Once upon a time, not so long ago, things seemed to be moving the ‘right’ direction. We were ending discrimination as a society, people were raised, exposed to, and expected to see the person not the wrapper. It seemed, to me at least, that we were finally working on that whole ‘content of character not color of skin’ thing, and making real progress.
Then…something…happened. Now, we have the most overt racism (and other discriminations) of any time in my life. We have people calling the police because there is a black person doing…nothing really. Existing. Yes, there is sometimes more to the story (the condo entry is a good example), but too often it looks like the idea that acting in an overly racist manner is back to being acceptable. I pull up short of calling people racist for one very good reason.
I think that’s why it’s happening.
And not just racism. Sexism, various anti-religious ‘ism’, being anti-gay/trans/etc. All of the various ‘ism’s. Side note right quick – I refuse to use the term ‘phobe’ to describe those opposed to something because to me that is itself a slur against people with actual phobias. And no one who is anti-gay is truly phobic towards homosexuals. It’s just an acceptable slur, and one we need to lose.
There is a tendency I have noticed in people to respond to unfounded accusations by doing that which they are accused of. Accuse someone of theft often enough, and sure enough, they become more likely to steal. I can’t say why, I do have my suspicions, but nothing concrete. The important thing is, if you accuse a person who is not guilty often enough, and as we do now, treat them as guilty absent actual guilt, they become what they are accused of being.
That’s part one. Part two is connected to why people my age don’t recall kids killing themselves because they were bullied.
It hit me a few weeks back that when I was picked on, and others in my age group, there was a break when we left where it happened (school, mostly, for most, is my guess). We were free for the afternoon and evening. There was time to recover, get support from friends or family, recharge, whatever was needed to face the next day. There was a stopping point. Now, however, with the omnipresence of social media, that break is gone. The bully is there all day, all night, and all the next day, and the next. Forever, or so it seems. When you can’t get away by leaving the space where it happens, you seek another escape, and sadly that is far too often found in suicide.
So, put these together – the innocent accused and the inability to escape the accusation. And the result is someone who is not, actually, racist acting like it. An ‘if you’re going to do the time, do the crime’ mentality.
So, the screechers who call all whites racist, all men sexist, and so on have created these monsters. And they are, in no small part, the root of the problem.
So what can we do? I would suggest we quit painting with the broadest possible brush. Every week or so, on Facebook, the old ‘be nice, people have issues’ thing recirculates. It has a point – if we tried just a bit of kindness, we might be shocked at how much better things went for us all. Being humane to someone doesn’t mean we endorse things we find offensive, it means we are enlightened enough to understand that the opinion can be separated from the person. Or it can’t, and contact is broken off. In neither case is insult required.
And if none of that resonates, how about this.
Outrage mobs need constant fuel. Either you are in the mob, or a target of the mob. And they always turn on themselves in time. We can be better. We must be better. If we don’t, we will destroy ourselves.