Here we go again... after the controversies surrounding Rachel Dolezal and now the debates around Charleston shooting and its media treatment, I found my Facebook and Twitter feeds flooded by a plethora of articles and opinions all about the same things: structural racism; and how the media, politicians, the curriculum are rotten to the bone... However, I just wondered; how can we move forward when we do not suggest any solution?
I've observed among my friends two main types of activism: the one 'against,' the other 'for.' I believe there is a profound difference between them. Standing 'against' inequalities is different from standing "for" equality. Standing "against" hatred is different from standing 'for' love. I realized it even more when attended some conferences filled with an unspeakable anger, some presenters speaking as if they needed to spill their rage on everything they were 'against.' Then, I suddenly thought: although their accusations were objective and legitimate, what do we really want in the end?
When people define themselves negatively, by what they are not, by what they are against, all they see are items to be potentially rejected. They see more easily enemies than friends. They express more easily anger than empathy. They criticize more than finding solutions and believe that the world will improve by shaming and humiliating the culprits.
Let's push the logic to its ends: what if, after some uprising... or let's even boldly say: a revolution, people just remove all the people in the spheres of power. What will happen? Nothing. History can testify; did the removal of dictators and oppressive regimes made a huge difference? In most cases, they were simply replaced by new tyrants or some terrible chaos. Why so? Because removing the elites is not addressing the roots of the problem. When talking about structural racism, these are symptoms of a system which produces new elites with the same old patterns. This strategy is fighting the mythological hydra: remove the leaders, then a new generation will come.
Changing the world is possible if we think on the long run. Are we seeing further than our own generation? How will the children of the elites - those we like to blame - act towards the people who spent their lives blaming their parents? Experience shows that when people are feeling hurt, they instinctively tend to react with an equal amount of violence. Hatred only plants the seeds of hatred.
Indeed, minorities are victims of the remains of imperial, colonial, globalizing trends still well and alive. But here, paradoxically, victims become the new executioners: when blaming, for instance, all the US policemen for the deaths of black teenagers in America, they're having the very same mindset than the police system they blame: Identify, suspect and blacklist. By seeing the world in black and white, we are overlooking a humanity made of grey areas. By putting people into boxes, we are dehumanising the other.
There's an amazing case study with charities. I've studied many Muslim charities who offer services like soup kitchens for homeless people, educational support for students, or which set up alternative media. During their early days, they were targeted by intelligence services but what they did made the whole difference. By starting the dialogue, public services stopped perceiving Islam and Muslims as an abstract entity. Muslim became people whose name were Soufiane, Tony, Aya, Emmylie... Then, six years on, these charities are now receiving the full support of the city councils they depend on. Because not only they are providing an outstanding service to the neighbourhood, but they made a step towards social harmony.
Having a positive, compassionate, approach is turning 'faults' and 'mistakes' into gaps to fill and areas where to help. Changing the world is not seeing where you can criticize, harm, and destroy; it's rather finding where you can bring a solution. Ask yourself: what words can you say to improve what you disagree with? Let's think; how can we implement new solutions in the national curriculum? Why not mass mailing news outlets or politicians we disagree with? Let's congratulate them when they do the good job, let's mobilise in organisations, write to or discuss with our MPs, join campaigns, or workshops and talks at a grassroots level... Every spoken word counts.
It's very similar with love and divorce. When two people are in love, they mainly see the positive, and therefore there is room for improvement. When they're about to divorce, it's the opposite, they only see the negative. Therefore, the choice is in our hand; how do we define ourselves? As people who are against other people? Or as people of a same humanity, people part of the change? Are we divorcing humanity? Or are we loving it?