What Are White People So Afraid Of?
Updated: Jan 24
As I am sure many of us do, I always make the stupid mistake of delving into the controversial comment sections that are attached to every politically charged online news article or any post regarding serious issues and societal debates of today. Each and every time I come away from these experiences, I am always left feeling sick, anxious and extremely defeated.
More often than not, I see labels being thrown around so thoughtlessly; I see hate speech and awful bigotry that is targeted at and shaped around people of difference. So easily these comments are posted, and so easily these people are spiteful. There is nothing worse than seeing a white person of privilege get so defensive over issues regarding someone else's right to obtain such freedoms they already enjoy.
Although in the moment of reading these comments I often feel as though our world is doomed, when I really begin to analyse these comments, all I can see is fear as a result of these people's words; and I begin to feel sorry for their actions. I feel sorry for their limited views on the world and their limits to value the extraordinary diverse group of people around them. How awful must a life filled with so much hatred and spitefulness be? Maybe I am bias here, but living your life in such a way is so limiting on a number of levels and is extremely ignorant.
Now in no way do I discourage differing opinions; I have always encouraged and welcomed such. What I disagree with however, is the ever growing hatred and fear mongering crap that is used as an excuse to discriminate and isolate a particular group of people; most often than not, a minority. Half the comments I read have no factual evidence to support these outrageous claims/ hateful arguments and they are simply exclaimed by an individual because they do not want change or they fear something that is so foreign to them.
Now because of these non-transparent arguments, these comments and discussions shouldn't bother me. One could argue that anyone with good sense can see right through these arguments and these values will eventually die off.... sure. But what really shocks me is when I see young people exhausting their energy and time on these outlets and continuing the growth and spread of bigotry and hate. I thought these values were supposed to die off with our grandparents!? That wasn't the deal. I get even more sad when I see women dis-empowering other women over issues that should rally us together. Half these debates are over discussions that are trying to benefit society for all of us. Why wouldn't you want that? Hatred is never appeased by hatred. Remember that.
If this discussion wasn't so serious, some of these comments would be almost laughable.
To hell with the excuse of patriotism and our inherent rights because we are born in this 'lucky' (arguable) country. Why can't we all just live harmoniously? Why does there have to be fear and hate? What are you scared of? No one is going to steal our human rights, all they want is the same rights for themselves. What makes us any better? Anymore worth while? To hell with these ignorant and destructive views.
It's so easy to be disheartened after reading the crap that's out there permanently on the internet. I often feel like going on a big holiday and never coming back. But one thing that has always kept me driven to continue this good fight is something I heard a few years back during a panel discussion with Director Eva Orner. Orner broke down our society into three categories; she claimed that 25% of our society is made up of individuals that have a strong knowledge, passion and consciousness for social change and all things considered a bit on the 'left side' of the spectrum. She then continued by saying that there is another 25% within our society that are on the opposite side of this spectrum. These people can be considered as the conservatives and often labelled as being the 'far right'. However the most important part of this categorisation is the 50% that sit in the middle. The 'fence sitters' of our society. This 50% don't side either way in a debate or have a strong opinion; whether that's because they are busy with other things in their lives or simply because they are not interested. This 50% make up the largest part of our society, and are also the most crucial within these debates and discussions. This 50% can be persuaded either way. These are the people we need to focus our efforts into, not the other 25%; as they have already formed their strong views. There is no point in exhausting our efforts or worries into these people.... after all they are only 25%.
Expanding on from Orner's categorisation, I have learnt how important our voices really are. I have learnt how powerful one conversation can really be; as there is 50% of our society that can be persuaded either way. And with no doubt, I am sure that the conservative 25% of society, whom often represent these spiteful people, also believe that they are making a difference by leaving these comments and sharing their own conversation. However the problematic issue in this circumstance is the question of what are our arguments are actually trying to achieve and how much do they affect others less privileged than us? It's an issue of how we utilise our voices and exercise our power and reach out to the 50%. We need to begin to ask ourselves- are we doing this for the benefit of this world and everyone within it? Or are we doing it for our-self and the fear of something different?
Ignorance can as horrible as a disease and it can spread so rapidly when we become comfortable in our own small bubble of privilege. The reality is people are suffering each and everyday as a result of our choices, as a result of our opinions and as a result of our discussions.
I can't think about these spiteful discussions for very long, otherwise it paralyses me and I waste days on end sitting and exhausting my entire thoughts on what is to become of this world. It saddens me so deeply that any human could argue against and deny another of the very same rights they so selfishly enjoy. How different things would be if the cards were reversed and these people were in dire need of help, refuge or support. People have a tendency to desensitise what they see online and in the media and are then unable to link any form of human connection or emotions to these situations. Through these comments and discussions, people are dehumanised; resulting in the disconnect to empathy or any other decent human emotion or thought. These people in need are stripped of any dignity. How is it though, that when a person is put in a similar situation, they can suddenly empathise? How selfish must a person be. How badly can privilege blind us. How destructive can ignorance and such privilege become.
I can't help but think of the debates around January 26th during this discussion. This time of year brings great distress and sadness for many. January 26th- the date Australia has recognised as our National Day of celebration. A day our First Nation's land was stolen from them. For many Indigenous Australians, January 26th is a reminder of the genocide and injustice caused upon them as a result of white settlement. I have written an additional post regarding the structural racism behind this chosen date, which also discusses the many arguments as to why this date should be changed. You can access it here:
Within the piece I highlighted the many arguments against changing the date and the growing heated debate over the meaning and values behind this day. The debates around this discussion are a perfect example of privilege and ignorance, mixed with hatred that still exists within our society today. I just hope that whoever is reading this piece today, possibly someone who is in that 50% and on the fence about this debate, may reconsider their position and perspective towards this date. That people, hopefully just like with every other societal debate, can begin to evaluate how much this discussion and date really means to them and whether it is worth continuing the suffering of a population who have already been through a multitude of dispossession and abuse.
I hope people can consider if it's really worth the outrage and frustration that is exhausted each and every year around this date and be able to determine how much it would actually effect them if the date was changed. After all, the National Day historically hasn't always been on this day. I hope people can consider their emotions and begin to understand the bigger picture; a picture that doesn't just involve your privilege and pleasure. I do not understand the need for outrage and the hate that comes from this discussion. It baffles me that people are so passionate about keeping the date, as a opposed to changing it so everyone within this nation can celebrate. Why must we continue to exhaust our efforts and emotions into hate? Why must we continue to suppress people, when it would be so much easier to change it?
I understand that this conversation will not alter everyone's perspective, and not everyone will fully agree with many topics and discussions revolving around many politically charged and societal debates; just like discussions around the date of Australia Day. However, if you do disagree, please consider what you share online, consider how powerful your voice really is and the effect it can cause on other people; often minorities who already face division and inequality. Stop the hatred, stop the fear mongering ignorant bullshit and ask yourself- why are you really arguing this? How are you contributing to making this world a better place? Is it worth it?
Fear is so ugly. What are you really scared of?