It’s been some time since we have last reflected on “Emotional Scars: Breaking the Stigma”. Having last reflected upon the theme “depression”, I thought today I would swiftly move into “Racism”. Unfortunately, we still live in a world and society dominated by this ‘stigma’, because, somehow, people still cannot live well and respect differences! Most human beings cannot fathom how enriching difference and diversity is, how it makes us mature in many aspects and how it gives us a larger perspective on life. Nowadays, we are confronted by all kinds of discrimination, however, this landmine seems to be very well camouflaged. Prejudice exists because of various factors (a quick and premature judgement of something unknown to us and that we do not care to know about, a judgement biased on a previous negative experience where we generalise a whole reality based on that, or simply because of a groundless and unjustifiable hate), however, none of these ‘reasons’ justify the existence of any prejudice! Prejudice makes us raise barriers of ignorance and inevitably become consumed by feelings of pride, arrogance, pretension and the feeling of superiority in relation to others and fear and incapability of confronting the other side of the ‘world’! Even though the theme “Discrimination” calls for many discussions, today we will focus on Racial prejudice.
In a general way, people think that racism is only the discrimination of a certain skin colour, however, this is a bit of a myth. This stigma deals with racial, cultural, religious and xenophobic discrimination! I could simply talk about racism and cite a few facts about it, but I thought it would be more opportune to give you some recent and relevant examples of its effect on our society.
DISCLAIMER – Before I get started, I would like to emphasise that this reflection is a result of my opinions about this theme, without any pretention of forcing you to agree or share the same perspective I have. I hope you respect my subjectivity/my truth because each one of us has our own version of the truth.
Grenfell Tower Fire
Around 1 o’clock in the morning of the 14h of June, the world witnessed one of the biggest and most devastating fires that will definitely mark Britain’s history. Grenfell Tower, a ‘social’ building, of 27 floors, was consumed by unending flames that victimised, to this moment, 79 people. Even with the efforts of more than 200 firefighters, the building was reduced to nothing more than a carcass.
Later on, reports of inappropriate materials being used in the reconstruction of the building, of inappropriate cladding being used around its whole structure, and of a racist landlord arise in the media and cause an uproar. Residents of the area, as well as other supporters, demand answers and justice for the victims of a government that prioritises the well-being and safety of the rich, and neglect those that due to uncontrollable situations of life, are not fortunate enough and have to live with the little they have.
This tragedy shocked England and the world, and made us question: if the residents of this Tower belonged to a certain social status, or if they were from a different race (98% of the victims cited in every news outlets, were either Arab, Muslim or African), would there not be a careful attention to the repair of certain faults in the construction and reconstruction of this building?
Finsbury Park Mosque Attack
Last Monday, on the night of the 19th of June, Darren Osborne, a 47-year-old, ran over 12 people in front of a Muslim mosque. The worshipers, that were praying inside the mosque as part of their Ramadan calendar, were surprised by the van, driven by Osborne, at the exit of the Finsbury Park mosque. One person has died, 9 injured were treated at a nearby hospital, and 2 others were treated at the scene by local emergency units. As he was getting out of the van, the assassin was detained by passers-by that had already called the authorities. While detained at the crime scene, witnesses retell Osborne’s disturbing yelling, confirming his intentions of “killing all Muslims”.
This situation is a clear evidence of a prejudice created by a groundless hate and “justified” by a pre-judgment against a race and religion. We live in a society where more and more we associate the Islamic faith and the Muslim culture with an extremism and an unjustifiable and universally unforgiven terrorism.
Unfortunately, even some fundamentalist so called Christians, do not respect the Islamic faith, ignoring one of the biggest and most important commandments of the Bible: “Love your neighbour as yourself”. God does not ask us to share the same faith, however He does tell us to treat them with love and respect. This attitude would surely put an end to the prejudice/racism some Christians manifest against the Muslim race.
Portugal’s Pedrógão Grande Fire
“It was a road like many others in Portugal. In the past Saturday, the national highway 236-1 became the “death road”.”
“The fire of Pedrógão Grande has killed 64 people and has left more than 200 injured. It is the deadliest fire in Portugal’s history. It consumed dozens of thousands of hectares and has placed the country in most media outlets around the world, for the worst motives”.
After an intense investigation to the possible fails or lapses happened at the time of the fire, the news were swarmed with reports that attested to the broken communication systems used between the firefighters and their bases, to the use of non-resistant equipment, and the lapses in the evacuation of the population, that later on was speculated to have become a trap that increased the death toll drastically.
Why were the air forces not called to the scene, knowing the devastating reach of the fire? Why were the alarms not working? Why do the volunteer firefighters have to work in such precarious conditions, due to the lack of structure that would allow them to perform their jobs in safety, not having to end up risking their lives sometimes unnecessarily?! The equipment used was not adequate, did not have the functionality needed, and was obviously not modern or efficient to settle such a voracious and cruel fire that had unleashed itself in Pedrógão Grande, and later in Góis! If “they” had invested the countries financial resources into creating a proper infrastructure, updated and functional to the association of volunteer firefighters across the country, especially in the centre, would there have been as many deaths? Would hundreds of people have lost their belongings and assets, their lifetime savings, or the savings earned by the small businesses created by entrepreneurs, hard working people that try to make do despite the crisis that reigns in Portugal? Would this fire have victimised so many people, and thrown so many others into pure misery?
What perspective of the future will these people that have “rolled up their sleeves” and have always fought bravely against contrary economic circumstances but still were defrauded have? Certainly, this would not have happened if it had happened in an area or sector where luxury and money reigns! Is this not another example of racism: the social inequality and the inequality of opportunities and financial resources?
After analysing these three examples, we can safely say that Racism presents itself sometimes in a rambunctious way, as we could analyse in the Finsbury Park tragedy; other times, it manifests itself in a situation that at first appeared uncontrollable, but later unmasks an arrogance and alleged racial superiority, as we have read in the Grenfell Tower fire; but we can also verify with the deadly fire in Pedrógão Grande, that sometimes racism is not about racial inequality, but also cultural and social prejudice, that ends up victimising this society’s “outcasts”.