Friday, April 8, 2016

Are we really moving towards the banishment of racism or away from it?

In this era of hyperconnectivity and superfluous information feeds, there is literally more information pouring in to us than we could ever possibly process.  Thus, we pick what we feel is either a) important, or b) entertaining enough to give attention.

This has led to increased awareness of racial and gender inequalities, systemic injustices around the world, so on and so forth, which is a good thing.  It is very important that even those unaffected by some of these injustices are aware of them.

Naturally, one of the prevalent causes this generation has decided to rally around is racial discrimination.  It happens around the world.  Which is good as it teaches us that there exists races aside from which we grew up in.  Literally a whole world of different culture, languages, food, etc!

On an unrelated side note; It has always bugged me how some movies portraying interplanetary relationships (such as Star Trek) have generally shown worlds with a homogeneous culture and yet on our very own planet, there is no such thing as a single, homogeneous culture.  Sure, there are common levels of courtesy, our languages can be traced back more or less to one another, but it is still not the same level of homogeneity portrayed in some of these movies.  Perhaps that is what it will take for us to successfully achieve interplanetary and interstellar travel?  A world united as one?  Eh, OK, digression over.

Back to the point I wanted to make; the current generation is all for "not seeing color" and "treating everyone equally".  Then comes along articles like this, as well as what I perceive to be increased use of terms like "white people", "cultural appropriation", etc. used in social media.  It appears that, despite our apparent desire to not see differences in race, we are more keen than ever to categorize one another into boxes.  Then there's the boom in multiple sexual identities (pansexual, etc).

Yes, it is fine to identify as something (black, white, pansexual, heterosexual, whatever!), but I feel that this movement of openness and liberation from societal norms at one point actually becomes regressive.  And that point is the point at which we begin defining ourselves by these labels.

In the course of my short 23 years, I've had the privilege of having friends from literally all across the globe and not one single time did we ever look at one another and go "oh, you're black!" or, "oh you're asian!".

In my humble opinion, true acceptance of one another occurs when things like Black History Month or the Gay Pride Parade are abolished.  Why?  Because at that point we will have actual acceptance; one where such factors are so irrelevant that we don't even bother mentioning.  Exactly the same way you never meet someone and go "oh, you have two eyes,".  It is accepted.

Also, there is this 'small' ethical concept called Rawlsian Justice.  It is a ethical principle that is meant to apply to the basic structure of a well-ordered society, in which everyone decides on their principles of justice and ethics from behind a 'veil of ignorance'.

To quote John Rawls,
"...no one knows his place in society, his class position or social status, nor does anyone know his fortune in the distribution of natural assets and abilities, his intelligence, his strength, and the like.  I shall even assume that the parties do not know their conceptions of the good or their special psychological propensities.  The principles of justice are chosen from behind a veil of ignorance."

In other words, if you did not know where in society you would be placed, nor what kind of society you would be placed in, what sort of society would you like to be placed in?  The idea behind this is that one does not know where one might end up, one is far more likely to choose a society that is fair to all of it's members.  You then act upon in this manner.  I am greatly paraphrasing here and it is likely that I am missing a few key points, but this is what I understand of it.

My motivation for the 'banishment' of events like the Gay Pride Parade & Black History Month are more or less driven by this ethical principle; because to me, these choices are so private/irrelevant/out of your control that it doesn't need mentioning.  You're a dude who's into dudes?  Big deal.  Are you a productive member of society?  Now that I want to know.  To reiterate, things that often the source of discrimination (race, sexual orientation, religion, etc) are either none of my business or not something the person can control.

Furthermore, I've always felt like the more an issue was highlighted, the more it actually became an issue.  Forgive me as I may begin getting slightly controversial here.  Now, for example, Black History Month in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.  The idea behind it's inception was marvel and honorable; to ensure better representation of the history of the African diaspora in schools and communities.  Unfortunately, it did not evolve past that.  In my opinion, the next logical step would have been to fully integrate the lessons such that they became part of the everyday curricula, thereby eliminating the need to celebrate Black History Month.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Many of these events are still being held because members of these communities are still being oppressed and for that, I am not calling for the immediate halt of such events.  What I am saying is that the same communities who are facing injustices should always strive to push the evolution of these events.  Otherwise, like Black History Month, it will not flourish into as effective an education tool as it could have.

In a sense, the more a group keeps saying they are different, the more others will treat that group differently, defeating the purpose of movements to dismantle discrimination.

Another example that I feel supports my argument is the Black Lives Matter movement.  Again, the idea behind the movement is good and many of its members are working hard to ensure their voices are heard through the right channels.  It is important to call out racial injustices wherever they occur.  However, in this age, we have actually become so ingrained in our races that some members of the Black Lives Matter movement interrupted one of Bernie Sanders' speeches.  They looked at him as this elderly white man running for present, and they flat out judged him for that.  They judged him as another racist white politician.  Exactly the same kind of judgment they claim police officers are doing to African Americans.  They didn't bother listening to him, they didn't bother investigating his stands and motives further.  A quick Google search (we are almost literally carrying the entire world's collective knowledge in our pockets for crying out loud) would've told them that Mr. Sanders has been a stout supporter of equal rights for a long time; something the members of the Black Lives Matter movement advocate.

This article is a bit more ranty than I would have liked so it is more than likely that I did not address all issues equally, but I certainly hope that I was able to demonstrate that the ideas I presented can be used analogously into many of the issues regarding discrimination.

TL;DR
I question whether our movements towards the breaking down of racial barriers is actually reinforcing some of the walls that separate us.

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