This is not racism! (Now, how would Hamlet’s mother respond?)

by snowden1984

A sign outside a small business in Berlin, Germany, reported on by a subsidiary of the popular Bild Zeitung: because of multiple incidents of theft attributed to an ethnic group specialized in theft and fraud, or so claims the businesswoman, members of the Roma community (also known as Gypsies) may not enter the premises. The sign ends with the note “This is not racism”, with the latter word being placed in quotes.

There are two problems here.

One, how do we screen for someone of the Roma community? Will we develop a whole occupation? Professionals who can spot out Roma, Jews, Aryans, Slavs, Arabs, Muslims, Buddhists, Infidels and all the rest, based on their looks, the shape of their noses, color of their skin, etc., with expertise extending in these sinful days to the half-castes? Or, to make it more efficient and modern, everyone is obliged to carry a document confirming their racial or religious affiliation? The Weimar Republic used to have a similar device in place, called the Ahnenpass. Berlin was the capital city of that republic, and oversaw the systematic loot and murder of those deemed to belong to the wrong sort of racial stock.

Two, attributing something to individual members of a group, which does not by definition belong to the group, on the basis of their membership of the group, is pretty much the textbook definition of racism. Given that the author feels the need to explicitly deny the racist nature of the announcement, we need to find ways to make racism more acceptable again, perhaps. Shakespeare would say that the lady doth protest too much. A more recent student of human behavior, Terry Pratchett, wrote that the statement “The innocent have nothing to fear” is guaranteed to strike fear in the hearts of innocents everywhere. Perhaps we can start with T-shirts, “Racist and proud”, “Racism: coming out of the closet”, “If it was good enough for the ancients, it’s good enough for us!”.

Alternately, we can start treating people as individuals, responsible for their actions, and their actions alone.

That would be a modern idea. Modern, that is, back in 1789, when the noblest Europeans declared, “Les hommes naissent et demeurent libres et égaux en droits.” All human beings are born and remain free, with equal rights.” In 2016, we really should be able to do better.

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