Saturday, 1 June 2013

Racial prejudice is

abhorrent and to be condemned in the loudest possible way. It is also alive and well in Australia if the reports in the media are anything to go by.
I do not follow any sport - apart from a mild interest in the psychology of the game of cricket. I am certainly not interested in "Aussie Rules" football. Nevertheless many people are and recently there was a very nasty incident involving name-calling by a young spectator which was later compounded by a radio personality who seems to speak before he thinks. Both incidents were made far worse by the undue media attention they got, especially the first incident. It has probably turned the young spectator into something of a hero at school. 
All this came under discussion at a meeting I attended several days ago.  The prejudice was condemned and then the discussion moved on to some issues in the legislation which is supposed to prevent discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, disability etc. Someone said, "You know this legislation just helps to entrench prejudice."
There was a shocked silence but he went on to explain his thinking by saying that the provisions in the legislation are the source of resentment against minority groups if they are seen to provide them with an advantage. Resentment, he said, breeds prejudice. 
I think he may be right. There is a great deal of misinformation in the community about the "rights" of minority groups and those perceived rights are resented. 
Unfortunately some of that misinformation is based on the way that facts have been interpreted - often by the media. It is also based on the reaction of those who are on the receiving end of perceived disadvantage or prejudice. There are people who set out to take advantage of the provisions of legislation simply because they know they can. It makes them feel important - at least for a while.That they may be doing more harm than good is as immaterial to them as it is to the media. Indeed, they would be shocked if you said they were doing harm.
I can remember when the first "disability discrimination" legislation was put up for debate. I was working in a school for profoundly disabled children. Someone came to talk to the entire centre staff about it. He assumed that everyone in the room would be entirely supportive of the legislation. He finished his spiel and the woman next to me, then in her fifties, stood up and said, "As someone with a disability I want to say that we as a society, don't need this legislation. What we need is information." 
Of course we have ended up with the legislation - and legislation for other forms of perceived discrimination. I do wonder though whether information might do more than legislation to prevent resentment and thus prejudice.

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