The International Writers Magazine: Comment
Race & Culture
In my view, racism is the presumption that an individual person shares the values and characteristics that one attributes to all people of their racial origin: that is, stereotyping.
Such a stance is stupid and indefensible, but it is equally stupid to ignore the cultural differences that may exist. It is also disingenuous to claim that my position is subjective, and therefore inferior to the presumed ‘objectivity’ of the Universalists. Anyone who argues that values are universally held is subjectively choosing to ignore the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The extent to which Universalists are culturally blinkered and myopic occasionally beggars belief. As a result we have allowed into our western, Christian societies practices that most natives of those societies would condemn as uncivilised. We have in our midst people who value and practice female genital mutilation, people who see patriarchy as natural to the extent that a daughter who ‘dishonours’ her father deserves death. We have others who believe in witchcraft to the degree that they are prepared to subject children to a torturous, brutal process of exorcism. Of course not everybody from those cultures supports those practices, but to deny that they have cultural roots is every bit as subjective as is my abhorrence. Their existence is evidence enough that the values behind them are not universally held, and evidence too that our own principles are similarly parochial.
Occasionally, it is suggested that we should welcome the intrusion of alien cultures because we once forced our own culture on others through conquest and the development of empire. In my view that is a quite different argument that does not require us to deny the existence of cultural differences. Whether we ‘owe’ people a welcome is open to debate, and I am no apologist for the sins of my forefathers. I would simply say that throughout the history of mankind cultural imperialism has existed. That is no reason for modern Britons to become subject to the process by default. Sadly, the cultural deniers are in the ascendancy. As I write, I learn that three cinema chains in the UK have refused to show a sixty-second film on The Lord’s Prayer in case it offends non-Christians. Is that not an acknowledgement that our values are far from universally held?
© Tom Kilcourse Nov 25th 2015
Every action has consequences, some good, some bad and many unforeseen. Those consequences do not always occur in the domain where the action was taken because, in a sense, everything is linked to everything else.