Last week, I wrote an article in relation to the amount of online abuse that was taking place in the world of football. The more I dug into that matter, the more shocking it got. Indeed, considering the number of football players and clubs that I follow on social media, I am often tempted to have a look at the comment section of posts from time to time. Even if the post is just about congratulating the team on a hard-fought win, certain fans seem to have already prepared their attacks towards the player as a person. These scenarios take place regardless of whether the player that is being attacked was involved in the fixture in question or not.
It does not matter who the player is, the people who will be sending such hateful messages will be “fans” of the club which the victim plays for or of rival clubs. It almost seems as if they have it in for the player, no matter what happens. The performance in any given fixture is often used as an excuse to post those comments.
Throughout the course of cinema history, several movies have come out in order to take a stand against racism. From Cool Runnings to Remember The Titans and passing by 42, the struggle of being accepted the way humans are regardless of what they look or where they come from is an issue that every generation seems to struggle to deal with. In each of those movies, the scenario seems to constantly follow the same pattern: a person – or a group – enters a community as pioneers because they want to do something more with the talent they have. The reaction is that of people in that said community resisting the fact that they are no longer the only ones present; there is a different element, called change.
Change is always difficult to implement as it involves re-evaluating our old ways, our thoughts, our perceptions of certain things. We tend to resist change as it means that our reference points might disappear and that our identity as a community is being tampered with. This is quite a normal human reaction as points of reference are the essence in order to establish our community and have a sense of social belonging. Therefore, when something new enters this ecosystem, we are afraid of feeling like we do not belong in this community anymore. We start to develop a defence mechanism due to the projection that happens in our mind when in reality this is all there is: it is all happening in our minds. A combination of assumptions that might never take place because we have immediately played out the entire scenario in our minds. We build this entire façade of ideas and perceptions of the newcomers based on the idea that they are different. All of this process happens before the first interaction even takes place with them. Sadly, once contact is made, things do not necessarily get better.
This scenario was quite clear for me when I read Jean Graton’s comic book Le 8e Pilote, as part of the adventures of comic book hero Michel Vaillant. In the book, Vaillant is tasked with training eight pilotes from various nationalities in order for them to join the Vaillante team and participate in car races. Amongst the students are two interesting profiles: an American pilot (Roy Johnson) and a Russian one (Nicolas Olensky). Before the two pilots even meet, Johnson has made his mind up that he could never get along with his Russian teammate, and that Russian has no business in taking part in the training. The decision was made based on the story taking place just a few years after the end of the Cold War and therefore political tensions are still quite heated. However, once the encounter took place, Johnson realized that Olensky was actually nowhere near the pejorative pre-conceived image he had of him. Nevertheless, Johnson could not bring himself to admitting this. Maybe out of pride. Maybe out of social pressures. Who knows? However, this does not mean that people in real life do not react the same way once they realize that their assumptions were wrong.
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
– Audre Lorde
Racism exists because people are afraid of those who are different from them. How many times have you heard someone say that certain people are “not like us”? No one is the centre of the universe. At the end of the day, they are still human, which is more than enough to say that we are all alike. Besides, imagine if we are alike in terms of skin, ethnicity, religion, philosophy, culture, and so on. Life would be so boring. There would be no willingness to go out into the unknown and discover something new, to learn, to grow, to become ourselves.
Learn to leave your comfort zone.
Get out of your bubble.
Travel around the world.
Meet new people.
People who have nothing in common with you.
Talk to them, and realize that you have so much to offer each other
But most importantly, stand against injustice.
Act against it.
Say no to racism.
Say no to sexism.
Say no to homophobia.
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
– Martin Luther King