About racism and how to adress it

Talking about racism

OK, this subject was among the most important ones that I wanted to talk about when I first thought about creating this blog. But I always thought that I’ll take my time before I do that. I don’t want to get too muck into talking about politics, but I think anybody in the world can agree that a lot of people are being condemned for things they didn’t do, just because of their race, their ethnicity, or their religion. It has been the case for a long time, and it still happens in 2020

Racism has always been one of the most important things that all these human rights organizations and NGOs try to fight against, and yet, even today in 2020 we still witness it whether through verbal or physical abuse. 

The history of Racism is there, nobody can deny it. Some books talk about the struggles that people dealt with in the past, the ethnic conflicts, the religious wars, etc. However, we’ve been taught that this was in the past and that we now believe in human rights for all, which is great! But the reality is that we still have some of it, yes things are much better than the way they used to be in the past but humans have not completely dealt with this issue yet. I am not going to give you all the examples we’ve seen in the news, or on social media of this “modern life racism”, because the odds are if you’re reading this right now you know exactly what I am talking about.

Ok, let’s forget about politics or history for a while and focus a bit more about what goes on in the mind of a racist person and how that can be changed. But before we do that, we should at least know what racism is in the first place, no? 

What is racism? 

There are a lot of definitions for racism, but let’s not go deep into that. Let’s keep it simple and use the one provided by Wikipedia, which is based on some recognized references: 

Racism is the belief that groups of humans possess different behavioral traits corresponding to physical appearance and can be divided based on the superiority of one race over another.It may also mean prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against other people because they are of a different race or ethnicity. Modern variants of racism are often based on social perceptions of biological differences between peoples. These views can take the form of social actions, practices or beliefs, or political systems in which different races are ranked as inherently superior or inferior to each other, based on presumed shared inheritable traits, abilities, or qualities.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism

Pretty clear right? Ok, great. 

So, what goes into the mind of a racist person? 

Ok, so if we look at that definition again, the first sentence says that Racism is a “belief that …”, and as psychologists tell us all the time belief comes from ideas that we accept as being true, and translate into feelings and actions in the real world. And so, a person who was taught or told over and over again that he is better than that other person because of the way he/she looks, the color of his/her skin, the part of the world they’re from or just their beliefs (religious or other) begins to believe (either consciously or unconsciously) that those ideas are true.

He/she believes that he/she is superior because he/she is a part of that particular race or ethnicity or whatever it may be. That belief once it’s so deep into that person’s mind it becomes very hard to deny it, it becomes what that person considers “obvious”. It’s in his/her subconscious mind and unless he/she recognizes that and makes a decision to change it, it will always be there.

Sadly, this was considered as a “common belief” sometime in the past, it was expressed freely and people believed so deeply in that that they thought some people are less human than others, and they even felt sometimes that they have to “save humanity from that inferior race”, hence the ethnic wars, slavery, etc. But now things have changed a bit (Thank God!), we all hear about human rights, about equality of rights, laws are there in a lot of countries to protect the rights of all citizens, etc. And so that racist person living in the 21st century knows that racism is bad, that it’s punishable by law and that it’s bad to say it out loud unless it’s a joke because you know jokes are harmless! But the thing is he still believes that he is superior, that he deserves better things than the other person and that’s it’s just the way it is. And so he might keep his mouth shut but the beliefs and the feelings are there, kept in like a volcano waiting for the right opportunity to burst and to explode.

From a belief to an action

Now, that belief part is bad enough but it unfortunately gets worse. Because that belief develops into feelings of hatred, oppression, and superiority to what that person considers to be “the inferior side” and we all know how feelings and emotions (good or bad) drive our actions. 

Those actions can go from just ignoring that person, giving them “that look” (if you know what I mean) to making “seemingly harmless” racist jokes. It can go a bit further to actually calling them names, expressing those feelings of hatred verbally, bullying them in different kinds of ways. But it can go way further to the point of believing that that person is less of a human being than he/she is and that they don’t deserve to live which results in harming them physically or even killing them. 

How do we address that?

And so, I believe that the only solution for this is to change that belief. I’m not telling you anything new here because you know that already, but the question that we should be asking is how to change beliefs? Can fear change a belief or does it just push the person to hide it inside (the volcano image)? Yes, the laws and conventions are extremely important to control the behaviors or the actions of people but do they make those beliefs just disappear from some people’s minds? I hope they help, but I doubt that they’re enough. 

Protests are also important in pushing decision makers to take action, in getting justice but also in raising awareness about the issue. It is a necessary and often very efficient tool to take control over the actions which are nothing but manifestations of that belief. But do they make a racist person less racist? Do they change beliefs? I really hope so, but I am not very sure they do.

How can we change those beliefs then?

I think changing beliefs comes from two main things.

  1. Spirituality: if you have a deeper belief and faith in your religion and you accept whatever it tells you 100%, that can completely change any other contradictory beliefs in your mind because you know it comes from your creator, from a force way bigger than you or than all humankind.
  2. Education: this englobes a wide range of what you need to be knowing about the subject. It can be learning about what your religion says about that (ref number one), about the history of racism, the challenges some people lived in and hopefully you’ll have some sympathy. It can be meeting people from different ethnicities and races and connecting with them on a human level. It can be learning about their cultures and genuinely falling in love with it, reading about great men or women from that race, or ethnicity or religion and respecting them for their ideas and wisdom, etc. 

There are other ways a person can change his belief but they all acquire them to first be conscious about it, and be willing to change it. It’s mainly about self-suggestion, affirmations, and things like that. But the problem is that most racist people think they’re right to be so and so and so to change that, I think the ideas should come from a powerful external force.

I personally think that number two is very important, I am a big believer in the power of education to change lives, but in this case, I believe that number one is way more important. Because knowledge alone does not make you great especially when it comes to morals and beliefs. Some person who already has all these racist beliefs can get much more so when reading about the history of racism if he/she has no basic moral human qualities. And we know that there are people who enjoy seeing others suffer, we usually refer to them as sadists or psychopaths but all I’m saying here that in absence of a moral system, knowledge can actually be harmful. 

For me, I think that a very important component of morals is religion. My religion is Islam and Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him says: I was only sent to perfect moral characters.

And so, I just wanted to share with you some of the things that always pop into my mind whenever I hear or read about racial conflicts or any form of discrimination. In the next post, I’ll share with you what Islam says about racism and how it dealt with it before more than 14 centuries from now.

To be continued

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