Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Racism vs Authoritarianism

If there's one thing that is sure in the world it is that the days of "shipping people out of the country" for the colour of their skin alone are long gone. While the odd convicted criminal may be deported along side some perfectly innocent foreigners fleeing persecution, the mass general public is not going to seriously consider that it is sensible when the "Racist Tram Woman (RTW)" says that her various self-appointed enemies should not be in this country.

The rantings and ravings of this person, perhaps in more than one occasion caught on video, are disgusting views...and they aren't to be applauded. The trouble is that they are just someone's views, able to be ignored or challenged as one wishes. Such mature beings are we that we're meant to be able to disagree without causing any harm to each other, save perhaps a little bit of tweaked nerves and a heightened sense of anger. It is depressing then that the woman has been arrested, for something that shouldn't be cause for arrest, as Sunny Hundal says over at the Guardian.

People get wholly unrational when it comes to racism, which is natural given it is such an emotional subject. But the views of this woman are nothing more than extreme and voiced in a anti-social manner. They are, in an objective sense, no worse than when you have to listen to the misogynistic braggings of a guy behind you while waiting to get served at your lunch break, having to hear the preaching of your city centre evangelist, or being with that person at a party that just won't shut up about the state of politics in this country (Yeah, sorry, I'll try to keep it to myself in the future!)

They're opinions, we can ignore them, we can challenge them, we can (ultimately) walk away. Yet unfortunately there is a law that exists that can lead to up to TWO YEARS imprisonment for simply getting on some people's nerves with racist connotations.

Worse still is the growing number of people that are in agreement with each other that perhaps this woman should lose custody of her child. To me this is mindboggling. There is no evidence at all that she is a bad parent, only that she is a woman that we don't really like the look of. I could give up half a dozen names each week to child if the threshold for "being a good parent" was whether or not I personally had a good feeling about them or not, thankfully a persons ability to raise their child is not about such childish and trivial measures.

Yet there are people that would have it this way. She has said a naughty thing, therefore her son is CERTAIN, they will lead you to believe, to become as bad a racist as her, if not worse. Forgetting all of the other influences that a child has, the community around them, teachers, friends, the culture they aspire to be a part of, it is not even certain that a child will take their parents views as their own. Yet these people will assume that this small possibility is a great threat, that needs to be snuffed out.

But why? Even if they're right what is another racist person on the streets, assuming that he has not got violent tendencies (which would tend to be present regardless of world view...but then beating up other same coloured people in a drunken fight because of their class would acceptable to these same masses, no doubt, at least more acceptable than the exact same action committed because of skin colour as the primary factor in target...), what actual harm is that placing us under so much that we need to intervene by breaking up the family unit?

Are we so untrusting of our public education system, of the rest of society at large, that this kid will not have any other scope over the next decade and a half to come to understand the ridiculousness of racist sentiment? It seems funny to me that the same people that fear for how this child has no hope unless the mother is taken out of the equation, and therefore lack faith in both the child and society to be a stronger influence on their own beliefs, also applaud the general public view of the racist outbursts as one of "proof" that people are sane and won't stand for this kind of belief in modern Britain.

Where do these people get off stating that one person telling another that they should "fuck off back to where they came from" is any more morally corrupt than their own statement of "You don't deserve to have your kid so I want him taken from you JUST because I don't agree with this opinion of yours"? Seemingly if the racist woman had shut up and another person on the train had started shouting at her that she shouldn't have her kid, that the state should take him from her, this would be applauded. It would be just as much a "criminal action" (though a slightly different crime), yet I am not sure we would have twitter campaigns to track down that individual and get them arrested.

Such is the danger of the law we have in this country against combative speech. If you offend a lot of people the law will come down on you, if you offend one person then the law...just as applicable...will pass you by.

You'll have to forgive me if I worry more about those that advocate greater state involvement in family life, for tenuous concerns based on opinions alone, than a woman madly ranting on public transport. There are those all too ready to make connections to Nazi Germany, and that we shouldn't "let these views go unchallenged", and perhaps that is where the whole "save the kid from this filth" mentality comes from too. I just find it depressingly ironic that it was just that kind of mentality, stamping out things like homosexuality and religion like Judaism, that we fought against the Nazi's for. The Nazi's thought they were absolutely morally correct too, and used that as justification for their state intervention in the affairs of people's choices and views.

I sincerely hope that the talk of her getting a jail sentence is just optimistic from the "baying for blood" brigade, that she gets a slap on the wrists, a mental health assessment and an obligation to attend anger management classes. In the end we shouldn't cheer people getting put away for offending people, it's all too easy to offend others and we never know when we might be just out of step on public opinion ourselves.