”No man is an island” the Swedish poet Thomas Tranströmer expresses in one of his poems. I want to go a step further and say that no group held together with cultural, religious or racial conditions should isolate themselves on a small tract of land in the middle of the endless blue ocean. An open water consisting of diversity and depth of knowledge is what humanity needs to cross to take the next step in its development. I realize that as a middle-aged white man, my claims can be perceived as provocative and perhaps directly ridiculous. How can a writer who belongs to a historically oppressing group state that he has something to say regarding peoples equal value? Would it not be more convincing if I were black, Muslim, Jew or a woman? – target groups that historically has seen themselves to be depending on the white man. In order to have the right feeling, impetus and substance in my allegations of unfair treatment, it would probably be better if I belonged to an oppressed group but I think that also voices from the white European middle classes are necessary to achieve change. It may also be that the middle class is the socio-economically most suitable group to engage in a process of change when the working class often is oppressed or lack the means to fight injustice and the upper class is not interested in change.
Events in Ferguson, Missouri, this week has driven the small American town into an uproar. The acquittal of the white police Darren Wilson, who stood accused of shooting 18-year-old black boy Michael Brown to death, has made the old racial tensions in the United States to flare up in earnest. The African-American population who are in majority in the city feel discriminated by the white mans acquittal – a feeling that can be linked historically to slavery and the American South’s politics driven by the idea that the black man was the white man’s property. Although much has happened since then, the US is still one of the most segregated countries, where whites and blacks often live far apart. The whites often live in affluent areas while many blacks live where accommodation standard is low and the crime rate is high. This continues to reproduce the perceptions of ”the other side” and widens the gap between the groups. In Ferguson most of the population is black, while the institutional decision-makers are mainly white; in the jury behind the acquittal there were nine whites and three blacks. How did this affect the outcome of the decision that Darren Wilson as an official is innocent? Is it possible to exclude that so-called institutional racial discrimination has occurred, or will we as white pundits try to protect ourselves behind the argument that the issue of race is clouding the vision of the case? The US needs to change their self-image.
The self-image, which the headline in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet refers to, consists of a conviction that America is the greatest country in the world – a thesis that is driven hard by the outside world being constantly exposed to moral pointers regarding how they as people and cultures should live their lives. American media drives a debate on how the West should condemn Muslim society’s view of women and perceptions of violence. This is done in a society where the black man is protesting against the white establishment, and where leaders like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King tried to get the American to realize the problems that are constantly swarming over the fine facade of ”The American Dream”, with the delusion that all people have the same opportunities.
Malcolm X, a Black Muslim who ran the issue of the rights of the black man and the white man’s guilt, has himself told how his father treated him with more respect than his siblings because he had the lightest skin. In one of his famous speeches he tries to get his black audience to realize that there is no shame in having a different texture to the hair or a different shape of the nose. The black people’s self-image in the United States is a dark shade from the American South in the 1800s. An approach that has been passed down from generation to generation today permeates the social climate and driving development and aftermath of Wilson’s acquittal.
Malcolm X who for many years was one of the leaders of NOI, Nation of Islam, ran a very aggressive agitation that among other things proclaimed that whites were ”devils” created by a black scientist in a failed breeding attempt and predicted the black’s inevitable return to the top of world order. Social Darwinists, involved in the idea of slavery and colonization, in the same way thought that the ideas of competition between individuals, groups or nations governs the social development of human societies and that attempts by political intervention to protect the weak in society prevents the development of higher social forms as the white race. If we look at modern political or religious groups like Sweden democrats or Isis, they are controlled by the same mindset.
I must admit that I am affected badly by this depressing view of human behavior. By dehumanizing the human race to only see man as a contestant party, where it is everything to strive for the highest position to oppress others or to seek the sovereignty of a single mindset or a race, prevents human development through learning about each other. When the goal of the sovereign state, mindset or religion is achieved it puts humanity in stagnation, which is inconsistent with and not in tune with life and God. Ways of thinking is also peeling of mankind important epithets that separates us from the animals – central things such as ethics and morality. I would also like to go as far as to claim that Social Darwinism and all its ramifications that pushed on racism is a direct effect of impotency before all the social problems that are going on around us. By creating a system based on the idea that poverty and social exclusion must be, so that the weaker party will eventually be destroyed and the stronger survive, we will not have to take social responsibility. For that we should feel as good as possible, we can close our eyes and pretend that the misery around us is necessary. It works to the day when we ourselves is slipping down to position B and need help.
The white man is sitting on his island letting his bare feet slip into the icy water. For a moment he sets his eyes on the horizon, where sky and ocean meet. His own historical fate is played in his mind, making him feel ashamed. He understands that he himself helped to uphold a theory to justify his ancestor’s terrible acts. But can we continue to condemn him? The individual cannot take responsibility for his ancestors’ opinions, as well as a religion or race cannot take responsibility for extreme groupings actions. Realizing this, the white man takes a deep breath and dives in.
Niklas Liiv the 30th of November