The difference between racism and ignorance

Richard Herring writes about racism in today’s Metro newspaper, but is Richard’s definition of racism in the context he cites accurate? I think that lumping people from different countries into one group is laziness and ignorance rather than racism. Demeaning someone just because of their race (“colour of their skin”), and not their nationality, is racist. It’s both idiotic and deplorable.

Not liking people from a particular country is probably deemed as being racist in today’s politically correct society, but I often understand the reasons behind it. As long as you don’t act on it. Acting on a personal opinion in a way which demeans the other person’s rights, or attacks them, is idiotic and deplorable.

If you’ve encountered many residents of another country and had the same experience every time, which causes you to dislike them for that reason, then the dislike is pretty understandable. It’s a racist opinion, of course, because you’re lumping all of the people from a particular country together, without possibly being able to have gained the experience to fully justify your opinion. But the opinion is valid based on your experience.

I’ve been abused by mis-informed locals in Switzerland (behind my back) because to them, I’m just “a bloody tourist”. (“Why don’t these foreigners just go home and stop clogging up our trains.”) That’s because they assume I’m a tourist because I’m English. They assume that I don’t care how I’m affecting the locals.

Anyone who takes a moment to realise that I’m integrated, contributing to the national economy and respectful of the nation and residents of the country I now call home, will hopefully retract their opinion.

Being racist through a persistent refusal to address your ignorance isn’t acceptable, if you express your feelings or act on them. In just the same way that a normal person doesn’t go around punching people when he’s frustrated; he restrains the urge because he realises that to act on the impulse is wrong.

Your furniture is made in Sweden, your car is German, your t.v. is made in the Far East, your clothes are probably made in Asia. Trace your ancestors back four or five generations and you’ll probably find that you’re not as “pure” as you think. Basing your opinions on dislike of a race of people is misinformed and lazy. Basing your opinions of a specific group of people based on their disregard for you, or your countrymen, or your community, is understandable.

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