The issue of racism is not black or white, literally.
In today’s world, racism can be subtle. You can feel it, yet can’t quite describe it. That’s why anti-racism protests and demonstrations will fall short if we fail to explain what real change looks like clearly.
I am pretty sure the answer that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, blacks, migrants, Muslims and those from culturally diverse backgrounds are after is — respect. Respect for their life and culture.
But how do you make someone respect you? Even if you do succeed, how do you recognise the rights of one section of people more, without treating them differently?
Now, isn’t that still racism in a bewildered way?
It is vital to acknowledge that humans are irrational and profoundly biased by nature. It’s futile pretending it’s not because you wouldn’t be human without your irrationality and instead be a programmed machine with no preferences, no love and no artistic sense.
Then, how do you get out of your brain’s inherent messy prejudice and be part of a progressive fair society?
Before one can set about achieving this, one needs to look both ways — first within and then outwards.
No human is born with racist ideologies. People build their opinions over time and are influenced by trusted external sources, for example, what your parents, peers, society and the media say about other people. (Yes! I just said you believe the media.)
Because humans unwittingly believe anything that is repeated over and over to them, and these learned world views ain’t going to disappear overnight.
On the bright side, the human mind is more like Play-Doh than a stubborn rock. It moulds its shape to external stimuli. So, surround yourself with fair, tolerant people and it is sure to rub off on you; but if you live amidst arseholes, guess how you will smell.
Be mindful of your own biases and thought patterns; as we are the product of our thoughts, and our actions do impact others.
How one acts or treats others in ‘a moment’ is influenced by these biases that dwell in our subconscious.
The best way to openly respect and accept other people as they are is by knowing more about them, their culture and values. Often it is the fear of the unknown, that causes intolerance towards others.
As much as we may want things to change right now, it’s not going to happen. Real change takes time; often several decades.
Understand that we have come a long way. We have made significant progress; the efforts humanity has put in the past has indeed paid dividends. The very fact that we can protest and say what we feel is a testimony for that.
But yes, we are not there yet, and more progress is needed.
What does real change look like?
To me, it looks something like this.
A society where all individuals can look, dress, eat, talk and practise their chosen faith without anyone feeling insecure, improved interaction and sharing of cultures and always displaying diverse cultural groups in a positive light.
Consistent effort over a prolonged period is required for real change if not like a polar bear cub slipping further down a glacier, struggling to inch its way up again. The fight against racism will take even longer to get on top.
Let’s keep striving because change is most profound at the individual level; the nation is a mere mirage.