The recent hateful murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida and the xenophobic beating and subsequent death of Shaima Alawadi in her own home in California accentuate the fact that racism still exists. Events such as these deflate the fantastical notion that we have developed a racism-free utopia. It is an inconvenient truth that racism — compounded by xenophobia and religious antipathy — not only exists in today’s world, but is an innate part of human nature. It will exist for as long as the human race endures.
Racism, defined by Webster’s Online Dictionary as “the discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of another race,” exists in one form or another on every continent and in every country, every society, every neighborhood and every individual. Surprisingly, even our own human immune system behaves in a such a manner. Immunologists speak of a process in which our bodies react defensively to an “unwanted intrusion” by “foreign non-self” elements that are not recognized by the body. Sometimes, however, the process breaks down and the immune system attacks its own cells and tissues leading to what’s called “autoimmunity.” In this state of hypersensitivity, much like overt racism and hatred, the body attacks normal cells or members of its own society as if they were harmful foreign organisms. Similarly, Martin and Alawadi were two normal citizens of the United States who were regarded as harmful beings by their killers.
Much of today’s world functions in a state of autoimmunity, repelling and destroying anything that threatens the status quo. One way to treat autoimmunity in humans is through the use of autoimmune suppressive medicine. The analogous medicine for society — such as the federal anti-racism laws and civil rights institutions, organizations and grassroots movements — has failed to treat or suppress racism. The failure of these efforts to stem racial discrimination may be attributed to the absence of any sustained and continuous campaign against racism. Efforts to address racism thus far have been impartial and fragmented, displacing racism instead of fully eradicating it. Paradoxically, and perhaps ominously, we see displaced racism today regrouping and showing its symptoms again and again.
It is important to note that racism is not strictly confined within the borders of the U.S. It is rampant abroad as well. It is universal. Racism is not bound to one set of races, colors, ages, religions or ethnicities. In fact, victims of racism and hate can be found not only in places such as Florida and California, but also in places like the Panjwai District of Kandahar, Afghanistan; Toulouse, France and Homs, Syria.
Racism is viral; it will mutate and persist in our society as part of nature. It morphs from an overt racism to a more subtle and more systemic racism that impacts our entire society. It won’t just follow a traditional method of expression such as whites against blacks; it also expresses itself through other outlooks such as through browns or blacks against other minorities. In some places racism will be made explicit through codified laws, entrenched as part of the law of the land. In other places racism won’t be so institutionalized but will instead be expressed indirectly through other vehicles — such as through the actions of a neighborhood guard rather than a policeman.
Unfortunately, there will always be fodder for this viral disorder. There will always be some part of society that feels under threat from multiculturalism, immigration, religion or race. If a society is not color-conscious, then it may be religion-conscious or language-conscious. There always will be reasons to hate anyone for any “unnamed or unnamable sin” such as wearing a hoodie or a hijab. As a result there will always be an artificial class viewed as the untouchables of society. And that is the inconvenient truth about racism, which cannot be eradicated but only reduced through a sustained, multi-faceted campaign that addresses its root causes and quarantines its symptoms effectively in all spheres of society.