When we bring up the topic of racism in modern society within the UK, there is usually one of two responses elicited. One of dismissal, usually making light of the very real situation faced by many people across the nation, or one of personal stories gained from facing racism during daily routines.
This is important to note, as both groups are speaking about the same experience, though both from very separate viewpoints. One would be hard pressed to find a better example to illustrate the deep divide and disconnection many people have when confronted with racism.
For some racism is a world unknown to themselves
Before we move to critique the first group for their unawareness, let’s take a moment to confront the reasoning behind that viewpoint. For those expressing it, generally are not oblivious to the presence of racism, certainly most could distinguish the act of discrimination when coming face to face with it, nor are they willingly overlooking an aspect of life that many people know all too well. Instead perhaps let’s take a moment to see the idea of racism from their point of view.
As they are not actively engaged in the same experiences a person facing racist behaviour might face on a regular basis, the reality of racism is much less apparent. Being less apparent it is seemingly less of a problem than it is in reality. Though this may hold true, it is no way condoning the lack of awareness, merely trying to understand where that point of view may come from, as expressing understanding is the only way racism will finally be truly addressed, understanding expressed in both directions.
For those that deal with racism
Though it may seem less of a problem to those who are not actively facing racism on a daily basis, the sad reality is that racism is still very much prevalent in society, not only in routine everyday life but well within the actual institutions that hold up society.
For those facing the sad fact of racism it can be a bit bewildering to have others not only dismiss your legitimate claim of discrimination but actively diminish awareness of the problem completely, which is the only outcome when people push forth ideas that racism has become a non-issue of sorts or that society has moved beyond it.
Moving forward together as allies
This disconnect between the two very real worlds people face every day simply comes from lack of exposure, though this is enforced and made to be worse as many people are simply unwillingly to believe that racism is very much a problem.
So how does one make it apparent to others that racism must be properly addressed in the open as a serious threat to our civil society if they are unable to see it? More so, how does one make themselves open up to accepting that idea if they cannot see it within their own lives?
While the first one is a bit harder to go about, changing the minds of any group of people is a task on par with fitting a camel through a eye of a needle at times, the second takes nothing more than a simple willingness to understand that the world exists beyond that of which you experience.
This change in thought aligns perfectly with what it means to be a true ally to not only victims of racism, but any marginalised voice or group.
By being open to the idea that although you may not see it or experience it, it still exists, everyone can begin to position themselves beside those in our society that need the most help.
So rather than challenging others to see the world exactly as we see it, which sadly is not possible, teaching others to be open to accepting the world exists beyond their own experiences is the first step towards creating a more conducive environment for moving beyond racism.
Though this may be easier said than done, because similar to changing minds, opening people to new ideas, for as foolish as it may come across, is rather difficult in its own right.
Difficult though as it may be, it is something we need to challenge ourselves and others to do as we move forward towards a society that is more inclusive and accepting of everyone regardless of pigmentation of skin, or perceived nationality of heritage.
So the next time you find yourself thinking ‘but I don’t see it’, challenge yourself to see the world beyond your own experience.