I have been shocked and upset by several big events in the world this year and in particular I’d like to talk about both the UK EU Referendum and the US Presidential Election. I voted for the UK to remain a part of the European Union for many reasons (one of which was that the arguments to leave were often centered on some form of ignorance and racism) and I was stunned when I found out that the vote had turned out in favour of the “Leave” campaign. I honestly felt a little numb for most of the day. Obviously, I had no vote to cast in the US Presidential Election, but I didn’t think Donald Trump would win for a second. His views were so clearly routed in hatred (racism and sexism being especially evident) that I thought he would lose by some distance. When I found out that he had won, I felt much the same way as I had when I discovered the results of the EU Referendum. When both of these things happened, I saw lots of people saying that they had lost their faith in humanity. While I am certainly worried about the amount of suffering and pain that both of these decisions will cause (and have already caused) my faith in humanity has certainly not gone – it remains as strong as it ever was.
What you have to remember is that people vote with the best of intentions and ignorance is not equal to maliciousness. People voted to leave the EU because they thought they were voting to make life better for themselves and other people like them. There are thousands of people in the UK living in poverty and they thought their vote would help them. Many of the voters may have been living in poverty themselves. They also thought they were helping to bring more money to the NHS – a service we all need and depend upon. Yes, they may have been dehumanising and demonising groups of people in the process (which is terrible) but the thing is, they have probably never actually had the chance to get to know an immigrant and if they did, I don’t believe they would be able to continue dehumanising them. The negative and harmful attitudes that they have will have been imprinted on them through authority figures (like their parents and politicians) and they won’t have had much exposure to contrary points. They probably lack critical thinking skills (not due to any lack of capability, but lack of educations, which is why I think it should be taught in schools) and, really, as the old saying goes ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions.’
I don’t think of humanity as a hateful race and I believe the average person is good and compassionate. Humanity’s only flaw is a sense of naivety – people think that issues like sexism, homophobia and racism aren’t that bad because that’s what they’re told. They can dehumanise people because they have never met them. They’re too trusting of authority figures who are misinformed and/or ignorant themselves. In America, somebody who voted for Donald Trump and wanted to block Muslims from entering the country may have genuinely believed that all Muslims are terrible and just hasn’t been made aware of the reality that Muslims are just like everybody else. It’s a huge tragedy and I don’t mean to understate the suffering cause to minority groups as a result of both of these events, but it’s important to remember that this “hate” is not natural and the poorer people who voted for Trump and for Leave are also sadly going to continue to suffer in poverty. They’re victims too, in their own way, and they don’t even know it.
Obviously I don’t want to suggest that anybody has it worse of than the minorities who have been the victim of hate crimes as a result of these events, but I want to highlight that this has not happened because of any natural hatefulness within humanity. A minority of people at the top make it harder for everybody else, but that shouldn’t reflect on people as a whole. It’s clear that the solution to this problem is increased awareness to all kinds of people. The media always shows us white heterosexual characters, but what if there were all kinds of minorities in leading roles in television, film and in other aspects of the entertainment industry. Another problem is that schools do very little to talk of the sexism, homophobia, racism, transphobia, religious hatred and other issues that exist to this day. Children need to be made aware of the issues and they need to be made to understand that everyone is deserving of the same human rights. Nobody is lesser. If the media and education systems were to change, it would be much harder for ignorance to spread because everybody would be familiar with all of the different perspectives and people that exist alongside of them. But, for example, when the only exposure people have to immigrants is horrible newspapers who paint them as selfish and potentially dangerous people (not that they call them “people” only ever “immigrants”), it’s no wonder that these unhealthy ideologies are given the opportunity to grow.
I’ll admit, it will be very hard for these changes to be implemented and I am very sad about the current state of affairs. Nonetheless, I do not believe these traits to be an inherent aspect of humanity – in time, we will be able to remove these negative aspects entirely. I really believe it. If you lose your faith in humanity, you are accepting these injustices as a natural part of life and if something’s natural, it can’t be wrong. I will not accept this and we must keep our faith and strive for betterment. For now, we can only hope that things will not get any worse for these minorities and challenge any examples of this ignorance and hatred whenever we may encounter it.