Sunday, April 7, 2013

Reverse Racism

So Waleed Aly wrote this great article about passive racism this week.

And it got me thinking, as Waleed Aly often does (curse him).  Because I find racism so abhorrent I am acutely aware of it.  And so when thinking about less obvious examples of racism I wondered whether I might be a reverse racist.

Precisely because I am aware of race, am I a reverse racist?  And if I am a reverse racist, does that make me, simply a racist?

The idea of it repulses me, because of course the notion of being comparable to the sort of person who would admonish anyone to "go back to where you came from" is detestable.  

But the idea that some people have at one time or another been told to do exactly that makes me feel so empathetic that I feel I need to make amends.

So it is that if I encounter some Indian students crossing the street, or a Muslim woman observing hijab, or an Ethiopian mum in the fruit and veg I make an effort to make eye contact, to smile, to be friendly.

Essentially, I'm a little bit nicer, more considerate and thoughtful to people I fear might have encountered racism than I am to those who I assume, like myself have never had to deal with it.

It's a small thing and done with the best intentions, but is it despite this a form of racism because it points to difference, highlights it?  It seems obvious that to be truly non-racist then race should be a non-issue, it should not even register on the radar.  But is that just too simplistic?

Just like feminism does not deny that men and women are fundamentally different, and yet fundamentally equal we should not deny the racial differences among us.  And I've no doubt that embodying those differences in this country results in if not ugly tirades, then the more "polite" racism that Aly dissects. 

But am I also some sort of polite racist?  I suppose that if I am seeing race first, and judging someone because of it then I am.  Perhaps it's not my job to try and even the playing field.  To be compassionate toward strangers because I think I am redressing some past insult.

Perhaps instead of seeing the race I just need to see the person, and be compassionate towards them anyway.

Do you notice race?  And is that a bad thing?

Listen to The Beatles Blackbird

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