The Absence of Light in Our Humanity

“Go back to where you came from.”

Your kind don’t belong here.”

I hope none of you have been at the receiving end of such rhetoric, but social media is rife with videos of angry strangers berating minorities with abusive language like this. Even Canada, often perceived as a bastion of multiculturalism open and welcoming to all, is no stranger to such instances of racism.

There was a video circulating on Facebook recently where a Caucasian woman in a store inaccurately claims that it is law to speak English if you wish to reside in Canada, while abusing two other customers and telling them to return to China if they can’t speak English. At a Chinese supermarket no less. While this xenophobic, hate-ridden rhetoric can be found anywhere from the United States to Canada to India, the behavior often gets written off as being an exception to the norm. Forget the few racists- the rest of us are good people.

Perhaps such outwardly racist behavior is an exception, but do good people also share collective beliefs about racial or cultural identities and ownership? Are any of us immune to implicit biases and presumptions?

A few days ago, a colleague was sharing an unsettling encounter he had with a Muslim friend. In the middle of a debate, he caught himself telling the other man that his viewpoint mattered more because, after all, he was Hindu and, hence, a real Indian. While he apologized for the remark later, he felt uneasy reflecting on the ease with which the statement had come out of his mouth. Why was being Hindu linked to being Indian? More importantly, why did being Muslim make someone else who was born in India an outsider in his own nation?

The parallels to America or the UK are all too familiar. Following the London attacks, Katie Hopkins penned a rambling op-ed which railed against immigrants, multiculturalism and anything else that did not fit her definition of the safe, White London of yore:

This place is just like Sweden. Terrified of admitting the truth about the threat we face, about the horrors committed by the migrants we failed to deter — because to admit that we are sinking, and fast, would be to admit that everything the liberals believe is wrong.

That multiculturalism has not worked. That it is one big fat failure and one big fat lie.

President Erdogan of Turkey said there is a war being waged between the crescent and the cross. But he is wrong. Because the cross is not strong. We are down on bended knee, a doormat to be trodden on, a joke only funny to those that wish us harm.

The war is between London and the rest of the country. Between the liberals and the right-minded. Between those who think it is more important to tip-toe around the cultures of those who choose to join us, rather than defend our own culture.”

It is not globalization that upsets Katie Hopkins, but rather multiculturalism itself. The very idea that folks from different cultural backgrounds can live harmoniously under one city, united against the indiscriminate face of terror. While her “fringe” views were condemned even by Piers Morgan, her distasteful rhetoric betrays an insidious belief that Britain, America, India, or any other nation belongs to any one people. It exposes the implicit presumption of any dominant or majority group and the sense of ownership they feel over their city, state or country, which must be protected from external influences at all costs.