In a couple of areas related to the somewhat insipid word ‘diversity’, we are facing an unusual and perhaps unpredicted problem. It seems to me that as certain issues have been raised to ‘public awareness’, they’ve actually sunk of the radar.
Everyone knows about racism, sexism and religious intolerance. These are things we have got past, surely? Everyone’s part of one great United Colours of Happy, right?
Obviously not. The need for the question shows that.
Things got better. People campaigned. Love music, hate racism, etc, burnt bras, marches.
Hell, the equalities act DID just get passed recently, and it has some huge steps forward in it. From a legislative point of view things are better.
But legislation isn’t the driving force behind our culture.
I’m not quite sure what is, but if it’s the papers, we’re fucked.
Islamophobia and xenophobia are rife again. Attitudes to immigration feel positively medieval. Racist jokes thrive under the cover of irony. Sexism seems to be having a retro revival.
I have no idea why it is all happening. I can kind of see the processes involved, this ‘othering’ process, by which you solidify your own identity in opposition to something that ‘you’ are not. You create this ‘other’ as something alien, so that you or your sense of community are barricaded. It’s a safety mechanism of sorts. Some kind of natural distrust. It’s easier to bundle a group of people together than it is to interact with individuals and maintain any real connection.
So social groups form. Reinforced by media attitudes and stereotypes and market segmentation and demographics and so on and so forth.
This all seems remarkably conceptual. But I think there’s truth in it. Society makes it easier for there to be an in and an out crowd. And when everyone wants to be in, it’s easier to simply state that your group (self determined towards whatever linked characteristic you settle upon) is the in group, and everyone who isn’t is out.
So the whole thing feeds back and gets out of control. Groups isolate themselves further because they are made to feel unwelcome of fearful. Different people forget to understand people as individuals, and paint swathes of people with the same brush.
It’s often unconscious, but sometimes it’s just accepted as something different to everything else.
I get genuinely upset by the word chav, which seems to be a perfectly socially acceptable way of attacking the not middle class enough. It’s a word loaded with a flexibility of meaning, so that it can simply be used to abuse anyone you feel a need to dehumanise.
Even calling someone a hipster has that same effect. It’s a way of isolating and othering.
It’s not as ‘bad’ as calling someone a bitch or the n-word, but it’s there as a tool of segregation.
Words have this brutal power to seperate and stereotype. To create something in opposition to invisible priveleges.
Don’t engage with that sort of thing.
Be yourself, and reach out.
Illustration by Joe.