*Originally posted July 2013, while I was living in Japan*
Today, for Yeah Write’s 31DBBB challenge, we are writing opinion pieces. Thanks to my “Noble Hero Complex” article being Freshly Pressed the other day, I have not stopped discussing opinions on morality in video games with lots of awesome commenters (Thank you everyone!) Here’s to hoping we can carry some of that constructive and reflective energy into a new topic with even murkier waters…
We need a reset button for discrimination.
A man shoots another man (boy?) in the chest. One dies, the other walks free.
A couple of men (boys?) kill and maim scores of people at a marathon. An entire swath of the population that share similar beliefs or skin tones as the pair, but nothing more, tremble in fear of the backlash.
There has been lots of shameful news lately which makes it very clear that even in our multicultural, globalized and information-inundated world, racism is alive and kicking. So far, we have not been able to find a lasting solution. The internet is trying: there are wonderful people on here using it as a tool to stand in support alongside total strangers, such as the folks at “I am Trayvon Martin,” and even “We are not Trayvon Martin.” Unfortunately there are also terrible people on here using it to broadcast their bigotry to a whole new and wider audience, as painfully illustrated by many of their words collected by Public Shaming.
Like many of the commenters on the “We are not Trayvon Martin” Tumblr page, I am a young, university-educated white woman. Unlike many of them, I have felt the stares. I do know the feeling of someone moving their purse when I come near, or putting themselves between me and their child when they walk past, or assuming I am of a certain origin I’m not and judging me based on that assumption. Because of the colour of my skin. Because I live in a country where “white” is not the “default,” and where “being white,” as comedian Louis C.K. quips, is not “clearly better.”
I am not asking for sympathy, or a pat on the back. I am under no illusion that what I have experienced comes anywhere close to some of the great injustices many of my fellow humans have experienced and do experience on a regular basis. All I am asking is for you to play along with a little thought experiment.
What if we could push the “reset” button on people’s perceptions? What if we could pluck people out of their worlds for a while and drop them into another world entirely, to give them some time to experience life in a place where their ethnicity means something entirely different – or where it means nothing at all? If we were able to enact a “Racist Reset Program,” what would that look like? Could we allow everyone to experience, for a time, the challenges of expat or immigrant life? Could we put people in online groups and assign them to interact constructively with the stories of people outside their usual realm of understanding? Could we put them in classrooms like this one? Could we build a virtual reality, a video game of sorts, for people to experiment with ethnic identities the way we experiment with moral ones?
I wonder… if everyone could step outside of themselves, outside of their worlds for just a little while, and experience and reflect on what it’s like to be the “other,” the “them,” if we would have more grace for one another.