Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Please don't play victim's card during fight against racism, it won't help.

I read few news items about protest by some students against some alleged racism related incidents on campuses of reputed american universities like Yale University and University of Missouri. No matter how much we criticize racism, casteism or any discriminatory traditions the truth is that they still exist in some form of other. Another ugly truth is that there are many people who still believe in some of these discriminatory practices, so we need to argue with them, discuss with them, debate with them and try to change their opinion by dialogue and discussions. This is the only way, we already have enough laws and regulations to check these things so even after all this if this doesn't stop then we need to continue dialogue and discussions. People living in societies or countries where real freedom of expression is allowed and practiced understand that everyone of us no matter how stupid or outrageous we sound have right to express our opinion. Only exception is that no one should be allowed to preach violence of any type but apart from that in most of these societies anyone is free to express their opinion. United States is one such amazing country, I don't think there is as much as freedom of expression practiced anywhere in world as it is done in USA. So I was really surprised when this group of students at Yale demanded to ban some Halloween costume party or demanded resignation of some administrators for defending right of some students to express themselves. Now one can disagree with someone's opinions or views, one can even feel offended by someone's costume of statement but in a free or democratic society how can one object to that person's right to say or wear those things? As those students who say or wear something with offensive message are free to express their opinions other students are also free to raise their objections and protest if they are feeling hurt. Both are using freedom of expression right so how one group can object to the right of other group? Another question is, is it right to use that feeling of being offended to justify banning something? Is this the right approach to solve this issue? Can this help us to curb the discrimination without taking away fundamental right of freedom of expression? What if some other group tomorrow come up with something which hurt their sentiments and demand to ban something, are these students going to support that demand? There are many issues and questions like these, the battle against racism or any type of discrimination is going on for decades, it is a long ongoing battle but loosing patience  and playing victim's card is not going to serve any purpose.

We can definitely raise our voice against any form of offensive messages but asking to ban them just because they are offensive or hurt someone's emotions is totally outrageous. It can open another Pandora's box where any group can come up with their demand to ban something because it hurt their sentiments. Suppose if tomorrow Hindu's ask to ban sale and consumption of beef because it hurts their deep religious sentiments and also claim that cow slaughter is very offensive to them, are these students going to support their demand of beef ban? This is just one simple example to demonstrate that mere claim of hurt sentiments can not be the valid reason to put forward such a serious demand to ban something. Racism is a result of ignorance, wrong teachings and lack of social awareness. Most discriminatory practices are deep rooted in some cultural or historical traditions which are passed from one generation to other, many of them are outdated and even illegal but somehow that mindset still exists among some people. Some people still believe in superiority or inferiority of races and this can manifest in their behavior in so many ways. But in any free society these people also have right to express their opinion. We need to challenge this behavior and debate these issues, to allow our anger take over our logical sense is not good. Intolerance doesn't solve any problems rather it can create few more of them which can be more serious than the original one. Freedom of expression is very important right we all have and we should not try to take it away from anyone, not even from our fierce opponents. Freedom of speech should come with freedom to offend, so only option we have is to increase our tolerance and question things but please don't try to silence people just because it hurts your sentiments. I hope students who want to fight against discrimination doesn't become reason for some type of discrimination where some people are targeted or punished for expressing their opinion (whatever that opinion is doesn't matter as long as it is not inciting violence). I wish all the strength, patience and courage to these students who are fighting against discrimination because they will need these things. Playing victim's card is of no use, it can only generate some media attention and temporary sympathy but won't help the cause in long run. This disease of racism or casteism or any other discrimination is very old and serious, generations are affected by this problem and fighting against these things is not that easy. Sentiments will be hurt, offensive language or images will be used by opponents to hurt feelings but this is part of any struggle, so anyone who want to fight for any cause should learn to deal with these things. I hope these students focus on real cause and struggle to achieve it rather than getting involved in trivial things such as demand of ban something which is a direct assault on freedom of expression.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

1. At University of Missouri, Black Students See a Campus Riven by Race
2. Massive Yale student rally makes call for inclusiveness on New Haven campus

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