It seems to me….
“Discrimination is not done by villains. It’s done by us.” ~ Vivienne Ming.
What is wrong with this world. Fear of the strange, the unknown…; xenophobia was a necessary aspect of survival in a primitive world but I thought (had hoped) we had advanced beyond that. Now I’m unable to understand what – or why – appears to increasingly be occurring in society today. Seemingly, each new day’s leading headline only seems to bring sorrow and disappointment in our treatment of one another.
In the late 1960s, early 1970s, I was out there demonstrating, organizing, protesting… believing we actually could bring about change for the better. I, and many others, endured the tear gas, being cursed and spit at, the bruises from police batons; we were young and idealistic. We were naïve to believe we could change the world into something more caring and compassionate – the world turned out to be more resilient; it only waited prior to continuing as before and nothing changed. Today I no longer have that immediate circle of close friends to talk with, with whom to share feelings; there are times when I feel somewhat lost. Not depression; more just anger and frustration partly derived from the opportunity that was lost.
Times have changed and new iniquitousness has arisen. Now fear and conflict offer extremists and conspiracists a chance to present themselves as an alternative to increasingly distrusted traditional mainstream choices. White nationalism has reflected a coarsening of mainstream politics, where debates on national security and immigration have become rabbit holes for the exploitation of fear and bigotry.
The factors that led to Trump’s election have influenced the mainstreaming of the very white supremacy that he supposedly dismisses: a distrustful, divided polity, and an expanding, chaotic digital media. If we are going to be serious about facing the growing threat of far-right white nationalism around the world, each of us and our leaders have to acknowledge it before we can effectively counter it.
Leaders must be aware of the impact of their stated positions on civic and social cohesion. Otherwise, the bigots, xenophobes, misogynists, white supremacists, and others will gain strength in the cracks that divide us.
While the public prevalence of unacceptance and hate has greatly proliferated since Trump’s election, it always has been there though without the license of expression granted by his obvious concurrence; it was much less open.
A sad fact remains; right-wing ideology enjoys links to mainstream politics in Western democracies, and consequently, its suppression generates criticism and a debate about free speech that cracking down on jihadism rarely does. Additionally, basic discriminatory practices are viewed quite differently by liberals and conservatives.
Due to the prevalence of past racism, liberals tend to believe minorities were deprived of the same education and employment opportunities as whites. The government is therefore obligated to compensate for those inequities. As the U.S. remains a racist society; due to unequal opportunity, a federal affirmative action law is necessary as long as minorities continue to lag behind whites in all statistical measurements of success.
Conservative, on the other hand, believe individuals should be admitted to schools and hired for jobs based strictly on their ability and that it is unfair to use race as a factor in the selection process. Reverse-discrimination is not a solution for racism. Some individuals in society are racist, but American society as a whole is not. Preferential treatment of certain races through affirmative action is wrong.
The same is equally true whether it be race, religion, nationality…. In many ways, I am as intolerant on some issues as they are – I accept that criticism. Still, on too many occasions I have chosen to remain painfully quiet and avoid confrontation when I should have spoken up and confronted someone voicing intolerance.
There are numerous valid reasons for increasing the number of immigrants admitted into the U.S. and essentially none to oppose it. Historically, the U.S. encouraged relatively free and open immigration during the 18th and early 19th centuries and rarely questioned that policy until the late 1800s. It is apparent that the current administration attempts to justify its xenophobia and religious bigotry with distortions of the truth and unequivocal lies. No where is this better illustrated than at the U.S. southern border or toward Muslims.
U.S. immigration officials have over the years failed to recognize circumstances in which large numbers of people are legitimately seeking political asylum, thus contributing to humanitarian tragedies. Asylum requests by Central Americans in recent years have increased from so-called Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras) as a result of record levels of violence in those areas. Central Americans who cite fear of generalized violence in their asylum applications are making a very legitimate claim and courts have determined that applicants fleeing gang violence and other threats qualify for protection under the terms of U.S. asylum law. Passing the “credible fear” test is not an “easy ticket” to illegal entry in the U.S. and there is no evidence indicating that the U.S. asylum system is “currently subject to rampant abuse and fraud” as has been claimed. Likewise, there is no evidence that criminal groups such as MS-13 are taking advantage of the U.S. asylum or immigration system to place gang leaders in the U.S.
Increasing antisemitism represents an additional source of bigotry that must not be tolerated. Conspiracy theory, fake news, demonization of an unpopular group: what happens to our politics if these become the norm? Hate crime incidents in the U.S. increased by 17 percent in 2017 according to FBI reports. Over half of those incidents targeted race or ethnicity with those targeting Jews up by 37 percent. Jews have often functioned as a canary in the coalmine: when a society turns on its Jews, it is usually a sign of wider social ill health. E.g., Jews represent less than 1 percent of the population in France, yet in 2014, 51 percent of all racist attacks were carried out against them according to the French Interior Ministry.
Misogynistic attitudes are equally obvious; e.g., the hypocrisy of those (particularly males) justifying their self-righteous condemnation of a woman’s decision regarding her own body when they haven’t any idea – or apparently concern – about what she might be going through. Every year, worldwide, about 42 million women with unintended pregnancies choose abortion and nearly half of these procedures, 20 million, were medically unsafe. Some 68,000 women die of unsafe abortion annually, making it one of the leading causes of maternal mortality. Of the women who survive unsafe abortion, 5 million will suffer long-term health complications. No one likes the idea of abortion but, realistically, those denying a woman’s right to choose are the ones who should be charged with murder, not the other way around. Making abortion illegal, rather than preventing it, will only increase safety concerns related to it.
The income gap between women and men has decline in recent years but men still earn 2.4 percent more than women on average nationwide, about 76 cents for every dollar a man does, even though women are starting more businesses than men, more women are in the workforce than men, and the majority of degree-holders are now women. Everyone is entitled to equal treatment regardless of nationality, race, sex, religion….
Women have recently made significant progress countering sexual harassment and abuse but that progress is not uniform and many women experience retaliation when reporting sexual assault. Progress is difficult when the nation’s President has been accused by over twenty women of assault and harassment but he has so far been able to evade legal judgement.
Personal unhappiness and being unable to personally deal with life’s challenges can lead to expression of anger, disappointment, and insecurity upon another group. Such dissatisfaction is one of the sources of bigotry and intolerance; those who speak and act from bigotry frequently attempt to portray themselves as the victims. All people regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation desire the same things for themselves and their families: a safe place to live, work, and worship; sufficient food and clothing; access to good medical care; the opportunity to be the best they can be without restrictions; a government that has their best interests at heart, that acts upon those interests; joyous moments of celebration…. All of us are far more alike than we are different.
Perhaps I remain far too naïve but I still have that dream of a far better world. Perhaps not now – but someday. Perhaps I will not live to see it but I still have hope.
That’s what I think, what about you?
 Vivienne L’Ecuyer Ming is an American theoretical neuroscientist and artificial intelligence expert.
 Meyer, Maureen, and Elyssa Pachico. Fact Sheet: U.S. Immigration And Central American Asylum Seekers, Advocacy For Human Rights In The Americas, https://www.wola.org/analysis/fact-sheet-united-states-immigration-central-american-asylum-seekers/, 12 October 2017.
 Haddad, Lisa B, MD, MA, and Nawal M. Nour, MD, MPH. Unsafe Abortion: Unnecessary Maternal Mortality, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2709326/, Spring 2009.