Sunday 9 October 2011

I judge therefore I am

This is my response to a discussion on Blog Catalogue, under the heading “We are all racists”, the proposition being that we automatically judge people who are different from our own ‘tribe.’ My remarks are addressed to the poster.

Ana Speaks

I don’t suppose that you’ve ever heard of Enoch Powell, a British politician once almost universally condemned, even by his own Party, as a ‘racist’ because of his famously infamous Rivers of Blood speech, in which he gave warning of the possible effects of mass immigration. He was once asked in a television interview with David Frost if he was a racist, to which he replied;

It depends on how you define the word “racialist.” If you mean being conscious of the differences between men and nations, and from that, races, then we are all racialists. However, if you mean a man who despises a human being because he belongs to another race, or a man who believes that one race is inherently superior to another, then the answer is emphatically No.

So, yes, by the first definition, I, too, am a racialist. I agree with the argument put forward in your post that we are all racialists to that extent. Beware always of the small-minded and stupid here; for all too often their denials of racism disguises the fact that they are racist in the second sense of Powell’s definition, a form of psychological compensation for their own worthlessness.

Where I differ from you is over the question of skin colour. I do not believe that there is a ‘black race’ any more than there is a ‘white race’. If I judge people it’s most often a cultural reflex rather any on the basis of deductions made on the basis of skin colour. If I entered an underpass and saw that the exit was blocked by a gang of youths it would make no difference at all to my level of apprehension if they were white or if they were black.

Did you ever see Crash, the 2004 movie directed by Paul Haggis? It’s really quite clever, exploring race prejudice on a whole number of levels, not just the obvious ones. Here, in London, some of the worst racism is not white on black, but black on black, with people from the West Indies hating people from Somalia.

There is also the wider question of prejudice, which can overlap with racial perceptions, though not always. I admit my own shortcomings here: I dislike gypsies because I have seen how gangs of East European Roma operate in London. They have no place here; I don’t want them; I don’t know anyone who does. Less specifically, I dislike fat people and I dislike the stupid, probably the first more than the second, because they have the power to do something about their affliction and chose not to. See; prejudgement in the purest sense!

We live in a complex world, too complex, in so many ways, to be taken in without forms of mental categorisation. I judge therefore I am. :-)


  1. What was the ratio of "black" youths committing knife crime/muggings in suburban London again!? What was the figure of Pakistani/Bengladeshi asylum-seeking families living on state benefits?

    Racist is too often a label our politicians are afraid of being called. And the few that are brave enough to tackle these issues are labelled racist and vilified in the press. It's a catch-22, no-win situation in this country.

  2. Deport them and their alien ideologies.

  3. You can't have a rational discussion about racism in England because the Guardian Reading Classes who rule think it is only the English that are racist. As you know, many years ago I lived in Singapore, a truly multi-racial society. The only ethnic group that was not stratified by skin colour was the rather sunburnt English. The rest were divided up in layers, with the lighter skinned ones on top. As to the Gypsies, they are disliked because in a country that lives by the rules, they don't.

  4. I hail from Penrith originally, and just down the road in Appleby the annual Horse Fair attracts gypsies and other 'travellers' from all over the country. It requires a major police operation to keep antisocial behaviour to a tolerable level, and many local pubs refuse to serve them. I won't besmirch your blog by describing their behaviour, but there is a lot of incidental criminality. I'm often out on my bike, and I see them on the back roads in large vans looking for isolated farms and cottages to rob. I was forced off the road once, but when I complained to the police it turned out that the offending van had been carrying false number plates. I try not to generalize though, because I've talked to some older gypsies, and they're as appalled at the behaviour of the younger generation as the rest of us.

    I agree with you regarding stupid people, although I tend to be fairly tolerant unless they try to pretend that they're clever.

  5. Rehan, yes, it's the issue that still dare not speak its name.

  6. Yes, Dennis, I know exactly what you mean. :-)

  7. Yes, I had to download google chrome and make it the default browser.

  8. Yes,it was good advice! it worked! I gave it a few days to work itself out as some glitches do but not this time.

  9. Very interesting article, Ana.

    There was a discussion on blogcatalog on the Roma in which I tried to explain why I thought they were being "picked on". It is validating to read that I am not alone in some of my opinions.

    I guess most of us struggle with not judging others. And lumping people together takes so much less effort, when expressing prejudice.

    Racism is everywhere, I think. At least I'm not aware of any country that does not suffer the effects of it.

    As for the fat and stupid. Ouch!

    Dennis' attitude is one I like. If a person can't help themselves, we are the worse for judging them.

    Re: Obesity...Ana...really? There are so many complexities that research is just now beginning to understand about it. The results are very validating to those who struggle with weight issues.

    Obesity, in general, is a food addiction; however, unlike other addictions, people can't avoid it altogether--and that makes the addiction more tenacious.

    Poorly functioning body chemistry, painful emotions, poor food choices, poor education about the causes and challenges of fat people, prejudice, poor treatment, non-acceptance, ridicule, DNA, lifestyle conditioning, low-self-esteem--they all play into a vicious cycle of obesity.

    The brains of obese people react differently to certain foods (fat, sweets, carbs, e.g.) than "normal" people. They are not just weak-willed. They can't just change if they want. If that was true, there wouldn't be so many obese people! I don't know of one fat person who chooses to be fat.

    Actually, putting up with all the challenges of obesity, making numerous tries to lose weight, depriving oneself of a substance your body craves intensely--these people are stronger and more courageous than you may think.

    You say they can do something about it? What do you think they can do?

  10. I missed the thread on the Roma.

    Sorry, Psachno, the fatism was just an illustration of my own unreasonable prejudice. :-) If you tell me that you have problems with weight control I shall now be acutely embarrassed!

    Look, I'm a great believer in the power of the will. I do not accept that the fat are fat because they are fat. You are quite right to identify some of the things that you have, but these are challenges, surely, to be overcome. When I first went to the States I was amazed how many obese people there were, not just obese but grossly so. Now the problem is here in England, too many people eating too much junk and not getting enough exercise. DNA, yes, sure, but how many fat people are there in famine zones? I hope you don't think me hard, but we really must stop making excuses for human inadequacy.

  11. Anthony, I'm glad. It was no great secret: I had exactly the same problem. The only way I can get on to my own blog is by using Chrome.

  12. I suppose. You just have to work things out as best you can.

  13. Hi! Thanks for your reply and explaining your "unreasonable prejudice". As for all the reasons you state for your unreasonableness, perhaps you are right in some ways--but I doubt it. ;0)

    Seriously, you are right about the "ballooning" in numbers of overweight people. It is, in great part, not just DNA, rather the availability of the kinds of unhealthy foods combined with a lot of contemporary angst/stress and material comfort combined that seems to "fuel" this sad situation.

    I think due to poor health and stress, many more people are developing depressions and craving boosts of serotonin that rich food gives them.

    It's complicated--and yes, sad. Even appalling. However, getting "over" weight issues may be more difficult than getting past certain prejudices? :0)

    No worries; I'm lucky to be a beautiful woman; lucky to have grown up within a normal weight range! My sisters and mother, however, struggled with weight their entire lives.

    My sister never found her way out of it and died relatively young as a result of the many diseases that come with obesity. My mother, through a strong belief in healthy foods and by sheer I-don't-know-what--willpower? I hate that word. Stubbornness?...that sounds closer... battled her desire for overeating her whole life and is still winning at 90! She is amazing--and one of the minority.

  14. I'm so sorry to hear about your sister. :-( Your mother sounds amazing.