The internet is a shitty, scary place right now, reflecting all the shitty scary parts of the world that I normally don’t have to see up close. It’s not the attacks in Paris, or the much less publicised attacks in Beirut and Baghdad. Those are awful, but I know that there are parts of the world where safety is a luxury and fear is a way of life. What shakes me is the reaction of the safe people. The reaction that closes doors instead of welcoming with open arms, that calls refugees fleeing for their lives a threat. That values white lives over brown ones, and never realises that’s what they are doing because it is a thing so deeply entrenched that they cannot see it.
I found something great on Twitter the other day about racism in the Harry Potter books; I can’t for the life of me find out who the original author was, so if you know, please ping me so that I can give them credit.
Ron Weasley’s character is consciously written as somewhat racist. Not as racist as Malfoy, of course – he doesn’t scoff at mudbloods and halfbloods, and he doesn’t see himself as superior at all. Still, he unquestionably accepts the inferior position of house elves (they loveserving), when he finds out that Lupin’s werewolf his reaction is not only scared but also disgusted (Don’t touch me!) and he is clearly very uncomfortable finding out that Hagrid is half-giant (giants are wild and savage).
And this is brilliant. Because it demonstrates that racism isn’t only present in clearly malicious and evil people, in the Malfoys and Blacks – it’s also there in warm, kind, funny people who just happened to learn some pretty toxic things growing up in a pretty toxic society. And they can unlearn them too, with some time and effort. Ron eventually accepts Hagrid’s parentage, lets Lupin bandage his leg and in the final battle, he worries about the safety of the house elves.
Some people are prejudiced because they are evil, and some people are prejudiced because they don’t know better yet. And those people can learn better, and become better people. And that’s an important lesson. The lesson taught about discrimination shouldn’t be “only evil people do it”, because then all readers will assume it doesn’t apply to them. Instead old JK teaches us “you too are probably doing it, and you should do stop ASAP”.
I don’t know if that’s what JK Rowling had in mind when she was writing, but it’s a good reminder right now. I’ve rarely seen so much thoughtless racism so loudly displayed.
One of the things about being a small business owner and living your life in a public way is that you are discouraged from having strong public opinions because it might alienate potential customers. But one of the most important beliefs I hold is that silence is complicity; that when you do not speak out against the wrongs, the injustices you see in the world you are condoning them.
So here is what I believe.
I believe that judging a person based on their skin colour, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference or gender is execrable. Foul. A blight and a disgrace.
I believe that refugees deserve safety and that to be Canadian is to be open and generous with that safety.
I believe that guns kill people and do not make them safer.
I believe that vaccines make people safer.
I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I have had an abortion and it was the right choice for me.
I believe that we are here on this earth to make it a better place than when we came.
I believe that it is our responsibility to learn, to research, and to base our opinions on facts; and that most of us are guilty of failing to do that when we feel threatened, either in our safety or in our beliefs and ideologies. I believe that we should take time sometimes to listen to the uncomfortable things other people say, the things we think are wrong, and really consider them. Otherwise we may become what we despise.
You don’t have to agree with me on all these points to be my friend (though the first point is non-negotiable). But I will also never hide my opinion or stay silent. And if that means you choose another photographer, another friend, another person’s blog to frequent, that’s okay. Because I also believe that it is important to be genuine and open, to be honest about what matters to you and not ashamed of your convictions.
What do you believe?