Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Help! I might be accidentally racist!


I love to blog, but my goodness, it’s the middle of Uni assignment time, so I pray you will forgive me, dear reader, that I am going to recount some interesting thoughts from a subject that I am just preparing for exams in. The subject was Global Migration Stories, and it was really a fascinating study of the movement of peoples across the globe since 1800, the reasons why people moved (some force, some by choice), and the impact that movement had on both the sending country and the receiving country.
During this subject we have had impressed upon us, with a high degree of enthusiasm, that there is no such thing as race; that the idea of race is merely a social construction, and that race has been the foundation for the insidious human practise of racism. What I found particularly interesting was the conundrum that developed as a result of these tutorial discussions: On the one hand it would appear that the idea of race has been a flow-on effect from Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection. An idea called ‘Social Darwinism’ evolved (no pun intended) that suggested the different peoples of the world as delineated by colour and physical features were different species. It further suggested that the effect of survival of the fittest would prevail and that the superior race would be the one left inhabiting the earth and being in control of civilisation. Unfortunately for me, the particular people group that embraced these ideas and consequently proceeded to colonise every land mass they found, were the British. There was a terribly arrogant supposition of superiority held by the British, and at this end of the historical discussion, I’m sitting there as the descendent of British settlers (or invaders depends on where you sit), and have had to bear the semester under the strident tones of those who decry the acts of racism that seem to be typically British.
Now while I squirmed as the representative of the despised colonial settlers, I was also aware that the Spanish, Portuguese and French also had a fair crack at ruling the world, and that brutal attacks on native peoples was not restricted to just the British. Be that as it may, let’s return to the foundation upon which all conquerors felt they had a right to invade, dislodge and even kill native people. The idea was that eventually these people, seen as less developed socially and intellectually, would simply die out and the fitter species would inherit the space and bring their brand of civilisation to bear. The worst part about this story was that the Christian Church didn’t seem to argue with this idea to any great extent. Here’s where the wheels fell off. Christians believe that God created all mankind equal – there is no race. There might be colour, culture and creed, but there is no race. This is proven biologically of course, and it should have always been obvious. But the idea of Evolution, and the following idea of survival of the fittest, had so infiltrated the modern world that the leaders of so-called Christian Nations allowed all sorts of atrocities to go on, not in the name of the word of God, but justified by a social theory.
There were gritty men of God who did stand up against some of the worst atrocities executed by White colonisers and slave traders. Men like William Wilberforce, who joined forces with others to take that ideal to task in parliament, and after a fight that lasted many years, managed to see slavery abolished.
But it occurred to me that things might have been very different if the church had stood up to the modern ideas that were being floated at the time Charles Darwin and company were gaining notoriety. Charles Darwin was making careful notes and charts of natural wonders such that all mankind could see how diverse and miraculous God’s creation was, but he suggested that God had nothing to do with it, and the whole world seemed to miss the miraculous nature of creation and grab hold of an idea that has undermined the foundations of faith. If faith in God, His word and love for people had been prominent in the Christian church at that time; if humility, kindness and grace had been being preached, I wonder if we would have seen some of the terrible atrocities that are now part of history with regard to the way white colonial governments treated native inhabitants.
But unfortunately, it is only now a matter for speculation and regret. I suppose from here on in, we should submit our hearts to God and allow the humility and grace that is ours through Christ and the Holy Spirit, to be our motivating force when relating to people of different cultures and ethnic groups. There is no room for racism, but a word of warning to the zealots – I detected a distinctly anti-white-British and American tone seeping through in a number of discussions this term. While they may have been largely at fault in the last couple hundred years, they are also human, or should I say, we are also human. Perhaps not yet, but there is the potential for the door to swing both ways.
I hope I pass the exam.
Meredith Resce
Author of drama romance novels including: Cora Villa; Mellington Hall; For All Time
Available as e-books from:
http://tinyurl.com/nj4cvdq




9 comments:

  1. Great post Meredith. I found it very interesting. Yes, the British, the Dutch and the Portuguese invaded and ruled for many centuries in my native Sri Lanka! And now we are undergoing lots of difficulties through our history of being ruled by other nations. Not something to boast about, sad to say.

    One positive effect of it though is that we were introduced to English, a language I love. So while countries which were ruled by others have had much strife once they left - a cause for raised eyebrows - there is the other side of it - that we could have connections with the rest of the world through our British heritage! :)

    I agree that it is very sad the church didn't stand up for our Christian beliefs. Thankfully it is not too late. We can turn the tide even now!

    Thanks for sharing Meredith - it was very informative and encouraging. I will award you with an A for it if you like! :)
    Blessings,
    Anusha

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  2. This whole racism issue is very interesting indeed. When I was at uni we had an Aboriginal lecturer for one of our law subjects who was so overtly racist against us "white" people that enough complaints were lodged to have this person deposed :)
    Wish everyone could have the Christian attitude of valuing every other person as God's unique creation. Wish you the best for your exam!!!

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  3. Hi Meredith

    I can only agree with you about the terrible impact social Darwinism had on fueling racism (and also other movements like eugenics, Nazism and even communism - and the resultant forced sterilizations and killings of millions that resulted). Racism and colonialism was present before Darwin published his Origin of the Species (in 1859) - influenced by the Deist's idea of "The Great Chain of Being", the drive to make a profit (the worship of Mammon - as in John Company & Jan Company)as well as the natural ethnocentrism that is present in all cultures. Social Darwinism gave racism scientific justification and made it even more extreme.

    I also agree that by singling out one group as "racist" tends itself towards racism. One only has to look at what is happening in West Papua (Irian Jaya) or with tribal groups in other areas to realize that racism is not confined to Europeans or the Brits (or the Aussies).

    I love the biblical picture that we are all ultimately descended from the same parents, that all made in God's image and that as Paul says we are "one blood" and we look forward to the multicultural celebration before the throne of God - when people of every tongue and people group will worship him in love, freedom and truth.

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  4. A very thought-provoking post Meredith. I find it can also be difficult to walk the politically correct line sometimes, while staying true to Biblical principles. I had a friend once who did a theological degree at a liberal American seminary that had strong feminist leanings and he came out the other end feeling that he had to apologise for being a white male. It turned him off Christianity rather than inspiring his faith. A great case of "what would Jesus do?". As an aside, I teach social psychology and it just so happened that the last lecture yesterday was on prejudice and discrimination. We talked about a lot of things - Stolen Generations and the national apology, as well as discrimination based age, gender, sexuality, religion and disability. Numbers always drop off by the end of the semester because so much material is available online. When I got to the tutorial after the lecture, the only attendees were two Muslim girls. They were smiling at me by the end, so it must have worked out okay, but an interesting situation to be in. Hope you breeze the exam.

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  5. On another note, while the wrongs of British (and other European) colonialists powers are often highlighted today (rightly so) - what is often glossed over is many of that contributions made. I think Vishal Mangalwadi is an interesting thinker in that subject - in his books Truth and Transformation http://www.amazon.com/Truth-Transformation-Manifesto-Ailing-Nations/dp/1576585123 and The Book that Made the World http://www.amazon.com/Book-that-Made-Your-World/dp/1595555455.

    Thanks for a great post Meredith - some really good thoughts :)

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  6. When I was at Sovereign Hill recently, we attended a mock anti-Chinese rally in the theatre. The actors spent a lot of time before their act explaining that their stances represented attitudes prevalent at the time (which was the same time period you mentioned above, Meredith), but I still felt really horrible and awkward sitting there when some Chinese tourists walked in once it was already underway. I wished they'd heard the disclaimers at the beginning. I also couldn't help feeling how convincing the main speakers would have sounded to listeners of their day, and wondered how we would have taken it.
    Hope you do well in the exam :)

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  7. Wnderful post and great comments above. You're sure to pass with with an A, Meredith.

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  8. I enjoyed your post, Meredith, because I have been confused lately over what is our Aussie Larrikin culture and what is racism. In our culture we are big on nicknames - a lot of the time relating to where our families have come from. These names could be classed as racist, or bullying, but during war time these same men who gave these nicknames all fought and died for each other, with no sense of racism at all. So I have to wonder where our cultural tendencies fit in to the racist debate. I must say that I really don't know.

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  9. Massive post Meridith!

    I will keep my reply simple: As soon as people turn away from what Jesus was and behave in opposition things don't operate as God intended. Jesus lived within the custom laws of the day but demonstrated no division in race and opposed man-made religion. This was our example.

    You also said an unassuming key thing: through Jesus AND the Holy Spirit. Spirit-led decision is God inspired and soul-led resolution can be in opposition. We need to see people through God's eyes not through race, colour or any other dividing factor.

    Blessings,
    Kayleen

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