“My name is Nader and I am a racist*!” (think alcoholics anonymous)!
I am also a cheat, a liar, I’m selfish and I’m a hypocrite. These are essentially ordinary human traits that lay within us all to varying degrees. Although we’re inaccurately taught to see these as defining personality characteristics, it is important to recognise these as behavioural “states” that reveal themselves depending on an individual’s personal and/or social circumstances. We are quick to generalise and label when in reality it is often an individual’s own subjective view of an encounter or exchange with another.
“Until a problem is recognised and defined it cannot be corrected to bring about (positive) change”
Behavioural psychology acknowledges that a child will form over 80% of their worldview by the age of 8, and that this worldview directly corresponds to the same neurological pathways in adult decision making. For example, selfishness (or self-righteousness) in adults is related to a child’s sense of entitlement, and lying (generally) can be related to our survival instinct – to create a positive outcome like avoiding a fight, getting out of trouble or gaining some sort of advantage. These behaviours become part of our “default” attitudes as they are automatic responses from the subconscious mind.
From a behavioural perspective, racism works exactly the same way; the difference is that it enters the subconscious chronologically at a later stage (as does Sexism and other learnt behaviours). The attitude is a direct result of environment, and is reinforced covertly through social conditioning, education, media, etc. It also resides with the subconscious and is triggered by external circumstances that an individual is confronted with.
So, what is racism and why is it so obvious to some and not so to others?
The word “Racism” is a highly subjective term that can be easier understood when its mechanism is broken down into two general behavioural forms – Explicit and Implicit.
Explicit racism is the devil you know. It refers to the fringe of society who are proud of their disposition and openly express their superiority over other races, creeds and cultures. Their psychology and worldview is obvious and thankfully only make up the fringe of society. These proud racists are generally contained and don’t pose a massive threat to the balance of social tolerance.
Implicit racism is the devil we don’t know and fundamentally affects society at large. On the surface, it seems less sinister but is actually far more dangerous as it is deeply rooted in the subconscious and is generally unrecognisable. Its true danger lies in the way that it is quickly and easily radicalised into its explicit form and provides a clear path for figures like Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson who use their xenophobic rhetoric to penetrate the mainstream. If anything positive can be taken from the US election result, it is the realisation that racism is at least tolerated en masse in western society. Paradoxically, most Trump and Hanson supporters would not identify themselves as racists and would be outraged at the accusation.
As with so many social ills, we are intent on addressing racism at its “effect” stage without even considering why it actually exists in the first place. We often hear that “Education is the key,” and although there is merit in the statement, its application is fatally flawed as it is the type and timing of the education that is symptomatic of the problem. Movements like ‘Black Lives Matter’ and FIFA’s “RESPECT” campaign can bring the issue front of mind (the conscious), but racism is embedded at the back (the subconscious) so we are effectively ‘shooting at the wrong target’! In the end, they prove futile as they do not address these deeply harboured values and beliefs at the core level.
Racism can be more accurately defined as an “Unconscious Bias” as Euro-centrism is anchored in our subconscious…
Society is taught that it is exclusively Europeans that have contributed anything significant to the world; that all the technologies, freedoms and comforts that we enjoy today are a result of European initiatives and ingenuity. This attitude is the breeding ground for this implicit, subconscial form of racism which leads to the misconception that the European mind is superior to any other race.
When we add the lack of Indigenous appreciation and education in European settled lands, our self-righteous attitude becomes that of: “This is our God given right to the land – the natives weren’t doing anything before we arrived – We developed and civilised this country and put it on the map! It is us who made this country great!”
A great example of our Euro-centric education is when we refer to a time from the 6th until the 14th centuries as the “Dark and Middle Ages” – where apparently, nothing happened in the world! When Europe was stagnated, uncivilised and barbaric, very few know that this was actually a “Golden Age” for both the Islamic and Chinese worlds. History has shown that the modern world as we know it was born in this time. The Islamic world is directly credited for bringing about ‘The Renaissance’ and hauling Europe out of its Medieval quagmire.
This was a time when the Islamic and Arab world established highly advanced and intellectual societies; where European scholars and academics flocked to places like Baghdad and Córdoba to learn medicine, the sciences, philosophy and every other discipline taught at universities today. We enjoy turning on our computers because of a Persian mathematician named Al-Khwārizmī’s discovery of the algorithm! The Chinese also made many advances in farming, nautical equipment, warfare, the printing press, paper currency and precise time keepers.
Euro-centrism extends it hand to religion as well. How else can we believe that the man, born of the Arab Semitic tribe in Bethlehem, has white skin, straight blonde hair and blue eyes?
Question: Would racism even be possible in Christian lands if Jesus was portrayed as a Semitic man (i.e. Dark skin, dark curly hair and dark eyes)?
Euro-centrism teaches an overwhelming importance on Europe and distorts historical facts to suit European ideals. This supports the belief that European lives are valued over all others and is desensitised en masse to atrocities inflicted upon non-Europeans. This was clearly demonstrated in November 2015, when millions of Facebookers were ‘empathetically’ mobilised to place the Tricolore filter over their profiles in solidarity with France while remaining complicit in their silence when atrocities were inflicted upon the innocent of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. We love to buy into Euro-centrism and to accept these initiatives in the pretext of human compassion which only serves to reinforce its supremacy through actions like this.
Are we actually interested in ridding the world of racism?
The unfortunate answer is an overwhelming “NO!” We enter the same cycle of creating new initiatives that have never effectively provided real solutions – and we do this expecting different (positive) results. Unless Euro-centrism is not corrected in our history books and media, and replaced with truth and historical facts, it is actually unreasonable to expect attitudes to change!
Euro-centrism breeds racism wherever it exists, so one must conclude that if we are not mature enough as a society to address racism at its core then we must be accepting to the fact that…
“We are all racist, and we need to live with it!”
*Racism exists the world over and it is not exclusive to Europeans or to those of European heritage. This article is directed towards Europe and European settled countries.