Post No.: 0558
Furrywisepuppy has covered a lot about the problem of racism already, such as in Post No.: 0516, but I want to share what I think too because clearly more still needs to be done to tackle it. Black Lives Matter shouldn’t cease until complete racial and LGBTQIA+ justice has been attained, and this may realistically take a few generations at least.
…Refugee crises, Brexit, (former) US foreign policies and COVID-19 have amplified (overt) racism lately e.g. it is racist to pick on a random oriental-looking person, who looks fine and healthy, and assume that they are carrying the coronavirus. One didn’t single out a person of any other colour – one picked on that person specifically and solely because of their skin colour and not because they were specifically looking ill; for which not every (hardly any as a percentage in fact) Chinese person has been infected by the virus, and for which individuals of other ethnicities have also caught it too. Someone may look Chinese but was born and bred elsewhere, or whatever the case simply isn’t carrying the virus and had nothing to do with where and how it originated.
Imagine if a few thousand (out of ~66 million) British people caught a novel virus that originated from the UK, and Chinese people began being suspicious of every single British – or even every single white – person they came across for carrying the virus just because of their skin colour?! That’d be over-generalising from what little one knows. That’d be clearly racist. Or, say, if a virus originated from London – would that mean that everyone from Europe should be immediately suspected? (Wuhan is only a single, though sprawling, city in a large country roughly the size of Europe.) Hypothesising the origin of SARS-CoV-2 is fine but to insinuate that over a billion Chinese people all had something to do with it would be utterly moronic.
The same ‘the less we know, the more we assume and generalise’ attitude occurred with HIV/AIDS and all homosexual people, and Ebola and all African people. There are ridiculous hypocrisies whenever people generalise in all kinds of contexts, like assuming that all homosexual men fancy all men, even though it’s not assumed that all heterosexual men fancy all women! Even if it were the case that most people of ‘a certain kind’ is, thinks or does something – that still wouldn’t mean all of them. So we typically homogenise the individuals within the outgroup they apparently belong to – but this would be like if an extraterrestrial alien started observing the human species then concluded that all humans are drag queens after observing a couple of drag queens. Not everyone is fabulous!
It’s like trying a pork pie but you didn’t like it, then thinking you now understand all of English food, and then strongly judging all English food as horrible or saying, “I don’t like English food” instead of, “I don’t like pork pies.” There’s so much more to English food than that. And not everyone in England eats pork pies or eats them regularly anyway. Pork pies come in all kinds of different qualities too, so even if you’ve tasted an authentic English pork pie whilst visiting England, you might have just tasted a particularly bad example? So if that was the sum of your experiences with pork pies in England then all you can accurately conclude is, “I didn’t like that particular individual pork pie that I had that day.” And it’s the same when it comes to the food, music, accents and other cultural features of other countries too.
So we can say that we don’t like a particular individual person, particular individual dish or particular individual whatever – but we shouldn’t judge as if we know every possible person or thing about another group or category. We can believe we’re so sophisticated to be able to infer so much from so little information but it’s the opposite of sophistication to over-generalise and jump to conclusions.
Should one wish to kill all Irish people or any random Irish person just because an Irish person or a bunch of Irish people raped someone one cared about? If you’re ethnically white, and another white person raped a girl, then a black person confronted you about that rape – you’d assertively query, “What’s that other person and what they did got to do with me?!” Well asking, “What’s that got to do with me as an individual?” every day is what racism feels like! (This applies to both negative and positive discriminations.)
Must every white person deal with every problem that other white people cause because ‘sort your own kind out’?(!) There’s asking every Jew one meets about their opinions on Israel, yet not asking every British person one meets about their opinions on British colonialism. Maybe it’s just innocently asking? Well perhaps it would be if all non-Jews were also asked about their opinions on Israel too. But just asking Jewish people that question, in a pre-judgemental way, is implying that they all have some control on the matter regardless of where they were born, raised and are resident in the world.
If a foreign government does something bad to our country then should we take this out on that country’s citizens or corporations rather than on that government itself? Won’t that just immorally escalate matters to take our ‘revenge’ out on superficially-related but innocent parties? How would you feel if the positions were switched? When we direct our grievances on innocent parties just because they’re apparently ‘associated’ with the original transgressors, we commit evil acts while believing we’re the victims or good guys. If we do this or sympathise with such acts then we’ll be in the wrong (too). Possibly every large inter-group grudge started with something relatively small.
Those furthest away are typically the most wrong about others when they try to judge them. This is because they know the least about someone or a group hence they rely on the crudest stereotypes or conjectures. That little amount of knowledge about another group is frequently based on hearsay, gossip and misperceptions too – especially if one has been exposed to so much propaganda about them. And those who understand the least tend to express the strongest assumptions and fixed feelings about other people or things.
It’s also often the case that those who are not too far away from us (for we’re not too bothered about those we think won’t bother us) but those who are far away enough to not be close enough are the ones whom we seem to hold the strongest feelings of fears, suspicions or hateful opinions towards e.g. English people who are regularly exposed to German people today least connect the atrocities of the Nazis in WWII several generations ago with the generations of today. It’s a problem of not personally interacting with and getting to know people from other groups enough but basing our opinions of them on some incredibly crude and unfavourable generalisations again; like conflating ‘Nazis’ with ‘Germans’ even though not every German during WWII was a Nazi, and not all Nazis were German. Even being a daughter/son of somebody doesn’t make one that somebody, whether that somebody was good or bad.
We tend to fear the unknown or the least understood the most. The solutions are therefore more personal firsthand exposure with other groups in positive or neutral contexts, and education that focuses on unity rather than division. Events like an international football match can temporarily revive past off-the-field rivalries but we should forgive, although not forget in order to remember any lessons taught.
When we regularly interact with and get to know individuals from other groups with an open mind, we realise that they’re just as diverse and individual as in one’s own groups. We start to build more refined and nuanced feelings about each other because we’re close enough to notice that e.g. sometimes a particular individual is a lot of fun and sometimes they’re annoying. But when assuming from afar, we tend to hold more unrefined and rigid feelings about others.
We sometimes not only generalise individuals within a group but generalise one group with another (apparently) related group – such as one species of mammal with another e.g. fluffy mice with humans when it comes to extrapolating lab experiment results, or one country with another e.g. Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka as a result of knowing too little about them individually. Some people even assume that all cultures in Asia conduct in arranged marriages and crudely conflate them with forced marriages(!)
If an isolated terrorist incident happens 200 miles away from where you live in your own country then you probably wouldn’t worry that much about staying where you are right now. But if an isolated terrorist incident happens 200 miles away from a destination you’re considering going on holiday to then you might think it’s a bit dangerous to go there because you’ve generalised that entire region or country as ‘currently under threat’. (Arguably, if you were to visit a city that has just experienced a terrorist incident then it’ll likely be one of the safest places to currently be because of the heightened security in that area. It’s like the safest time to buy salmon would be a few days after a health scare that affected only a portion of the salmon sold, because – in a well-regulated food industry – those affected batches will be immediately removed from sale, leaving only the verified and double-checked safe batches on the market, and the prices may be much cheaper too because of the general drop in demand. Oh well, more for me – meow!)
We once more tend to over-generalise the less we know – so much that even entire diverse nations of a whole part of a continent get stereotyped as one homogenous group by those who know the least. But there are differences within groups, not just similarities within groups; and similarities across groups, not just differences across groups e.g. the result clearly fell one way but how can one wisely stereotype a UK citizen regarding Brexit when roughly half of the voters in 2016 voted one way and the other half voted the opposing way?!
In conclusion, the less we know about the members of a group (or group of groups), the more we’ll think they’re all the same. And the more we learn about a group, the more we’ll realise how diverse and individual the individuals are within that group. As we learn a lot more and refine and grow our knowledge, the sizes of our generalisations and our mental categories get smaller and smaller – often to the point of understanding that we must ultimately treat every individual person and case on an individual basis.
We shouldn’t stereotype ethnic minority people. We shouldn’t stereotype the rest as racists either. We should see each other as complex and individual beings. Being racist isn’t itself any more a mental illness as being sexist or violent is – it’s just the expression of caveperson instincts in combination with a culture that enables or promotes it. Everybody needs to experience more positive interactions with people from diverse groups, such as making friends with them, partaking in cooperative tasks together or simply greeting and chatting with each other. More exposure to counter-stereotypical information might help e.g. seeing black people as those with the brains rather than the brawn. Don’t divide issues into ‘us versus them’ but the past versus the future. Give your perspective and take their perspective. Understand that we can learn and grow to become less racist.
Meow. Infants don’t appear to be born racist – a diverse bunch of infants put together won’t discriminate or segregate themselves according to their skin colours when they play. Or even if infants potentially are then sufficient early and consistent exposures to diversity will guarantee that they’ll grow up without developing racial prejudices.