When asked from Morgan Freeman (not Nelson Mandela) “how are we going to get rid of racism?” he answered in his god-voice “by not talking about it”.
People use racism senselessly and often as a weapon to silence others with different views, therefore has lost its real power. Calling somebody a racist is the easiest way to silence them. If you don’t like what the other person is saying and you know you can’t disprove them with facts, just call him or her a racist, you instantly win the argument.
From petty Facebook feuds to parliamentary debates, it’s an overly used tactic. While you are at it, you may also add words like sexist, xenophobic, homophobic and Islamophobic. You don’t need to know what they actually mean. Just go for the kill.
A racist is somebody who believes their group is better than another group of people. Traditionally, that distinction was based on a combination of biological, geographical and social-economical constructs attributed at birth or acquired later. Your skin colour, facial features, location of birth, parents’ occupation, language, religious beliefs, customs, traditions and the list goes on.
Sinhala vs. Tamil vs. Muslim; Buddhist vs. Hindu vs. Christian vs. Islamic or like some old school Kandyans who believe they are better than the Southerners; or the Tamils from Jaffna who believe they are better than the Tamils in the estate sector; or the Thawheed clan who believe they are better than the moderate Muslims; or the Roman Catholics who believe they are better than the Christians…
All those traditional forms of racism have been there for a long time and frankly the narrative is getting really boring. So it’s time we define the 21st century version of racism. Racism that is based on your school, university, level of education, occupation, annual income, the brand of the car your drive, length of your penis, size of your breasts, the operating system of your phone and so on.
So here are the top five new racists in Sri Lanka in no particular order.
1. Doctors who believe they are better than other professionals
Okay, we all know medical doctors naturally tend to believe they are better than others. What do you expect when you keep calling them the “Living Gods!”? But it looks like they’ve taken it literally and are now getting very aggressive about it. In a recent interview their leaders surgically threatened that the Government should consider them as more important than any other professional, and therefore should be given preferential treatment when allocating perks including unrestricted access to the best schools for their children to study!
It’s one thing asking for a car permit for yourself, but asking privileges for your children is eugenics! And if we don’t give them that, they’ll stop treating patients and will leave Sri Lanka because other countries are supposedly waiting for them with open arms and the best schools for their deservingly superior children. So much for the Hippocratic Oath!
2. University students who believe they are entitled to a government job
The Lankan university students have a mega sense of entitlement. They got the highest marks in their university entrance exam, and therefore should get a free ticket for everything for the rest of their lives. Free education, free accommodation, free food, free books, free Wi-Fi, free this, free that and of course free jobs.
They collectively protest on the roads, go on hunger strikes for months (it’s amazing how they survive without food for the 59th day of a continuous hunger strike), have press conferences and even end up in jail asking for immediate government jobs. And they don’t like entry level jobs, no… no… they want managerial posts or higher.
They also believe they are far more superior to the students who study at private higher education institutes. So superior, they think nobody else should have access to higher education other than themselves! They are like Nazis, they don’t just believe they are better than others, they actually have to eliminate the others altogether.
3. Politicians (yeah, all of them!)
Lankan politicians by definition believe they are better than the people who actually vote them in. They collectively believe they deserve to be treated as royalty simply because they got the people’s vote. There was a time when the common man was supposed to step down to the gutter when he would see a white-skinned colonial master.
Today the common man must step away or stand still while their politicians pass them with their wild security escorts. They believe 17-erangathey need multi-million-rupee super luxury cars to drive in to their constituency because they should be driving far better cars than the normal people.
They believe they are more powerful than others because people come to listen to them, stay in queue to meet them, invite them for every goddamn opening, fall on their knees to get a job, and as a result they treat others as inferior to them. Worst of all they use racism to create tensions between groups of people just so that they can win elections.
4. Students of popular schools who believe they are better than other school children
There you go, I said it. Our school system is the primary breeding ground for racism. Once I met a former minister of foreign employment for an official meeting. I together with one of my British colleagues were asked to take seats at his table. After a while the minister emerged from inside his dining room (inside his office!) rubbing his wet hands.
While shaking his curry smelling hand, he looks up to me and ask “are you from ***** College?” I smiled and said “No”. He then said “well then you have lost the opportunity of studying at the best school”. My British colleague was twisting in disbelief. I said “well this is awkward”, although there was nothing awkward about it for him.
We all know the type. Most (not all) students and most old boys and gals of the so-called “best schools” apply the title for themselves literally and believe they are indeed the best and therefore are superior than others. And sometimes you see these popular school kids gang up to bully the kids from the “not best schools”. It extends beyond the school and into the workplace where candidates from certain schools get preferential treatment in recruitment and promotion.
A great way to get a job in the UN or some NGO is to promote yourself as an anti-racist. They just love that type. If your parents or if your spouse happens to be from different ethnic or religious groups, you hit the jackpot. You can use that trump card and self-promote yourself as the embodiment of the perfect Sri Lankan who transcends all forms of racism.
But there is a fundamental problem in this “racists vs. anti-racists” scenario. If the so-called anti-racists believe they are better than the racists, then wouldn’t that make them racists too? If you think a “Sri Lankan” race is better than Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim or Burgher, then by the same definition you too are a dangerous racist. Perhaps this is what Morgan Freeman actually meant. Racism and anti-racism are the same inherently flawed human construct.
As long as we believe we are better than or less than others in any way, from your religion to your choice of mobile phone (you know how the iPhone users think of other phone users) we will never be able to understand “lack of racism”, I like to think that’s the true meaning of the word “unity”.
The closest alternative we have right now is to embrace “diversity” and uphold “equal opportunity”. The intention of this article is to demonstrate the absurdity of the whole concept of racism.