Mittwoch, 6. Juni 2012

Are you sure you are not racist?

by Ceci, english and spanish teacher, yogini, currently based in Chur/GR


Everybody is against racism whenever they are faced with the question. Everyone has an argument to show how awful it is and how far they are from being racist. However, this issue takes part in our lives more frequently than we think it does.

As a matter of fact, it happened to me yesterday at work. We were talking about situations that affect our planet and us human beings, when suddenly I found myself making a racist comment. In my mind, I was trying to defend women’s rights, but I ended up generalizing the part that was to blame. I just put them all inside the same tagged bag saying “Guilty”.

We constantly do this. Even when we talk about our neighbors, colleagues at work, classmates… when we just open our mouths to give our opinion.

Recent research in Germany has shown that thirty percent of its inhabitants still have Nazi thoughts, although there are constant manifestations all over the country in order to open people’s eyes. Students have been described the history of Second World War by their teachers in such a direct and personal way, that they feel ashamed for something that happened long before their birth. Anyone who has spoken about school time with a 25-30 year old German person must have heard this. As a consequence of this all, the subject reaches an extreme and may not be making the desired effect.

On the other hand, nowadays, migration is as easy and common as frying an egg in a pan. Not only happens this cross borders, but also across the oceans. Our children have classmates of various nationalities, religions and races. They get involved in group activities and it is throughout these activities that they develop feelings for each other. As a consequence, the direct exposure and involvement in different cultures is an everyday coin. Therefore, and going back to the students who are blamed for the history of their countries, I ask myself what the use of making them feel ashamed for belonging to the country they do is. How can we expect them to actually feel everyone is equal when they are not supposed to be at their level?

Nevertheless, it is a fact that racism has caused victims along the years, but what I am focusing on in this article is everyday racism, the unnoticeable one. When Southamerican emigrants arrive in Europe, they have a banner right on their foreheads saying “In my country I will never be able to buy a house”; when Africans reach the Spanish coast, the banner is “I come here to survive”; when Rumanians arrive in western European countries, the tag is “Beware of this gipsy”, and the list turns never ending. Everyone can read these invisible tags because they were told that they existed. Fortunately, and this time I have learnt my lesson of not to generalize, some people close their eyes to clichés. Maybe, we should feel fulfilled with the idea that, at least, there exists a percentage that breaks the generalization. However, I believe that most of us have felt guilty once, after avoiding talking to someone that, just because of his or her appearance, looked suspicious.

To sum up, it is very possible that I am just looking for an alibi here, for those moments when I realize I am not a perfect human being, but the main goal of this piece, is to contextualize phrases we say, opinions we give and behaviors we have every day , into the frame of racism. Perhaps, I am acting in a similar way as some German teacher use to do, but, in that case, those students were absolutely innocent. What about us?

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