Monday, August 26, 2013

Racism: easy to accuse, hard to defend

The Zimmerman trial made me wonder if Zimmerman's crime was in fact not being black.  If Zimmerman were black, his acquittal would not have attracted any comment and most of us outside  the US would not even have heard of the news.  But are people really interested in the facts revealed at the trial?  No, they're not.  All people in general bothered about was the fact that he wasn't black and he shot a black man and so the jury can't be right to acquit him.  That was all they cared about.  The rule of law doesn't apply to most people.  Nobody I've spoken to cared to read and examine the evidence adduced at the trial.  And yet they felt they were competent to make a judgment that Zimmerman ought to have been found guilty.

Much of the Western world has a huge collective guilt for their wrongdoings against blacks in the past and the guilt is understandable.   However, we must be very careful about claims of racism today.  Sometimes minority races use the world's angst about racism to their advantage and this is particularly bad if the person who happens to belong to the minority race is as powerful as Oprah Winfrey and the person accused of racism is a shop attendant.  Everyone has heard what Oprah Winfrey claims about having been at the receiving end of a racist discrimination at a shop in Zurich.  But have people wondered what the poor sales girl in the shop has to say in reply?  Do they even bother with what she has to say in response or what a nightmare such an accusation must have been for her?

The shop attendant denied having refused to show an expensive bag to Oprah when the latter asked for it.  She accused Oprah of having told a lie.  So it's her word against Oprah's and who can one believe?

Click here to read what the salesgirl has to say.

We should bear in mind that Oprah Winfrey was at that time promoting Lee Daniel's film, "The Butler" which is about the black civil rights movement and racism against blacks.  Is it not a wonderful coincidence that even in liberal Switzerland, racism is not dead and gone, as Oprah herself experienced in a shop in Zurich?

If it's a made-up story, surely the decent thing to do is not to mention the shop at all.  It's fine if you want to promote a film on racism to tell some imaginary story of racism which might very well take place in the real world.  But to name the shop would be quite unconscionable and besides, you might get a strong denial from the salesgirl in the shop.  The fact is Oprah didn't name the shop.  It's journalists who traced her steps and they were the ones who identified the shop in Zurich.  Oprah has since said she was sorry she even named the country where this incident is alleged to have taken place.  See this BBC report.

It would be wise for all of us to treat any accusation of racism with a bit of care.  It's something that triggers a strong emotional response.  It's easy to make an accusation of racism.   Once made, the impact on the accused is huge and devastating and at the same time, it's very hard to defend against such an accusation and even if the accused is totally innocent, he probably won't be believed.

No comments:

Post a Comment