There are problems with my last entry. I decided not to include hearsay in this project a while ago because it keeps alive stereotypes. Hearsay can not be trusted as a reliable source of information because stories will change depending on the agenda of the storyteller. My last entry comes across as hearsay though. I should have said S.'s sister has been given funny and even hostile looks by non-Muslim people. She wears a veil. The thing is I have heard even more stories about other Muslim people being harrassed but because the stories are about other people and have not been told to me directly by the victims themselves I won't include them here.

In this environment, I saw a poster in a bus shelter which stated, "Mistaken Identity" and there was a photo underneath. It then said, "Sikhs are not Muslim terrorists and condemn terrorism." Everything about this poster worried me and I have since seen it in many places in this area.

I had already heard on the news that a Sikh man was attacked for being a 'Muslim terrorist'. Vigilantism is frightening enough and is exactly what I am fearing in the aftermath of September 11th. There is enough evidence that all over the world non-Muslim extremists are burning down or blowing up Mosques - in 'Christian' countries. And this poster adds to this atmosphere saying not only that Sikhs are not Muslims but implying that it is they and only they, as opposed to Muslims, who are not terrorists. The phrasing of the poster seems to reassert that Muslims actually are terrorists.

And while I watch people around me resort to stereotyping and scape-goating, I continue with my own.
I was in a seminar and a guy in the front asked a question in an accent I recognised as South African. He was white. For me, one of the stereotypes I hold on to more or less without question is that all white South Africans are racist. I cling onto this partly because the media tend to show only the racism of white South Africans but mostly because throughout the 1980s until 1991, white South Africa was a by-word for racism. It was very easy to have an identifiable 'bad guy' in the world. When Apartheid was the governing ethic of South Africa, we, outside South Africa, didn't have to address our own racism, because there was something much worse in the world. All we had to do to prove we weren't racist was to condemn the perpetrators of Apartheid. It was a clear good guy / bad guy scenario. They were the bad guys so we were the good guys.

The thing is, it is still kind of comforting to fall back on that dichotomy. Today, when I am so fearful about the future, it was almost a relief to condemn a South African. When this guy at the seminar opened his mouth to ask a question, I heard it in 'bad guy' terms. The question had nothing to do with 'race' but still I heard him as a bad guy. It took me a little while to realise I was seeing him through my own prejudice and only now from writing this up do I understand why. I needed him to be 'bad' so I could be 'good', so that the lines of good/bad were drawn in a clearly identifiable and familiar way. In this scary new world, I was looking for familiar certainty.

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