A possie in Aussie

January 11, 2009

Afraid of the dark?

Filed under: race relations — Nayano @ 2:27 pm
Tags: , , ,

In a post I published a few days ago, ‘Test your prejudices’, I quoted Nick Haslam (Online Opinion) who was arguing against the primacy of fear in the creation of prejudice.

When I reflect on my own prejudiced reactions (the ones that I am aware of, at least!) I reckon that fear was pretty much the driver. I remember the first time I met Sudanese migrants – a room full of very tall, very black men, whose language, although English, I could barely understand – and I felt deeply uncomfortable, and a deep and primitive part of me went on ‘alert’. Same situation for my first meeting with Hazara refugees: a room full of men who were, through looks and dress and language, unmistakably ‘other’ to me.

I was lucky enough to be conscious of these reactions in myself and know them for what they were, instead of denying them and letting them transmute into hate. I was also lucky to be in a position which required me to persist in meeting and getting to know these strangers. And my ‘luck’ continued because many of them are now dear friends.

I know that those first reactions of mine were based on nothing more than a primal fear reaction. (And a useful one at that, when we lived with sabre tooth tigers).

My work requires me to talk with people about new migrants, and I cannot remember anyone that I have spoken with who I would label as racist, but I have heard people’s fears. An employer who I visited to lobby for jobs for some Muslim men said ‘My workers are a happy and productive group – I wouldn’t like to put something into the mix that might upset that’. I didn’t hear ‘Islamophobia’ or racism, instead I heard a man afraid of jeopardising his business.

There is a spectrum of reactions to the ‘other’ that range from that gut level fear of the new and different, to fear of destabilising a family, a neighbourhood or a workplace, to the outspoken and outrageous ranting of members of hate groups. Members of xenophobic groups are probably the most fearful of all: fearful that their own fears will be revealed, and also afraid that, having found a ‘home’ of like-minded haters, that they will be ostracised if they recant.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] I received the email announcing about ‘Gimme Shelter’ this morning, and also an email from Avaaz.org  about their campaign for peace in Gaza. I have signed their petition, but I did not join the many demonstrators who protested against Israel’s actions last week. In fact, the demonstrations annoyed me. News outlets are claiming that more than 1000 have died in Gaza so far , but in the DRC an estimated 1,000 people are dying every day, and I have not seen one protest on the streets about this. Why so much clamour about Gaza, and not a whisper about the DRC? Let’s hope it’s not because the people of the DRC are black! […]

    Pingback by Affleck & Jagger: Gaza or Congo? « A possie in Aussie — January 16, 2009 @ 2:14 pm | Reply


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