What Are White People So Afraid Of?
Updated: Sep 1
As I am sure many of us do, I always make the mistake of delving into the controversial comment sections that are attached to politically charged news articles online. 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 and shaped around people of difference. So easily these comments are posted, and so easily these people are spiteful. There is something quite distubring witnessing a person of privilege get defensive over issues regarding someone else's right to obtain such freedoms they already so freely 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 that is found is fear within these individuals; 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.
Now in no way do I discourage differing opinions; I have always encouraged and welcomed such. However, what should be of disagreement, is the ever growing hatred and fear mongering that is used as an excuse to discriminate and isolate a particular group of people; most often than not, a minority. What should be the most outrageous element of all, is that a majority of such spiteful comments have no factual evidence to support these outrageous claims and hateful arguments. The conclusion for such actions and exclamations, is because an individual fears something that is so foreign to them.
If these discussions weren't surrounding serious issues involving other people's pain and misfortune, some of these comments would be almost laughable.
While these encounters can be deflating and disheartening in our fight for justice, one thing that has always kept me driven to continue this good fight is something I heard 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. It is with no doubt, that the conservative 25% of society, who often represent these spiteful people also believe that they are making a difference by leaving these comments and sharing their own conversation and opinion. However, the problematic issue in this circumstance is the question of what our intentions within our arguments are inherently trying to achieve, and the extent to which they will inevitably affect others that are 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 ourselves and the fear of something different?
Ignorance can be as horrible as a disease and it can spread so rapidly when we become comfortable in our own small world of privilege. The reality is, however, that people are suffering each and every day as a result of our choices, as a result of our opinions and as a result of our discussions. We must begin to look beyond ourselves, our needs and our fears, and continue to think critically and deeply about our position within society and the power we potentially hold.
It saddens me so deeply that any individual could argue against and deny another human of the very same rights they so willingly and 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 witness in the media, which limits their ability to link any form of human connection or emotions to these situations. Privilege continues to blind those who are comfortable within their limited behaviours. Through these comments and discussions, people are dehumanised; resulting in the disconnect to empathy or any other compassionate emotion or thought. As a consequence, vulnerable people are stripped of any dignity.
So next time you find our self engaging online, consider the impact of what you are sharing. Consider how powerful your voice really is and the effect it can cause on other people; often minorities who already face a multitude of division and inequality.
Stop the hatred, stop the fear mongering ignorance, and ask yourself why are you really arguing this? What are your real intentions? How are you contributing to making this world a better place? And is it worth it?
Fear is so ugly. What are you really scared of?