Written by Nathan Olsen
“I Can’t Breathe”.
All of these events, be they the devastatingly tragic deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the consequent protests or the seemingly rather trivial handing out of awards to actors, directors, cinematographers etc, are connected to one another. Although at completely opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of seriousness and pain caused, all three of these events (and many more) are blatant examples of institutional racism.
Individual racism is disgusting as it is, one person shouting vile slurs at another person can never be excused, but at least we have institutions that protect everyone from abuse. No matter what their skin colour, religion or creed, right? Wrong. Although it seems increasingly prominent in America, institutional racism is a festering disease that appears to have tarnished each and every society. In many countries, racism within society transforms into something even more potentially dangerous – racist politics. Particularly in times of economic hardship and financial insecurity, outwardly racist political groups become increasingly popular. Modern examples of this are Marine Le Pen’s Front National and Nigel Farage’s Ukip – both of these organisations winning their respective country’s European elections last year. Historical examples of this are more extreme, and come in the forms of the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. Modern far-right political parties are nowhere near as abhorrent as previous organisations, but they still preach an anti-immigrant, anti-semitic and an anti-everyone that’s not white rhetoric.
And the institutional racism that’s already in place only serves to foster such disgusting behaviour. And it really is everywhere. The militarization of the police in order to deal with the black population of Ferguson, who were attempting to protest peacefully in the wake of Michael Brown’s death. A death caused not by a black teenager acting aggressively towards a figure of authority, but this so-called figure of authority upon seeing a black person, shooting first and thinking later. The choking of Eric Garner by a group of NYPD cops, not because he was armed or dangerous, but because he was black. Another case of America’s black population as the victim of institutional racism. And the Oscars? Not even on the same level of wrongdoing as the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, but look at the nominations.
One film with a black actor starring in it had been nominated for Best Picture.
No black actors, actresses or directors nominated in any other category.
And this can be explained in one of two ways. Either there weren’t enough quality performances from non-Caucasians in films this year; or the Academy yields a prejudice against anybody who’s not white. I mean, Bradley Cooper got nominated again?! And yet Ava DuVernay, a black woman, who directed a film nominated for Best Picture, still hasn’t been nominated! It’s a classic example of how America is corrupted by institutional racism, but so is Britain. And France. And Germany. And the majority of the Western world.
There is not only racism against black people, there is racism against almost every race and religion, unless they’re white or Christian. And speaking as a white Christian, not subject to any of this awful prejudice, it’s frightening, disgusting and absolutely wrong.
In light of the recent attacks in Paris, racism has increased. The acts of terrorism committed in the French capital were shocking, the fact that people could actually commit such atrocities makes me physically sick. And as a by-product of all the grief, the pain and the anger, it is simple to blame these acts on a race or a religion. Yes, certain religions appear to foster extremism and others don’t, but you can’t generalise. Generalisation is dangerous. Just because someone comes from a different background to you, because they don’t look like you or believe in the same things as you, this doesn’t in any way justify the prejudice they are subjected to.
Although we cannot just rid the world of the scourge of racism, we need to recognise and combat this prejudice. It is ridiculous and heartbreakingly sad that in such an advanced society, we can still feel the horrific effect of racism.