When I first created the word dodophobia and the poem Dodophobia, it was a joke: a phobia is an irrational fear and you can’t get much more irrational than fear of something which doesn’t exist. Maybe a slightly self-conscious joke, maybe even a wee bit up my own arse, but there you go. By the way, the poem is in an earlier post here and I’m not going to paste it into this one; if you want to read it you’ll have to exercise your scroll button.
The joke’s on me, because I’ve realised that dodophobia really exists; maybe not literally, but, in terms of fear of the non-existent, definitely and absolutely.
The United States has been convulsed lately by the soul-crushingly abhorrent George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case. George is white (at least that’s what he calls himself, for whatever reason, although there are those who insist he’s actually hispanic, no doubt for a multiplicity of convoluted reasons). Trayvon, his victim, was black (or African-American, or whatever other label you might choose to attach to his particular melanin level). And there began the problem, because George is a racist. Whether he has no melanin in his skin, a tiny bit, or a slightly higher amount, he hates/fears/dislikes/mistrusts (delete as desired) people who have as much of it, or a similar amount, as Trayvon.
But here’s the thing.
If you lined up every human being with the Celts (pale blue) at one end and the central Africans (jet black) at the other, in strict order of the amount of melanin in their skin, you could tell a Scot from a Rwandan, but if you started at one end and moved along the line you would never be able to tell when one race ended and another began. So how would George and his ilk know when to stop loving and start hating? Human skin colour is an infinite individual spectrum, not a bunch of demarcated groups; there is more genetic difference between two neighbours on that line than between the aggregated left end and the aggregated right end. And it’s utterly, insignificantly minuscule between neighbours (it’s barely 1% between a human and a chimp).
But I’m not advocating colour blindness. The racists don’t deserve to get off that lightly. Racism exists. Racists exist. George exists, and neither he nor any racist deserves to get off lightly.
The effectively arbitrary distinction between people of differently coloured skin has had huge historical consequences, has massively altered the experiences of individuals. Wars have been fought, nations raised and destroyed, cultures arisen and faded, cultural forms bloomed, survived, fused, divided and evolved; genocides have been attempted. Much serious shit has happened on that insignificant basis.
And we are all human. We have evolved these relatively massive brains, every one of which is buzzing with curiosity and wonder, and memory. And we need to study; we have to learn. We have to honour the victims of wars, genocides and murders by recognising and understanding what happened. And we have to celebrate and cherish the cultural sparks and individual brilliance, the memories, that have been spawned by the insignificant differences, racial, sexual and otherwise.
We have to learn. We have to understand. And we have to spread our learning and understanding until every human being shares them. Until racism disappears. Until hatred disappears. Until our George Zimmermans disappear, and we can all live.