Racism is not really a thing, at least not in the sense that it’s an ‘actual’ thing. It is a problem though. Douglas Ross explains.
You terrorist. You little monkey.
Surely if Sam Dastyari were six foot five and had spent the past six months in an aggressive workout routine, arming himself to the bone for a new role in what could be a potential new Wolverine series, those dickheads last week might have refrained from using the word ‘little’.
Common sense would have prevailed in that case.
But he hasn’t been working out as much as Hugh Jackman. He’s a mild mannered and average heighted politician. The blokes dressed up in their everyday-Australian Toll uniform took advantage of that and implied a threat of physical violence in their bigoted catcalls.
There is no excuse for the actions of the men who accosted Sam Dastyari in a Melbourne pub. Their attitudes are depressing and if they lose their jobs over the incident I doubt few would rush to their defence. We all can feel that sick feeling Sam must have felt in the bottom of his stomach the first moment he realised an antagonistic voice was directed at him.
It is an awful feeling that nobody should have the displeasure of ever experiencing.
However, there is a reason for that misdirected, ignorant, angry, inexcusable and just face-palm inducing confrontational behaviour. In fact, there are several lives worth of reasons that culminated in an alcohol-fuelled series of racist taunts by a group of men to an Iranian-born Australian.
To state a philosophical argument that is going to make many groan and rustle up a host of perfectly valid arguments against me: racism isn’t, by reasoning, real. It can’t be. It doesn’t exist. Don’t quote that on its own; you’re not allowed. To continue my point: it is not to say that the realities that stem from the irreality of prejudice aren’t real. The results of a bigoted mind are as real as each new day but the place from which they stem is a misnomer. It cannot be real.
Racism is a cover for something else, or usually a host of ‘something elses’. It has to be. An overdue electricity bill. A hungry family. A job lost because you were late to work once. An addiction to gambling. An over-reliance on alcohol. A mother who left when you were four. A father who beat you. A father who beat your father. The list literally goes on for as long as you have breath to put voice to everything that can go wrong in life.
This gives racism, in its final form, a true and understandable source and that is the point. There is humanity only skin deep under every slur. The slur is still a slur and the bashing is still a bashing and the book burning is still a book burning and the Holocaust was still the Holocaust and it is all real, but the perceived source, if people go so far to consider the source, is not.
It is a mask. It is not an insult to any recipient of assault or harassment or hate to state this. It is a necessary step to make inside our minds to help a society maintain its tenuous structural bonds.
What does the idea of a corrupted human do to soothe the victims of hate or those of us who are lucky enough to just know of victims? How can we use it? Knowing that a racist man or woman is but a carefully directed sentence away from breaking down into tears over their unhappy backstory doesn’t help the rest of us from reconciling the reality of another hate crime, however ‘small’ or ‘large’ it is.
But it does allow us to maintain a regularity of consciousness in our own lives as we are slapped in the face each day by a feverish media landscape.
The value in this idea, the idea that a coward’s actions mask a misdirected pain and that understanding this reality is the only way forward for society, is a deeply religious idea. But it is not an idea that requires religion to consolidate it into action.
The knowledge that this hate is not born but learned and is a mutation from something inherently good, a human life, is enough for us to carry on the grind of assuming things can get better and that these problems can be addressed.
That’s the power of a philosophical outlook on the mundane and implied violence of an afternoon beer at the pub.
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