I am a straight, white upper-class male and am yet to be discriminated against or treated unfairly as a consequence of that. I have no issue recognising the unfair advantage I possess; an advantage I was granted based on nothing more than luck. Why, then, is it so difficult for others in my position to do the same?
If the last few days have demonstrated anything, it’s that there is a severe lack of compassion and humanity in an unacceptably high number of Americans and Australians. The fact that the United States of America, a country which is supposedly a global leader, a country which is supposed to be the big brother to whom Australia looks up, can proudly elect a man who epitomises every single value which contradicts any form of egalitarianism to the most powerful position of the free world, their president, truly saddens and frightens me. It leaves me, and I’ve no doubt many others, questioning what possible chain of events, what possible glitch in the Matrix could have occurred to let this happen.
I don’t claim to have all the answers, but so far the best explanation I can draw is this: the society in which we live is simply incapable of empathy. Those who have never been subjected to hardship as a consequence of their gender, complexion, sexual orientation or religion (who also ironically happen to be the most influential people) are majorly incapable of empathising with those around them who have. The successful election of Donald J. Trump is a quintessential case-in-point. Anyone who tries to tell you that they believe in democratic values of equality and understanding and are still voting for, or supporting Trump gravely misunderstand everything for which he stands.
Contrary to popular belief, privilege and decency are not mutually exclusive. You are not a bad person because of the circumstances of your birth; no one is claiming you are. However, you lose the immunity to that criticism and judgement when you support, whether by proactivity or passivity, a man who aims to restore and further strengthen that very inequality.
Once you cross that threshold, once you habitually perpetuate ideals which negate all prior successful work and effort to create a more egalitarian society, you are identifying as a racist. You are identifying as a sexist.
It no longer becomes a matter of personal opinion, it becomes a matter of definitive fact.
Trump’s proliferation is in large part thanks to his reassurance that it’s okay to think these things. That thinking these things doesn’t, in fact, make you a sexist or a racist. It makes you a nationalist. Someone who repudiates the establishment. A patriot. You can label it whatever you want if it helps you sleep at night, but at the end of the day you are serving no one but yourself. You are advancing a supremacist agenda with no regard for the effects it will maintain on the people around you.
This justification and rationalisation of these indecent traits is what I fear will lead to a more hateful, protectionist society. I implore all of you to please, travel. Talk to people. Educate yourselves. As soon as you engage with people from different walks of life you will begin to recognise that they are just as deserving of safety, of representation and of equality as you are.
Photo by José Martín