Each Life Counts

img1 Dr. George Arickal
16 Nov 2020

The “Black Lives Matter Movement” mobilizes more and more people, especially in the United States of America (USA) for the peaceful struggle against racism. The cry for recognition of human dignity and equal rights for all people is heard around the world. 
The brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, drew the world's special attention to the deadly virus of racism. The cold-blooded nature of this crime on the street does not leave parts of the white population indifferent. 
They join the struggle for liberation from racist bonds and discrimination. In this case of murder, the police officer and his helpers who consciously accepted the death of the victim stand in the dock of the judiciary. Before the world's conscience, however, all racists who prepare the ground for such atrocities are complicit.

It is legitimate to ask whether we too are involved in such complicity and how the virus of racism works within us, among us and around us. Since the US was the scene of this crime and the perpetrators were white police officers and more and more such racially motivated acts are being reported from there, the world believes that the US is the main center of racism. This may give people in other countries and even more so those of colour, the feeling that they are free of the virus of racism. This would indeed be a dangerous delusion. 

The fact is that the virus of racism acts in various forms with brutal consequences no matter where we live, no matter what colour we are. In the dock are all those who tolerate, cultivate, exploit, promote, propagate and enforce racism. It's time to spell out clearly about racism and to call things by their names. First of all, the quintessence of the findings:

1) Europe is the breeding ground for white racism and this virus was exported to other continents during the colonial era.
2) Beyond white racism, there are other types of racism that, with similar doctrines of justification, spread life-threatening viruses.
3) Racism is by no means the only evil in the world that makes man the victim of man. This line of argument shall not be, however,used as an alibi to trivialize the human dignity-destroying effects of racism.

The Swedish researcher Karl von Linn'e in his work “Systema Naturae” (1758) categorized the mankind in four different races: a)American Red Indians, reddish, tall, choleric and stubborn, b)Europeans, white, muscular, agile and inventive, c) Asians, yellow, melancholic, unyielding and stingy, and d) Africans, black, phlegmatic, indulgent, careless and devious. Innumerable books of similar kind were published between 1800 and 1855, the blossom period of colonialism. They were the basis for building “white consciousness” or white racism. "The differentiation of races according to skin colour corresponded to the worldview of colonialism:here the white Europeans, there the inferior yellow Asians, black Africans and red Americans” confirms the German sociologist Wulf D. Hund in an interview with the german magazine “Der Spiegel” on August 1, 2020. 

“By white racism we mean the conscious or unconscious belief in the inherent superiority of people of European origin, which granted all white people dominion and privileges, combined with the belief in the innate inferiorities of all coloured people, especially those of African origin. This justifies subjugation and exploitation.” This is the conclusion of the World Ecumenical Church Conference in Uppsala in 1968. It was high time that the churches finally showed their willingness to question their tolerance and justification of racism. 
Europe, well known as a Christian continent developed as the breeding soil for white racism and it was exported to the colonies, especially through European emigrants to North America. It is most puzzling how, in spite of all the bitter and deeply shameful experiences in recent history, initiatives with racist ideology experience Renassaince in European countries like Germany; their representatives are back even in parliaments.

It is highest time that a "Dalit Lives Matter Movement"emerges in order to draw attention to the brutal discrimination that the Dalits suffer under the caste system, especially in India. The constitution of India proclaimed seventy years ago, which was even significantly influenced by a Dalit like B.R. Ambedkhar, puts all citizens on an equal footing before the law. 

The practice of untouchability was made a criminal offense. However, the socitical reality is in stark contradiction. The majority of 220 million Dalits and 190 million “Scheduled Tribes” (Adivasi) experience the brutal traces of racism in everyday practice. "Casteism and racism though they have different histories, are not different except that casteism claims some kind of divine mandate," said the well-known social activist and writer Arundhati Roy in an interview recently. 
The justification of the submission, dehumanization, enslavement and exploitation of Dalits and Adivasi has a pattern similar to that in white racism. Colour (Varna) also plays a decisive role in the caste system. On average, the “upper” caste members are lighter in colour and the “lower” caste members are darker. Other social classes, where the lighter skin colour is preferred, are also infected by this caste thinking. The proportion of the Dalits or Adivasi in crucial functions in Indian society is extremely marginal.
 "The Economist" of July 25th, 2020 reports that this process of discrimination exists regardless of religious affiliation in India. According to this report, 65% of the twenty million Catholics in India are from Dalit families. However, their share in the number of priests is only 5%. Among the six cardinals and 30 archbishops one looks in vain for a person of Dalt‘s origin. This disadvantage of the marginalized classes works like an "inbuilt system" anchored in all areas of life, be it in politics, economy, religion, profession, education, art or culture.

Racism was born when people began to presume to judge the worth or disregard of a race or ethnic group. Racial doctrines of justification have been developed that allow people to participate in actions that they would deeply disapprove of in relation to their own group. As long as other people are not viewed as equal beings, crimes against them can be justified. This was and is an essential basis for any racist act, no matter where, by whom and how it is practiced. All people are created equal. Nobody is born as a racist. 

The tendency to accept racist thoughts can arise in the family, among friends, in a group, in educational institutions, in religion or in the professional field. Since these sources are known, a therapy to combat this evil is quite conceivable. A simple look to   the existing symbols, languages or customs will reveal how some processes of discrimination also arise and are consolidated unconsciously. The angel is white while the devil is always black. Santa Claus is white, but his punishing assistant Rupprecht is black. Judas is a synonym for traitor. The list to check is long: the historiography and its interpretation, literature, various media, children's books, names of streets and military barracks, statues in public places, etc., etc.

"All Lives Matter", live and let live; this is a necessary principle for peaceful coexistence between peoples. It would be an illusion to believe that the racists accept this principle through their own conversion. The virus of racism sits deeper and is endowed with uncontrollable power. 
The beneficiaries of racism are numerous and they bring racists to power. The growing youth of the world, with a new altered consciousness, could be a source of hope if they use their efforts to strengthen solidarity with the victims of racism. The base of the civil rights movement needs to be broadened and consolidated. 
The legislative, judicial and executive decision-makers of goodwill have to take targeted measures to promote justice, equality and human dignity. This was probably one of the expectations of civil rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King Junior when John F. Kennedy became President of the USA. The racial segregation act initiated by Kennedy was passed a year after his assassination. The civil rights protests continued in America. Its climax was the “March to Washington” in 1963, which was attended by more than 250,000 people. In this atmosphere of new beginnings, Martin Luther King gave his historic speech “I have a dream”. His dream corresponds to the longing of all victims of racism, no matter where they live. As a final word, an excerpt from his speech:

“I have a dream that one day in Alabama little black boys and girls will be able to hold hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands ….“

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