For me, growing up in Canada, we had a saying. While it might seem crass to some, it is a reality for many westerners. When someone is flatulent, or passes gas, and someone in the near vicinity says “Who Farted?” a common reply is “whoever smelt it, dealt it”. This simply implies that the one who first discovered the problem is probably responsible for it, and trying to hide their inherent blame. While this might seem like a strange way to deal with this common bodily function, it speaks well to more of our human tendencies to deny blame. We like it when someone else is to blame. Unfortunately, this is all to often true in ascribing blame to someone in racially inspired tensions.
Within the multicultural communities we live in, as someone makes a racially inspired comment or commits a racially insensitive action, we can be very quick to blame them for the injustice. Yet too often, we are guilty of injustices ourselves. Passing blame on another can reveal our own insecurities about the issues. And too often we feel that passing blame on someone else will relieve the conviction in our hearts regarding the injustice. For none of us is without these tendencies. We must remove the proverbial log from our eye, before pointing out the little piece of wood splinter in another’s eye.
If I am in culture “a” and someone else is in culture “b” says something that insults me, I can be quickly heard saying, culture b is racist. But in inferring that culture b is racist, I’m making a cultural judgment statement about all of those within culture b. I myself will become racist in this action. Even when culture b is accurately found to have been racially inappropriate, if my reaction is to judge the culture according to one’s actions, I have also become an assailant. We must be careful not to assign blame of an assault to any culture, but to the person responsible, and perhaps void of their culture.
We must strive to build other cultures than our own. Globalization is going to cause all cultures to become infused with each other. We can’t hide from it. We must embrace it if we want to have happy lives. We must strive to find new ways to reconcile our differences now. We must learn how to listen to others and learn from them. We must let others help to develop who we are.
So the next time someone acts in a culturally insensitive way to you, be careful not to assign blame to them as if they are the only one who has lived in such a manner. For we all have acted this way and are need of reconciliation with others. But expressing the love we have for the person’s inherent humanity will reveal the full truth of the matter.