By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
How do we hold people accountable for their racist actions? Perhaps we can’t. Perhaps their racist actions are justified.
Everyone is a little racist. It doesn’t matter if you belong to a race with privilege or one without; you are a little racist. The thing is, racism doesn’t always come out as hate, very often the solidarity we exhume is an act of boorish racism—sure, it’s not oppression or violence, but acting like a whole coloured community needs your help is a brand of arrogance that sits on one end of the spectrum. I’m not calling you a racist, but I’m saying that if you are, that’s okay.
Sometimes I wonder why there is that divide. Why one brand of people is so intolerant and the other, so righteous. Perhaps it’s the old way of thinking versus the new way of thinking.
I grew up in a conservative Chinese family. My whole life I felt ashamed of the things my parents would say in Cantonese—out in public. They aren’t bad people. They don’t have an AK47 or a diabolical plan for genocide. They just don’t know too many people of different ethnicities, and those they do know have a history of taking advantage of them because they weren’t as well-versed in their “new” country. They see, they feel, they act—just like we all do.
I don’t blame my parents for their behaviour. They have the freedom to say whatever they want and they aren’t hurting anybody. So how can I blame other people for acting the same way?
The majority of my friends are Caucasians. In a way, I’m the token. I think they forget that I’m of a different race most of the time, which is why they are my friends. They rarely call me out and make me feel awkward (but they still do… rarely). However, now and then I catch them in a conversation where the topic falls upon race. I tend to sit back and watch them interact: talking, debating, and agreeing on what is a racist act and what isn’t. I wonder if white supremacists do the same thing but on a different scale. If that’s the case, don’t we all just create our own cultural norm?
If we look at racism not as a thing to eliminate but as a thing to be accountable for, I believe we would live in a more peaceful world. We don’t like everyone, and that’s fine. To not like someone because of his or her race is okay. To not like someone because of their weight, gender, and other factors they can’t control is okay. But own up to it, own up to being an imperfect, shallow person. And allow other people to make the same judgement about you.
We can never know what it feels like to be a different person with different challenges and upbringings. While you may want to call people out for being racist, your actions aren’t as justified as you think. You’ve happened to pick a side, just like how they did. Being tolerant of people means accepting that some people won’t see the world the way you do.
People have the freedom to be racist just like how you have the freedom to be righteous. If we start pulling freedom away from a group of people because they have a different belief, is that not oppression?
One day I hope to be in a room with a group of friends of all colours talking about what racism is to them. I hope, then, we can still all agree.