In the past couple of days I have seen an enormous amount of xenophobic, Islamophobic, racist comments on the Internet, from people like politicians trying to push their agendas, to teenagers with too much free time and no knowledge of history and geography. Normally I get angry and argue with people, trying to prove and show how wrong they are: how Muslims, people of colour and immigrants are humans as they are. How being an immigrant isn’t bad and migration is a natural process. However, I have reached a point in my life in which I’m genuinely tired. I’m tired of having to argue about the humanity of other people. I’m tired of having to argue about my humanity and right to migrate. I’m tired.
The terrorist attacks in Paris a few days ago were disgusting and horrific. However, it is time everyone stops pretending they are an excuse to not want refugees in their communities, to hate on Muslims and to close borders for migrants. They aren’t an excuse. If you think they are an excuse, go ahead and be bigoted. Call me “leftie”, call me “liberal”. I’m just educated. Educated enough to know that you can’t blame everyone from the same religion because of the actions of a few, and more when those few hurt “their” communities more than anyone else. ISIS has been terrorising Syria and Iraq for months. They are linked to a recent attack in Beirut too. Little concern I saw about this from all the suddenly “aware” people.
Muslims are the prime victims of this sort of terrorism, which has political goals rather than religious goals, just in case you didn’t know it. Muslims are also the main fighters against it. “Islamic” terrorism kills more non-Westerns than Westerns. Boko Haram is another good example. Millions of people have been displaced in Nigeria because of them. Thousands dead. All this in the last couple of years. Again, silence from the international community. And media isn’t even the blame. Media covers these events, trust me. People just ignore them. Because the headlines read “Nigeria”, “Syria” or “Iraq”. And let’s be honest: hardly anyone cares about Africa or Asia unless it is to be racist, to show how “good Samaritans” they are, to be a tourist, or to”invest” in their resources.
Another thing I would like to talk about is how people love to define what is terrorism and what isn’t. Terrorism is a threat to the world, yes. But “Islamic” terrorism is not the only type of terrorism that is an issue. Between 2009 and 2013, more than 55% of terrorist attacks in Europe were by ethno-nationalistic and separatist groups (Source: Europol). In 2014, separatist, anarchist and far left were the most common forms of terrorism in EU (Source: Europol). Moreover, attacks by far right and neonazi groups are currently on the rise. In Europe, in the last months, various refugee shelters have been intentionally burned down, many mosques have been attacked, anti-antisemitism has been proven far from gone and discriminatory attitudes towards immigrants and religious minorities keep being reported. In London, Islamophobic attacks increased by 70% between 2014 and 2015. Last month, there was a xenophobic attack in a school in Sweden in which two people died and another two were injured. In June 2015, a mass shooting driven by racist motives left eight people dead in an African-American church in USA, followed by various arsons in other African-American churches. However, these type of things aren’t called “terrorism” (they actually are!). They are just “hate crimes” and smalls efforts are made to tackle them at national or international scale. Because “racism just happens”, “it isn’t that serious” and “we have to live with it”. It is obvious that not all lives matter the same.
Furthermore, if you analyse carefully the current language of some Western politicians and media outlets when discussing migration and the present refugee crisis, you will find resemblances with genocidal language used by Nazis and by leaders of the Rwandan genocide. I’m not exaggerating. Research if you want. Jews escaping from persecution and smuggling into England or travelling to USA during and after the II World War were as demonised as current Middle Eastern and African refugees are. Politics of fear made tragedies like the Holocaust possible because everyone fed into them. And without doubt, nationalism and fascism are things that Europe hasn’t left behind. It is time everyone stops pretending just a few individuals are racist: we have a growing unaddressed problem. Because if we didn’t, politicians, governments and parties with a clear xenophobic ideologies wouldn’t be as followed, voted and popular as they are right now.
Racism is not only saying racial slurs and openly discriminating others. Racism is thinking you are inherently superior to others for no reason other than your race, nationality or ethnicity. Racism is thinking you shouldn’t allow people from a specific ethnic group in “your country” because you won’t be safe due to some “members” of that ethnic group being dangerous, like if your own ethnic group is perfect. Racism is automatically assuming brown people are terrorists and black people are criminals till “proven wrong”. It doesn’t matter if you make your opinion public or not. It doesn’t matter if you have black friends or not. It doesn’t matter if you donate to aid organisations in Africa. It doesn’t matter if you tell no one you agree with a xenophobic political party. You are still racist. You aren’t “saying it like this” by writing a rant on your Facebook about how Islam is evil and migrants come here to steal your jobs while simultaneously living off benefits (guess nothing is impossible!). You are just a bigot. An uneducated bigoted.
In particular, there is a problem with the complex superiority of Christians, white Europeans and white European descendants in terms of terrorism and crimes. Society can’t keep sweeping under the carpet hundreds of years of genocide and slavery in Africa, America and Asia, which was in great part justified with Christianity, while pretending imperialism didn’t have consequences or it doesn’t affect current issues. Great part of the wealth of some European countries is inheritance of colonialism. And this didn’t happen long ago. Most decolonisation movements (and all the independence wars in which thousands died) are more recent than the II World War, yet in Europe we don’t hold massive memorials to remember this. Despite being a fundamental part of the history of the continent, nobody likes to remember colonialism and most schools don’t even teach it properly. Why? Because nobody likes to be associated with that sort of crimes against humanity, and less when they didn’t participate in them. Think about this if you constantly blame 1.6-1.7 billion Muslims in the world of the actions of terrorist groups like ISIS.
Now, let’s be honest: we are all taught prejudice and stereotypes about other races, religions, nationalities and ethnicities. In our family, in school, through media, through books. Many of us have unconscious discriminatory thoughts and we think it is normal and ok. I admit I have my own toxic thoughts about others which I’m working to eradicate. Ignorance is innate but keeping it is a choice, and more if you live in a multi-cultural society or/and with access to the Internet. A part of growing up is developing critical and logical thinking abilities, to judge and analyse what we read, see or listen. These abilities are developed to be used in our daily lives, not to just pass exams and get jobs. Question what you read in newspapers and what you see in TV. Discuss controversial issues with others. Research about topics first before giving an opinion on them. Don’t just try to be intelligent: be wise too. Wisdom is important.
Identity isn’t a reason to discriminate negatively. Nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion…. These aren’t reasons to discriminate and make others seem inferior. We don’t live in a fair world. We don’t. Yet that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to make it fair. We live in a world primarily divided by identity and it is upsetting to see it. Power relations are set in such a way that systematic oppression of certain groups depending on class, gender, race, sexuality, age and others happen in all societies across the world. And I repeat, it is upsetting to see it. I don’t have much faith in the world when comes to this: I don’t think humans will be able to live in global peace any time soon. People don’t stop putting identity before humanity and people don’t want to let go their power. I hope I’m proven wrong at some point in my future life.
I have little more to say. I will conclude this post with something I learnt recently in one of my university modules.
As you may already know, identity is a social and historical construction. Our differences from others (race, religion, gender) shape our identity. How we see ourselves is all about how we see others. When we acquire a form of identity, we are separating ourselves from others identities. Because of this, dealing with identity based discrimination, like racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia, is not about others. Others don’t have to prove or show you they are humans as you are. If you are racist, the problem is not about the race you hate or dislike. If you are Islamophobic, the problem aren’t Muslims. If you are xenophobic, the problem aren’t foreigners. You are the problem. Muslims don’t have to apologise for what happened in Paris nor publicly condemn it for you to know that ISIS doesn’t represent them. YOU are the one who has to sit down and re-check your thoughts. Tackling identity based discrimination is about dealing with yourself. Why you feel superior? Why you think others are inherently bad or evil? From where does your privilege comes? From where do your discriminatory thoughts come? And for people who suffer from identity discrimination: stop explaining yourself, stop proving your humanity and stop apologising. You don’t have the fault.
Sharing my thoughts,