Can racism be excused by immaturity?


Illustration by Izzy Zavareei

I’d had a long day: I’d gotten a B on a math test (a fate that I, as an Indian, consider worse than death), I’d found out there is such a thing as too much chipotle southwest in a sandwich, and even though it was almost six, I was still at school, working for The Pitch. And then I found out some idiot thought it would be a good idea to bare their twisted soul to the world and post a racist video on Youtube.

There was the initial shock. We were all rattled. What could possess someone to say such things? The consensus was immaturity. After a few seconds, my focus waned, and the video got lost in some untapped recess of my mind.

I must admit, that was a rather tepid reaction. But at a certain point, you just become jaded by such infantile behavior. You notice a pattern. This was eerily similar to the whole “Schindler’s List” controversy. A few stupid kids, too immature to fathom the consequences their ill-conceived actions might have. That’s all it is. “Just” immaturity.

But why do we keep recycling that trite excuse? Are we really so naive to think this’ll cure peoples’ racism?

UNICEF estimates that, thanks to vaccinations, death from measles declined by 80% worldwide between 2000 and 2017. Approximately 21.1 million deaths were prevented. It’s encouraging to see vaccines doing their job, immunizing us so we don’t die at the age of 16 from polio, smallpox or some other passé disease. They really take to heart the mantra, “prevention is better than cure”. So why don’t we take that approach when we deal with racism?

After all, that’s what racism is. A disease. One which we allow to infect us. It’s endemic to our society, like polio and smallpox were. And like polio, smallpox and all those other passé diseases, racism is preventable. We can crush it at its roots before it manifests itself as some sinister, unvanquishable force.

The problem is, it’s not simple to do so. We keep recycling that trite excuse of immaturity because it’s the easy thing to do. Yes, the offenders are often punished\; but that will only solve short-term problems. We need long-term solutions.

Just as vaccines immunize us against deadly diseases, so should our education immunize us against racism. We need to know what’s right and what’s wrong. We need to understand the gravity of our actions before we commit them.

We spend almost every second of our waking consciousness in a school-centric overdrive. Seven hours a day, five days a week, not to mention the post-school slog of homework, playing a sport, or participating in an extracurricular activity. The school must be a conduit through which we channel our drive for change. And frankly, we don’t do enough. Most students are dismissive, unwilling to take responsibility for their peers. Some even encourage such behavior. The staff, many of whom should be authority figures in our lives, need to take initiative. We all do.

Because radically transforming the status quo will not be straightforward. We won’t see change overnight. A single hero won’t be enough to make a difference. This will need to be a concerted effort.