Monday, June 5


I've been reading and watching and thinking along with everyone else about that little boy, Alex, who was murdered. It truly is horrific and tragic and has made all of us stop and think - about what I'm not sure - many scattered thoughts are tossing about in my brain as I try to comprehend how children could do such a thing.
But one thought that seems to be crystallizing - at least in the posts and comments I've read - is whether or not the murder was racially motivated.
Personally, I think it more likely that Alex was murdered because (from the looks of his photo and what has been said about him) he was a sweet, sensitive, fragile little boy who wore glasses. That's all the reason kids need - kids filled with hate, that is. And if race came into it, I think it was more likely that they were trying to find a "good" reason for hating him (because it's really hard to say outright that you hate someone for being happy and good) - a reason society conveniently provided.
But there's no question that hate was the cause, and hate at that age can only come from the surroundings. In a way, the kids responsible are just as much victims as Alex; victims of a society that bred such hate and unhappiness in them that they were capable of committing this terrible act. And while it's possible that these kids would have grown up to be awful people, it's just as possible that they would have risen above their milieu. Just because you're a savage at the age of 12 or 13 doesn't mean you'll end up as one. From the kids I've observed there's a tendency when they're in packs for the worst in them to come out, the most primitive and animal. Who's to say, they might have outgrown that.
Or perhaps the enormity of what they have done will somehow shock them into realising how awful hating is; perhaps they may grow up to be decent people as a result of what they did - people who will carry with them for the rest of their lives the burden of it. Neither can I believe that they've spent the last months sleeping sweetly - if there was an adult involved, I suspect they were coerced into silence, or so terrified at the magnitude of what they'd done that they didn't know what to do, and have been wretched and terrified all these months. I'm hoping that's the case anyway, cause to believe otherwise is really to accept that mankind is evil - something I try to avoid. Even when adults are horrible, hateful and racist, I try to imagine what they might have been through that made them that way - not to excuse them necessarily, but to understand what makes them tick better, to understand better how to prevent more children from growing into people like that, and maybe even to understand how better to convince them change their minds.
So while first I mourn for Alex and his mother, I also mourn for the other kids involved, who were victims of their society and who will have a heavy burden to carry with them all their lives.

The other thought which struck me is one I encountered on Devious Diva's post on the subject - the notion that "we are all responsible, in some way, for what has happened". We are all (well, most of us) resposible because we allow this society of haters to continue unattacked. We generally don't challenge, we don't speak out, we don't try to nip hatred in the bud. Perhaps your first reaction is "that's not true, I'm always speaking out against hatred and racism." I'll be honest, it was mine. But then I realised that the people I "speak out against it" to are the already converted, or the "safe" ones; that often I won't confront the people who need to hear it most because I have too much to lose. An example:
I don't hesitate to try to convince my aunt for hours that all the thieves in Thessaloniki are not Albanians - that not all Albanians are thieves, and that Greeks commit these crimes too. This is because she is my aunt, she is sweet and goodnatured and will love me no matter what I say (and it seems it doesn't matter what I say, she stands firm in her beliefs).
But when a girl at work makes numerous slurs against Albanians (for example, when arguing with her boyfriend about his choice of hotels for their vacation she said "What am I to stay there, an Albanian?") I keep my mouth shut.
I could say to myself that she doesn't really hate Albanians, she's just using a figure of speech (though such figures of speech are the most dangerous cause they're the easiest to let slip by, and the clearest indicators of how pervasive racism is).
I could say to myself that it's a lost cause: she's not one of those people who's willing to listen to any criticism, and is likely to fly off the handle when confronted (as she did when we tried to broach with her the fact that we didn't like her constant gossiping).
But the actual fact of the matter is that I don't say anything because it would make my life difficult. Why? Because I have to sit with this girl in a room 8 hours a day, and for the most part we manage to be friendly to each other (though I think we both know we couldn't care less for each other in terms of having anything in common or anything real to say to each other) and were I to confront her, no matter how nicely or persuasively, it would create a strained atmosphere - an atmosphere I would have to live with every day.
So I grimace, with my face to the computer screen, and keep my mouth shut - a coward.
So that's how we're all to blame. By allowing these opportunities to at least try to talk to people, to try to make them change their minds (no matter how futile it seems) slip by. Through our complacency, we are to blame.
If you are one of those people who does speak up each time you hear something racist or hateful said or done (in a constructive fashion of course) then this post is obviously not directed at you. For the rest of us - myself included - I guess we'll just have to keep working at it.


Emily said...

You're absolutely right, Kassandra. Racism does exist all around us, in petty forms, perhaps, but it's here. I have a friend who frequently tells racist jokes. I ws shocked beyond belief when I first heard that, because as I was raised, you JUST DON'T DO THAT. Ever. however, I was raised in one of the most diverse places in the world, and I think that makes people avoid overt racism, though it still exists at an unconscious level.
Anyway, I'm going to try to be less shy about confronting people who are overtly racist. It needs to be stopped. It's just inappropriate. You're absolutely right.

deviousdiva said...

Well written post Kassandra, you have made my point so much clearer than I did in my post. Yes, absolutely it is done to all of us to confront people and pull them up on their racism even though it is hard sometimes. I am guilty of letting things pass because it all seems too futile sometimes or I cannot face another argument or people telling me I am obsessed. In the end, all I can hope is that I can at least plant a seed in peoples minds and hope it grows.

I am often a bad person for confronting people because I get angry and that makes people defensive. I forgive myself for that because I have dealt with this all my life but I acknowledge that I need to work on it. It is better to discuss with a calm, clear head, with knowledge and remembering that for some people this might be the first time they have had a conversation like that.

Thank you for your post.

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