A colleague of mine, an ‘expert’ on minority matters, inclusion, race relations, equalities and the various morphing and re-branding of diversity related issues, recently told me he was tired of the incessant ‘pathologising’ of minority communities in the UK: especially after a crisis, protest turning into riots and terrorism. My colleague was referring to the recent demonising of Muslims as a result of ‘terror attacks at home’, the evident siege that Muslim communities feel they are under, and the scaremongering resulting from the current refugee crisis. He wondered about the reams of papers used for research, studies and reports: who were reading them, what difference have they made, do the policy makers remember them and why the need for more research into radicalisation of young Muslims? “When”, he asked, “will all this shit diagnosing, researching and pathologising of the minority communities end? We are constantly being fucked – left –right and centre!” Would there ever be a time when we will stop treating the ‘ethnic other’ as our next ‘jumbie’ and avoid deploying essentialist ways of describing and explain them and their communities?
The growing tendency to diagnose the life of minorities as if afflicted with a medical ailment or disease at every turn of the status quo’s fear-mongering is plain terror. While the vocabulary of ‘inferior people(s)’ may have disappeared – the habits of current fears suggest otherwise. Stigmatising Muslims and Refugees as unpatriotic, burdensome and much more negative representations encourage the idea of ‘pathologised presence’. And there is a link between this and ‘normalised absence’ which renders these communities or groups (human beings) invisible in multiple ways.
It is the case that negative depictions of minorities teach minorities that they are threatening, deviant, and irrelevant to our common life together. Such portrayals are damaging to the psyche because they in still inferiority complexes among minorities and perpetuate fear and prejudices. Demeaning characterizations and an absence of nuanced representations will make anyone feel as if they do not belong. The probability that such groups can then be seen as positive contributors to society diminishes. Would it then be of any surprise that the visible minorities are then seen as ‘other’ or ‘foreign’ – a potential threat to the nation/country?
Do we need experts to tell us that!
I agree with my colleague: every time the pundits and experts swarm down on a community the ‘othering’ continues, ensuring further marginalization, disempowerment and social exclusion, keeping secure the hegemonic identities of the dominant group by distancing and stigmatising those that hold characteristics considered deviant. The result: a re-inscribing of the very divide we are seeking got bridge: ‘us’ and ‘them’. The various forms of pathologising only serve to divide communities. The cynical part of me often wonder whether the ‘absence’ of minorities is often preferred and widely accepted as being ‘the norm’ because the presence of the ‘other’ is often viewed as being intrusive and too much to take!
I desperately hope I am wrong.
Ultimately what is most important is a generosity that shows respect, care and welcome for one’s neighbour – for who they are and where they come from. We must break the cycle of fear and deficit thinking we can so easily deploy when it comes to minorities and migrant communities. Is it so difficult to see and experience the richness that diversity brings to our life together? This will certainly demand re-framing questions and changing our perspectives – changing the ways we see the world around us and what counts as common narratives or even common sense. How can we all work for the reordering and reshaping of our communities? We need to consider how to get British society ready to embrace and serve its beautifully inherent multiplicity rather than demonising and stereotyping the next ‘wave’ of strangers in our midst. We do not need researchers to tell us what we already know.
Let’s do it!
© jagessar December 2015