Two sides of the coin

One of the problems that arises any time the topic of racism and race are brought up in conversation is just how divisive the conversation usually is, and how each party is portrayed by the other. Unfortunately it seems that every time the two opposing sides meet in the streets, violence and assaults seem to follow. While it certainly is understandable why each side would react so poorly to each other, one side recognises the dangers posed by racist and xenophobic attitudes and reacts to prevent more harm while the other sees only resistance, often violent opposition, to ideas and beliefs they hold, however incorrect they may be.

As both sides have seen defending themselves and their beliefs as the only way forward, misunderstandings and violence are sadly simply an inevitable outcome of every meeting between the two. This is not to take from the amazing efforts of those who bravely take the streets to show support for their neighbours regardless of heritage or skin complexion, certainly presenting a united front against the ugly face of racism is needed to show both those suffering from its devastating effects and those perpetrating the damage that such antiquated views have no place in our society.

That being said, fighting in the streets and violence in general, is not the right way towards eliminating racism and xenophobia. Unfortunately, it seems to hold true that violence and attacks only strengthen a person’s resolve and further isolate them from the community, an isolation that only continues to breed ignorance and hatred.

So if meeting them with force is not the way, what is the correct path towards a better society, one that no longer views heritage, perceived nationality, ethnicity, or skin complexion as indicators of a person’s individual worth?

Taking the time to understand the other side

Fortunately the path towards a better society requires something that many of us exhibit in droves, acceptance and understanding. Those two elements combined with an open dialogue allow those who harbour false beliefs and racist attitudes to move beyond their wrongly held ideals and re-join society without isolation. Only by welcoming people who have not had the opportunity to fully educate themselves about matters and issues of race, can the ugliness of racism be truly stopped.

Acceptance begins with understanding, without judgement, so let’s take a hard look at what causes many people to hold incorrect beliefs and continue in their fight to prevent every person from being treated equally.

Nationalism and pride weaponised

For many of those who propagate false beliefs about race and ethnicity, their pride in their own country and people is just as strong and fervent as their misgivings towards others unlike themselves. This is mainly to do with simply not knowing any better, as unfortunately many of these people, in all seriousness, have not really engaged with the groups they hate, thoroughly enough to realise the folly of their beliefs.

Though, at the same time their pride and fear have been weaponised by community leaders, business people, and even individuals within the government. Capitalising on their fear and isolation, these people stoke their fears while simultaneously rallying around national pride.

As recent crisis and setbacks have hit everyone across the world hard, those who utilise nationalism for their own benefit have taken advantage of the situation to make an incorrect correlation between much of the current problems facing society, influx in crime rates and sexual assaults, abject poverty, and job loss, with people migrating to the country. Playing on people’s fear of the unknown but wrapping it in the more palatable container of national pride, these individuals are able to turn otherwise normal and civil people into unfortunate racists and bigots.

To understand how this is possible, takes the same level of understanding that we ask from others, we must look at the nation and world as they see it. Unfortunately as much of the world changes to eschew the Euro-centric Aryan social structures that have been in place for so long, the people that feel the effects strongest are those that may not understand the reasoning behind it. Rather than seeing it as a step towards progress, a growing pain of sorts on our journey towards equality, they see only the fall out of the loss of such structures.

Flipping the conversation so they don’t have to choose between pride in your home and welcoming your neighbours

Understanding where these points of view come from and how one can hold them is the first part of moving them towards acceptance of all people, regardless of colour or ethnicity. The next step is showing them that while it certainly acceptable to have pride in your country and express nationalism to an extent, broadening those concepts to include everyone that calls the UK home is the only way to safely hold such ideals.