Dev Diaries SL

Does Racism start with seeing some people as “just another”?


When you look at someone and you see not the individual, but their race, there is an issue. The individual is “just another”.

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Finding someone who values being called a racist is not something you’re going to find easy. No one likes it. Look at our politicians, flinging accusations of racism everywhere. Of course, everyone denies it. And if you really ask someone if they think they are racist, chances are they don’t see themselves in that light

Concepts of racism and prejudice have not fully permeated into our society, where everyone understands what it means. Many people would agree that thinking that African Americans were inferior and enslaving them was bad, and that it was racism. But out of those people, how many would agree that assuming African Americans are aggressive, violent, and criminalistic is racist? In some circles, the answer would be obvious, but not in all. Not in many. Racism in Sri Lanka seems to be regarded as a tangible physical phenomenon, and everything else that racial or religious prejudice entails, is ignored, not necessarily because it’s seen as correct, but more because it isn’t seen as wrong.

Now all human beings are equal. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, all humans are born with have the same potential. There is no physical or genetic difference among people that makes someone superior or inferior. That has to be accepted without question(for the Nazis out there, I’ll write another article for you. Maybe). But of course a Tamil boy is a Tamil. A Sinhalese is a Sinhalese. Now race as a genetic concept is not really accepted anymore. It is debated, but generally it is accepted there is no inherent genetic factor that says someone is of one race or the other. But different CULTURES are different. Different TRADITIONS are different.  Different HISTORIES are different. And all of these, all of these have led to a community to have whatever identity it has today.

With this in mind, if we look at a community, ultimately it just boils down to a group of people who’ve been living in one general area for a very long time. And just like someone living in Colombo 3 is fundamentally equal to someone living in Colombo 4, so too will be people of different communities. Equal.

Thereby, you’re looking at someone, who is just the same as you, but someone who’s gone through a different life. Maybe you both did your A Levels in Commerce, but maybe one of you couldn’t go to university. Both of you might have had a child get sick, but maybe it was for different reasons. Maybe you both said “amma” as your first word, but maybe it was in different languages. When you look at someone and you see not the individual, but their race, there is an issue. Stereotypes are never helpful, and this case, they lead to entire lives being ignored.

What is sad in society, is that they might see you the same way too. They might not care about the father you lost to cancer, they might not care that you want to one day be a doctor, they might not care that you love your mother. You’re just another Sinhalese. They might not care that you studied long hours in the night, they might not care that you want two sons and a daughter, they might not care about your first salary. You’re just another Tamil.

They might not care that you got 3As for your exams, they might not care about the first time you stepped out of your house, they might not care that you didn’t have money to eat last night. You’re just another Muslim. But is that right of them? For them to overlook everything that you are, for them to ignore your identity, for them to sweep away all of your successes away, just because you follow a certain tradition? A tradition that doesn’t harm anyone? They should see you for who you really are, for everything you went through, for everything you hope for, for everything you hope to achieve, and not generalise you as “just another”.

But then again, do you?

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