We know that nowadays that certain things are just not acceptable. We know that it’s wrong to hit a woman over the head with a club and drag her into your cave. We now know it’s not acceptable to drink and drive, or eat and drive, or smoke and drive (especially if there are kids in the car!). We
can no longer smoke on planes, in cinemas, or pretty much anywhere else for that matter. And we also know that it’s no longer acceptable to be racist.
Now this doesn’t mean that people are suddenly no longer racist simply because the tide of public opinion has turned, or because there are laws to challenge it. We may have the mechanisms in place to prevent much discrimination, but we still have not created the conditions where they are no longer necessary. Racism, and homophobia, or prejudice – whether because of sexuality, or ability or disability – is sadly still rife. And whilst people are in the main aware that expressing their prejudices will not be tolerated – it doesn’t mean that the sentiments of superiority, or fear, or loathing have gone away. Instead these feelings have either been hidden or even worse – denied.
I’m not racist, I have friends that are… I’m not racist, I’m just worried about… I’m not racist, I’m just… Just nothing, if those words, thoughts or ideas come into your head, then sorry to be the one to break the bad news, but mate, you’re a racist, and it’s time you did something about it.
But not to fear, we have come up with a 12 stage plan that we think might just help. And it's so versatile that you can use it for other types of bigotry too!
Admit – you have a problem. And in order to do so, you have to say the words… ‘My name is ……………………. and I’m a bigot/ racist/ homophobe (use as appropriate)’. You might not want to make this announcement on social media just yet – you’ve got some work to do first:
Accept – that you were not born a bigot/ racist/ homophobe (use as appropriate), and that these thoughts and fears were implanted – with or without your active consent.
Understand – that if you were not born a bigot/ racist/ homophobe (use as appropriate), then you must have learnt to be one. And if you can learn something, then you can unlearn it.
Learn – where, why and how you became a bigot/ racist/ homophobe (use as appropriate). How did these crazy hateful ideas come into your head? Was it from your family, from books, TV, film, certain elements of the media, something you heard in the playground?
Unlearn. This is tricky, you’ve held these ideas for some time now, and letting go of them can be scary – because who wants to admit they’ve been wrong their whole life? However, this stage is imperative if you really want to be cured. Electric shock therapy is apparently a very effective
method of changing attitudes, but apart from the availability and the cost, can be a tad painful. So start out by reading (with an open mind) from the books, writers and sources that you might yesterday have dismissed as leftie liberal claptrap.
Engage. The best way to get over your fears is to face them. So it’s now time to go forth and engage. Meet people who hitherto you would have avoided. Face to face contact is one of the best ways of finding out stereotypes are just that (stereotypes). At this stage you should avoid the trap of thinking that the one person you’re speaking to is the exception to the rule. The more people you meet, the more you’ll realise that it’s the stereotype that is the exception.
Eureka. They’re just like you! At this point, you should have come to that lightning bolt of realisation that you’ve got rather a lot in common with these ‘others’. You share the same hopes, dreams, fears, aspirations, likes, dislikes – and now isn’t that lovely.
Confess. Along the way, you may have upset a couple of people by being a bigot/ racist/ homophobe (use as appropriate) – now’s the time to seek forgiveness. Make a list of all the people you’ve wronged, insulted, ignored and hurt. Be honest, but don’t get disheartened if it adds up to
quite a few pages.
Make amends. Wherever possible, apologise. A sorry goes a long way, and if you can make up for the effects of your bigoted/ racist/ homophobic (use as appropriate) behaviour, well what’s holding you back? Apart from physical harm, verbal abuse and potential legal ramifications that is. But
don’t let that stop you.
Forgive. Once you’ve made amends, then you can be forgiven, and not just by others, you need to forgive yourself too. You may have been a gold plated idiot for much of your life, but at least you’re over it now.
Avoid. You know what got you into this situation, so you’ve got to make sure you don’t have a relapse. Whatever you were doing that got you to this point – stop. Whoever you used to hang around with that thought like you – dump them. Doesn’t matter if they’re your friends, significant other, relatives, or even your parents – dump them.
Share. The likelihood is that if you are a bigot/ racist/ homophobe (use as appropriate), then you’ve probably got a few friends or relatives that are just like you. Wouldn’t it be nice to cure them of their fears too? Go on, spread the word.
(Stages 11 and 12 can happen simultaneously. To avoid confusion, for those that you can help – share; and those you can’t – avoid).
Let us know how you get on.
(Important notice – Link Up (UK) takes no responsibility for any harm, damage or any other negative
implications for participating in our 12 stage programme!)
Written by Michelle Lawrence