having no much more control over my basic instincts than an animal.
Upon which you would enter an entirely different idea of racism, of course. Say, I was to propose than some people were "lower" than others in their evolution, so basically, that racists - people who cannot suppress their basic instincts as well as others can - are below people who can and should be treated as an inferior race...is that then racism too?
You see, the whole matter is terribly complex and fickle; however, I daresay that being able to control your basic, animalistic instincts and be able to decide against acting according to them, is what basically makes you a human and differentiates you from animals. As a human, I can decide to not let my fear guide me and act humanly or humanely instead, which as the words imply, is all about being a human.
So, as provocative as this sounds - and probably is - we could determine that people like me and you (unless you are a racist) decide to be better developed in controlling our basic human instincts and rise above them in our humanity and humane possibilities; however, by this we would introduce another thought which entangled itself in my brain, which is not entirely related to racism anymore, but classicism.
General data and statistics suggest that racism is mainly related to less educated people from more rural areas. Obviously there are deviations to these statistics, but you are less likely to utter your racist views on an university campus than in a hair dresser in a low-income district (oh dear, I am so entangling myself here, but bear with me, I know it's a hyper-sensitive subject but only by topicising it, we will overcome it eventually - and let's just admit for once that some stereotypes aren't stereotypes for no good reason...).
Classicism, by which I mean the differentiating and hierarching of people according to class, is a well-known, old hat we all are familiar with; yet, it is to determine whether it deserves the same status as being a racist. Racists discriminate because someone doesn't look the same, has a specific religion or some other aspect which doesn't entirely or at all relate to the person's character; however, if someone doesn't agree with my intellectual level or values, does it make me a bad person to avoid this kind of culture (by culture I don't mean a country, but a kind of person)?
Personally, as long as you don't seek to discriminate or actively look down upon anybody, I would say it is absolutely OK to avoid the company of people who cannot relate to the world in the way you can or want to. Upon pondering all this, I came to the conclusion for myself that I am not a racist. I couldn't care less if I lived in a district with black people, gay people, transgenders or anyone else; however, I realised, and I will further observe and reflect on it, that I wouldn't want to live and converse with people who do not share my basic views on the world (i.e. racists or bigots) and I came to the conclusion that it does not make me a bad person to decide I cannot be friends with everyone...
What do you think about racism and how it relates to people? If you have a great, open-minded opinion, please share here or on Facebook :-)
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