October 02, 2006

Responding to Racism

Gary Younge today in the Guardian wants us to have a sensible conversation about race. The problem with Mr Younge's article is that he concentrates on one part of the problem- the racism of poor Whites and just denounces- he isn't interested in analysing why some white people turn to racism and some Muslims turn to Fundamentalism. He might reply to me that his article is meant to redress a balance and convey the truth that there are white racists as well as Muslims and that whites have something to apologise for. He is right- but there needs to be a follow up article.

There are two constructive ways to reply to racist whites or racist Muslims. The first is to perform the role that say Amartya Sen has done and spread understanding of a foreign culture- it isn't neccessary in Sen's world to view India as spiritual and exotic, the land of Bollywood and Brahmins, because Sen provides another Argumentative Indian. Such an article would talk about the long traditions of learning in Islam, the long traditions of toleration and thoughtfulness, the simularity of the best parts of Islamic culture to the best parts of Hindu, Christian, Jewish and other cultures and the way that cultures have interracted throughout history.

The second is to analyse what causes white and Muslim and any other racism. Analysis of the circumstances on poor council estates where groups are encouraged to compete with each other for resources. The creation of communities with community leaders who compete with each other for attention and seek to represent communities- a daft idea if there ever was one for reducing racism. Analysis of the growth in faith schools which also leads to the division of communities. Analysis of all the trends in our society that lead to the regarding of an individual as solely important through their racial, cultural or religious identity and not through their identity as a rational thinking individual.

Consequently though Mr Younge is right, we do need to go further- in order to deal with this problem we need to educate people about the cultures they don't share and work out why they refuse this education- only education and analysis will heal the divisions that Mr Younge chronicles.