Racism, and Racist, are bad words. It’s not so much that they are meant to describe a nasty human trait, but that they are etymologically incorrect. (My wife opined, correctly I believe, that they’re political words.) Every human being is of the same race, that is, the human race, so it follows that the only racists are haters of humans, individuals like David Suzuki who has described humans as the Earth’s “maggots”. (Comically hypocritical coming from a guy who has five kids.)
The correct word is Other-ism, and we’re all potential Other-ists. We’re prone to looking at others and making judgments based on their “other” skin colour, clothing, ethnic origin, caste, tribe, weight, occupation, and anything else whereby we can identify them as being other and lesser than us, and therefore us being better than them. Other-ism is the root cause of bullying, unjustified discrimination, and indifference.
Other-ism lurks in every human heart, and left unchecked becomes part of our life and our culture. India is Possibly the most Other-ist nation on earth. in addition to all the standard Other-isms, divisions based on the caste system still exist, and why wouldn’t they? In Eastern religions, your situation, good or bad, is simply karma for your deeds in a previous incarnation. If you’re an Untouchable (Dalit) cleaning sewers, (pictured), that’s your lot in this life, and it’s your own fault.
In Africa, Other-ism is rampant. Other tribe, other social status, other rung on the upward mobility ladder, even other shade of brown. I was in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and had invited our driver from a previous trip, and his wife, to join me at my hotel for dinner. They were Aggrey and Anna Mponguliana, and during dinner we discovered that they, and Meritha and I, had been married the same year. The conversation turned to our courtships, and Anna revealed to me that Aggrey had paid 10 cows for her. Then she added, that if her skin had been lighter, Aggrey might have had to pay 20 cows. I suggested that Homo sapiens, which ironically means “wise humans”, should actually be called Homo stupidus, because while Africans and Asians go to great lengths to lighten their skin colour, Caucasians lie on the beach risking skin cancer to look more like Africans and Asians.
On every trip to Africa, I experienced Other-ism myself. I learned a few words of Swahili, and one of them was Mzungu, meaning white man, and many times in elevators and on the streets, it was pretty clear that the Mzungu was being dissed.
I once was told that aboriginal North Americans could not possibly be racist, (Other-ist) because they were themselves subjected to Other-ism. A few weeks later, a prominent aboriginal chief stated, publicly, that Hitler had not been unreasonable when he “fried 6 million Jews”.
Other-ism is found in every culture, but it’s solution is not to be found in legislation, nor in burning down your neighborhood. Rather, it’s in a change of perspective brought about by self-examination. Other-ism is rooted in PRIDE, and as CS Lewis said, pride is what turned Lucifer, an angel of light, into the Devil himself. Pride lurks in every human heart, and it’s in our individual hearts that solutions begin.
Almost everyone experiences Other-ism at some point in their life, and every one of us, without exception, is a potential Other-ist. Let’s begin solving Other-ism by ruthlessly rooting out the problem where it starts.
I’m Dave Reesor
Next blog; Tribalism; the good, the bad, and the ugly. And the stupid.
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