Racism exists. A victim of racism faces different life challenges than they would face if racism did not exist. But racism does not play the primary role in forging our life path. It never did. It never will.
Since life is finite, it is a waste of our precious hours to devote our lives to navel-gazing on the particular set of challenges presented by racism. There are more important matters that call for our limited time, most importantly doing everything possible to expand our wisdom and knowledge and understanding. Every hour spent itemising micro-aggressions is an hour we could have spent reading great literature or listening to great music.
Let's be wiser! And smarter! Forget whether that notorious micro-aggressor in your department is faking his friendly smile while secretly cursing you in the deepest depths of his dark racist heart, or whether English folk in the countryside wear wellies just to signal how racist they are. Fascinating as these problems are (no, really!) there simply isn't time to resolve them. Before long your three score and ten will be up, and you still won't know for sure whether that was a real smile, nor will you have uncovered the true motivations behind the wearing of the infamous welly-boot. Are all wellies racist, or does that depend on what colour they are? Maybe only wearers of green wellies should be regarded with suspicion? Black wellies should be banned of course.
But let's be realistic. If we didn't have the particular set of challenges posed by racism, we'd have a different set of challenges to face. No man lives a challenge-free life. Yes, I know the government promised to strengthen equality legislation in order to eradicate all our challenges once and for all, but that will only throw up a new set of worse challenges. 'We need new equality legislation, to fix the problems created by the old equality legislation!' we then cry. Oh dear. We are now caught in an endless vortex of spiralling legislation that is inimical to freedom, drowning in legislative amendments, hiring lawyers, and spending all our time down the law courts, enforcing this and that. A war of legislative attrition.
There is no magic fix in passing new legislation. The fix for most of life's problems lies in personal responsibility. Dude, fix your own problems. Plotting social revolution merely distracts you from the steps you could take to make your life work better.
It is sometimes argued that putting racism into context of other social problems minimises the seriousness of racism. But the seriousness of a problem is not dependent on who can shout the loudest about their problems. Shall we measure the scale of social problems by reference to who weeps the loudest, or who is prepared to go on the streets and riot about their problems? So that the problems of those who wrestle quietly with their situation are not as serious as those who are out there mounting the barricades?
It's pointless playing the 'but my challenges are bigger than your challenges!' sport of competitive victimhood. After all, you are in no position to judge whether your challenges are bigger than anybody else's challenges. Don't judge a man until you walk a mile in his moccasins, but also don't try to guilt-trip other people into walking a mile in yours. It is not a good use of your time to force the other man to walk a mile in your moccasins so he can understand how you feel. 'There needs to be a new law forcing people to walk a mile in other people's shoes!' Oh dear. You walk your own miles in your own moccasins, and let other people walk their own miles as best they can. Live, and let live.
Yes, I know there are books that promise to explain how the author's challenges feel to them (How To Understand My Challenges: A Primer) and there are mandatory focus-groups and mandatory workplace training where your colleagues are forced to study these books so they can understand exactly how victims of racism feel, and it seems like finally, FINALLY, everyone will understand how you experience your life. But the truth is that nobody can understand your life, because they are not you.
This may seem disappointing - obviously we are marvellous people and how nice would it be if everybody could be forced to spend a bunch of time understanding who we are, educating themselves, decolonising their minds, and generally morphing into people who are just like us by taking mandatory courses on how to be less white.
Wow, cool, that would make life easier for sure if everyone could be forced to do that. No more challenges!
But life would soon become stale. We'd all be one identikit person with no zone of personal privacy. Where's the joy in that. Life is finite (see above) and it's better to find a little bit of meaning and value along the way. Being angry about racism all the time just sucks away energy and motivation, leaving no time to enjoy the sunshine and the fresh spring flowers.
Anger crowds out creativity, and a life devoted to being angry is a life of wasted opportunity. It is admittedly difficult to say no to anger when there are numerous anti-racism activists and equality artists who are paid to convince you of how angry you are, and even your employer wants you to set your productive work aside in order to devote all your time to grievance politics. You will actually get a promotion and a pay rise if you could just be a bit more angry.
At the end of all things, when we face St Peter at the pearly gates, none of us will have to account for what other people did 'they were so mean to me and exhibited multiple unforgivable micro-aggressions!' Nobody is there to report on other people. You only have to account for what YOU did and how you lived your own life. How you walked your own miles. To thine own self be true.
Scholar, Writer, Friend