Yesterday morning, I read a blog entitled So you’re a racist. Let’s talk about that. As I was reading, I thought no – no, you’re wrong. Racists should never be given a platform. I don’t want to read their words and they shouldn't be allowed any avenues for expressing them. They don’t listen. They don’t want to change their views. All that ever seems to happen when I engage with them is that I get upset, frustrated and ultimately disillusioned about the human race. And I’m not going to do it.
Then someone I know wrote, ‘If you’re not English, f*** off,’ on their Facebook status. My first reaction, when I’d picked myself up from the shock, was that I no longer wanted this person anywhere near me or my life in any way, ever again. And then I thought about the blog, and I found myself wondering if perhaps I could try it.
Well, this is my attempt to do that. So yeah, ‘M’ – this is for you. But it’s also for the many, many other people who, like you, jump on the handiest scapegoat and the easiest target to prop up their beliefs, and in doing so, only spread the hatred even further. The hatred that has upset you so much in the first place.
I think it would be safe to say that the majority of the UK – and probably the entire world – feels incredibly angry and outraged and upset about the horrific attack on the soldier Lee Rigby. Many people have jumped onto the bandwagon that is being recklessly driven by extremists and racists all over the internet. The one where you get to blame Muslims, or non-UK people, or black people – or basically anyone outside the tiny, safe circle of your precious, selfish life. By doing this, you think you are standing up for what is just and right. But you are in fact doing the opposite. You are throwing petrol on a fire that is already raging and in danger of burning out of control.
Don’t you see that?
Responding to this horrific attack with racist and xenophobic abuse only spreads more hatred and anger, and ultimately more violence. It doesn’t solve anything. The men who did this have committed a despicable, vile and utterly horrific crime. But their race has nothing to do with it. The country they were born in has nothing to do with it. Their religion, their colour. Those things are not the enemy – they are smokescreens being used to hide the reality of what they have done - which is an act that is as low a thing as a person can do. If we use their actions to fuel racism and xenophobic hatred, we are playing directly into their hands. We are perpetuating a war that they are proud to fight in.
We must do everything we can to deny them that achievement. Their horrific actions should not be used to stir up hatred and fear of the enormous numbers of law-abiding and good-hearted people who might share the same colour, birthplace or even religion.
If there is any way to fight against atrocities like this, it is in taking the opposite approach to the one that so many people seem to have jumped to. It is to spread more tolerance, more understanding, more generosity of heart and spirit. Not more hatred, more violence and more extreme views.
The people who we should look to are those like the woman who went over to the dying soldier in the midst of the atrocities and prayed for him. The Muslims who turned to twitter to tell the world that this act was not done in their name. The ones who have posted and reposted words such as Mahatma Gandhi’s, "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind."
So M – if you’re reading this, and if others like you are reading it, I hope that there might be one tiny thing in it that has made you stop and think about your views, just for one moment. I know that it devastates you to think that there is a two-year-old boy who one day will be told why he has grown up without a father. You are a good person who feels things deeply. Use that to make this world a better place for him, not a worse one.