It is common and not at all unreasonable to talk of racism being largely a result of resentment and personal failures. We’ve been cultured, (again not unreasonably) to see racists as lower-class, poorly educated and with the resulting poor life outcomes. So racism is not seen as rational but an irrational projection of one’s personal failure on to another (often weaker) group.
Now, before I go any further, I want to make the definition of racism clear as a prejudice to an entire race based totally on the race. I’m leaving aside the extremely elastic and incoherent definition we have today. I’m also leaving aside why emotionally mature, educated and successful people are also called “racist” for the purposes of this post.
As I said, this definition makes sense because it’s often readily observable. Prejudice and hatred outside of racism often springs from resentment and jealousy towards more successful people as well as socially weaker groups that can be used as scapegoats. I’ve been guilty of jealousy and resentment and I’m sure most people have at one time or another and for one reason or another. It is a poisonous way to think even in brief moments of weakness and certainly a terrible way to focus your thought, word and deed.
Shortly after the attacks in France last year, I overheard someone commenting on the terrorist act and making the usual excuses, mentioning the Western bombing of Syria. The language can be simplified as, “well yes, they committed a horrible act but it was because were angry and marginalised by the attacks on Syria.” You can fill the same sentence in with “US foreign policy”, “Israel” and a few other nouns and phrases. But it is a common thing to hear from those on the left and I’ll leave my contemptuous feelings for people who think like this aside.
Now both the Islamic terrorist and the poorly-educated racist share more or less the same mindset. The former is more zealous and deadly and the latter is often weak and impotent. The former is the object of sympathy from the political left and the latter is the object of scorn. Without derailing this post, I’ll leave aside whether or not the lethal nature of the former has any bearing on this different attitude. But I’m sure we could all agree that unless you’re a true believer in the righteousness of either party’s prejudices, that these things are both wrong and ideally should be reduced in society?
Using the rhetoric that the left uses with regard to foreign policy in the Middle East (views which I’m actually quite sympathetic to): shouldn’t we be doing as much as possible to reduce what ferments terrorism in the Middle East? Equally, shouldn’t we be doing the same to address racism in society?
Once again, before going further, I want to clarify that I’m taking the simplest explanations for both as a working rule. I’m leaving the nature of Islam aside and accepting the generally accepted reasons that assume Islam to be otherwise harmless. Anyone with even a slight knowledge of the religion knows better but it works for where I’m going with this. I’m also leaving out crime, housing affordability and schooling out with the latter. They don’t change the general point I want to make here.
So to reduce the conditions that make terrorism more likely, the West and more specifically, the United States should keep out of Middle Eastern affairs. The West should in fact have been keeping out of Middle Eastern affairs since the Suez crisis. The West should also have a much more neutral relationship with Israel, (again leaving aside why it might be more reasonable to have a strong relationship).
So too with addressing racism, should not the causes of it be reduced? If poorly educated men are not in competition with more desperate and exploitable foreign populations, would not their excuses for racism evaporate? If the only thing in the way of their success was their own effort, would racism of any kind be a possibility? Who would there be to resent and hate if their failures were their own? And as a side, wouldn’t reducing immigrants from one region in particular have the additional effect of reducing the likelihood of a terrorist attack?
I generally compete for jobs and positions with people from the same ethnic background and social class as myself. I have no reason to know these prejudices and can fairly class myself as a neutral observer. Being a neutral observer though, I do observe and have had enough interaction with these classes to see that immigration policies are having this effect. They are also moving up the economic ladder. What is true is that racial prejudice was and still is, as avoidable as Islamic terrorism was. The question with both issues, is will something be done about it, or will we continue the same failed foreign and domestic policies while expecting things to get better? I’m betting the latter.