Racism and ethnic prejudice are best battled when humanity recognises that both are inherent in the flawed human personality

Just after Barack Obama was elected the first coloured president of the United States in 2008, this writer was friends with a belonger living in this territory. She was married to a Virgin Islander from a prominent family, with a socially popular son who was also a friend.

However, after that historic vote and the celebrations that followed in the Virgin Islands and the wider Caribbean at the election of a coloured US president, the lady appeared to have become very bitter for some inexplicable reason.

Shortly after that 2008 election, she began unfriending all the Obama fans on a relatively new social media platform called Facebook.

When this writer, who was also unfriended, met her in Road Town and asked her the reason, she gave some implausible assertion of her weariness of all the hype around a Barack Obama personality cult.

It was clear that her reasons ran deeper, and to this day the lady has discarded the many friends she once had. Previously, the woman was one of those animated and lively people it was always a pleasure to meet.


Social engagement

Now this writer has always believed that the best way to promote racial and ethnic harmony in any society is through social engagement with the dominant culture. The refusal by any ethnic or racial group to integrate with the dominant culture, which requires effort, will never lead to peace and harmony.

There is also the equal need for greater effort by the dominant culture to engage with migrant and minority cultures within a society.

And racial prejudice is natural. We all feel “more comfortable” with our own. However, that is also the basis for conflict. Racism is paradox. One should feel comfortable in one’s skin. However, this comfort can easily become discomfort with a different race.

And it is not a stretch to state that it is easy for the dominant culture to treat other cultures with dislike and impunity. And that is why it is imperative we step outside our racial and ethnic comfort zones and engage with others of a different colour and culture as the basis for good race relations.

In that endeavour, most have failed. That is why there is racial and ethnic unease everywhere, much as that may be denied.


1960 US

The US, for example, has gone back the 1960s in terms of its race relations. President Donald Trump is a divisive figure who is adept at using the dog whistle to stir up racism and white supremacy as an election tool.

The man has created a society where race hate is the norm. The murder of black youth and young men and women by white racist police has become a regular feature of US society. And the recent and gruesome murder of a young black man last month, which as a result of digital technology was very vividly available for anyone with access to digital media, horrified millions of people everywhere.

What was strange was the clear readiness of the crowd surrounding the scene of the murder to allow this very public lynching of a young black man. This was a brother, father and son. It was further relayed that the murderer was a strong supporter of Mr. Trump and was photographed smiling delightfully at one of the president’s “Make America Great Again” rallies.


Growing awareness

Although the US has become increasingly segregated and racist since the election of Mr. Trump, there is also a growing awareness that black America is going to have to become a lot more aggressive in its own self-defence if the racist murders continue.

There is talk of a black militia with armed black vigilantes patrolling black communities. That is clearly not the way to go. However, when young black men are being gunned down with impunity by racists, the anger that results is hard to eradicate.

The answer to stopping the ignorance and absurdity of racism is race and cultural engagement leading to better integration into the dominant social and cultural set.

Within borders, people of different races must come together and engage with each other in social, economic and political engagement.

When that does not happen, the tendency of human nature to withdraw into a racial and ethnic comfort zone is all too easy.

The result is racial and ethnic separation that leads to misunderstanding, ignorance and ultimately violence and conflict.

When people of different races, ethnicities and cultures make every effort to engage with one another and work together for a better society, the result is peace and love — not war and hate.


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