October 18th, 2014 | Uncategorized
This week I helped teach a lesson and run a session for FARE week. This initiative, Football Against Racism in Europe, is quite inspiring in many ways. Still, I have a few ideas about how this is just the right start to showing communities that none of us are superior to another. Let me just share a few thoughts that have been running around my head…..warning: it gets a little philosophical again 🙂
As I began the lesson dealing with racism, one of the first questions I asked the class of boys was a simple one….”What is racism to you?” Hands rose throughout the class at once, and I received a number of responses, most of them quite accurate. A few of the answers weren’t necessarily technically correct, but they had me thinking. One kid said, “Is it when you don’t like someone because you think you’re better than them?” Another said, “Does religion count?” And yet another asked, “Does it have to do with homosexuality too?” Technically, I had to answer that this did not fall under the category of racism as we were intending to explain it, but these 11 year olds were on to something.
Although Football Against Racism in Europe is a brilliant initiative and a fantastic start to creating awareness, it seems that racism is just one aspect of a deeper, more encompassing problem. This problem is bigotry in general, the notion that any person is superior to, more important than, or fundamentally better than any other person. Racism is simply one face of the animal that is bigotry. The more I think about it, we have all faced it, and we are all very guilty of it.
As I walk back from class wearing some new Nike trainers and a Dayton jacket that I am pretty proud of, I wonder why it gives me joy to look nice and wear things that I can be proud of. It is human nature, yes, but my expression is completely based in the material world. I am proud because what I have is contributing to what I see as my identity. The same exact way that anything we take pride in that comes to define our identity is abstract, often material, and not a true indicator or representation of our identity. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be proud of who we are, where we come from, or what we believe in. However, we have to understand that these differences really do not define us, all they do is separate us.
I had to explain to the class the idea of “race” is now widely agreed to be a social construct. A biologically inaccurate and socially destructive way of distinguishing ourselves based on certain genetic similarities/differences. The class and I agreed that the only way to accurately categorize race was to understand ourselves as part of the human race. But that doesn’t just stop at race. Whether religion, social class, income, background, gender, belief system etc., our labeling of people based on their thoughts, feelings, unharmful actions, and ideas is just as bad as labeling people based on ethnic or cultural background! All of the differences that we assign to one another are material. The kids in the class helped me see the truth in that statement. So the next step is to move away from differences that emphasize material and superfluous aspects of our thought that we claim to be our identity and to truly understand that our identity is not what divides us but rather what brings us together, our humanity. Let us base our thoughts and actions in love for one another and a notion of humility, rather than the illusion that we individually or collectively are better than anyone for any reason at all. Hope you stayed with me on that rant, I’ve been reading and thinking about a lot of things all week. One love.
Victory Scholar: Jonathan Nelson
Sport League: ATLANTIC 10
Present University: University of Limerick
Alma Mater: Dayton University