Monday, February 25, 2013

Some Of My Thoughts On Racism

I hope this is not too heavy for a Monday morning, but here goes...

I was driving with a friend some years ago when I absently commented about a lady walking up ahead, noting by her gait, "I think she is Asian,"  which indeed we saw, as we passed, that she was.

"That's racist,"  said my friend, which left me quite gobsmacked - partly from the accusation, and partly from her seeming implication that correctly identifying a physical characteristic as peculiar to Asian people in any way discredited that race. Was she inferring that being identified as Asian was somehow an insult?  'How insulting is that?' I wondered. Would it have been considered offensive if I had guessed that the woman up ahead was a ballet dancer, or a body builder, or an Australian?  Hmmn...


My own personal definition of racism is this: to think that any one person or people is better than another, only by virtue of their race or culture.  I don't believe that.  I believe that every individual born possesses great intrinsic worth, just as much as another, regardless of race or colour.

I do believe that there are many differences between races and cultures however, (just as there are often distinct characteristics within families).   Obvious differences include skin colour, hair type and colour, body shape and type, facial characteristics, language, often talents and abilities, and even ways of thinking about and interpreting the world.


It seems to me, (and obviously I'm speaking very generally here), that the Germans I have known tended to be  focused and creative, have good body strength, are thrifty, orderly, and often somewhat detached in manner.  Italians, Greeks and Mexicans seems much more passionate and involved.  Indian people are frequently intelligent, naturally joyful, and voluble.  The Australian aboriginals I have known have been very shy, but full of laughter and fun when among their own people.  The Papua New Guinean people we lived among for four years often had a lot of difficulty in understanding Western values like the importance of time, or order.  (Likewise, put me in the PNG jungle and I know that I would be looking more than a little dim-witted..)  I also found the PNG people to be proud, cheerful, exceedingly generous and loyal, short in stature and amazingly well-muscled.   All the Dutch people I have met seem to be good-looking.  I find the Kalahari Bushmen quite beautiful, men and women.  African-Americans seem to have unusually good voices and rhythm, and innate great musculature.   The Chinese people I have known tended to be intelligent, dedicated, somewhat inscrutable, and hard-working.  I think Australians are generally independent, resourceful, open and frank, sometimes to the point of tactlessness, casual, hospitable and friendly.  You get the idea.  Of course these generalizations are in no way comprehensive, and in no way apply, or are even close to applying to every individual.  Even so, specific patterns of DNA added to unique and shared physical, spiritual, cultural, social and historical experiences within races and cultures inevitably produce noticeable characteristics that are, if not defining, at least clearly identifiable.  

(Cultural and racial characteristics are also liable to change, especially as we are influenced by other cultures through immigration and education.)

I love these differences!  I'm so glad that we are not all the same!  I find these differences interesting and engaging and that they inform and enlarge and enrich my understanding of humanity and life.  I am happy to note them because I consider them to be very positive.


It frustrates me when people try to pretend that we are all exactly the same, when clearly we are not - when we are enjoined to be 'colour-blind', for instance.  What, I ask, is so very terrible about the differences in our skin colour, for instance, that we are supposed to not even acknowledge them?  If we embrace and enjoy our diversity, how can it be an insult to note, or even highlight it?

How can it be wrong to call a spade a spade?  

To answer my own question: perhaps it's wrong only if you have something against spades.  And that's what I see as racism.  If to call someone a spade is seen as complimentary, there would be few to complain of the appellation.  The difficulty exists not in the appellation but in the negative connotation that is sometimes assumed: the name of which, it seems to me, is racism.  

One of the worst consequences of refusing to acknowledge the differences among us, (or in applying a racist attitude to them), is that we can fail to appreciate the beauty, richness and magnificence of those differences.   I think that's sad.  It surely takes nothing away from the English when we describe the French as being notable for their cuisine, and nothing away from the French to note that the English are noted horticulturalists.   Differences are at their most useful and exciting when they are complementary.  Isn't this true of most relationships?

To conclude: Unquestionably, our similarities are greater than our differences.  I believe that both can and ought to be acknowledged, accepted, appreciated and celebrated! 

What do you think?



  1. I agree with you when you say that there is nothing wrong in distinguishing people from different races. Everyone should be proud of who we are and our origin!
    I guess the true virtue is to come together in all these differences and stand united as humans!

  2. I think it says something about the person accusing you of racism, actually. No one would say you were racist if you guessed I was Australian, but because you guessed someone was Asian then you are? Personally, I think it's only racist if you base the assumption on a derogatory stereotype.

    1. Thank you Kellie,that was exactly the point I was making :)

  3. I only just saw this post. I love it! I really have no patience for racism or people who seem to think they are better than others based on race or culture. I think it's horrible and completely arrogant (harsh words, but true! :P)
    I wholeheartedly agree that it's good to recognise we're all different and that noticing those differences is not a negative thing. I'm glad to say that I enjoy meeting and being friends with all sorts of people and at the same time I'm not ashamed to be Australian and different too :)
    It all comes down to attitude.