Often what makes prejudice invisible is that people who are not affected by it don’t want to see it. Truly, it is impressive what can be invisible for people who don’t want to look. If you’re ever tempted to tell someone you don’t think their problem is real because you’ve never seen any evidence of it, consider how little that really proves. People who refuse to see what is inconvenient to them are part of the problem.
As a Druid, working for justice means that you have to be able to recognise injustice. To recognise it, you have to listen to people whose experiences differ from your own. This may make you uncomfortable. It is ok to be uncomfortable and it is often key to how we learn to do better. That we cannot see something is not proof that it does not exist. When we don’t recognise a problem it is all too easy to become complicit in continuing it.
If you find you are getting things wrong, it is vitally important not to double down. Recognise the mistake, own it, apologise and do better. Never try to justify or excuse your prejudice when it has been exposed. Never try to minimise the impact of what you’ve got wrong and don’t suggest anyone is overreacting if you’ve upset someone in this way. Take any distress you cause seriously. Don’t blame the people you have made uncomfortable. Don’t prioritise defending yourself. Sometimes such situations can turn out to be complex or more nuanced for all sorts of reasons, but the above still holds – whatever else you may need to do, never double down on the things you were wrong about.
Your discomfort at getting things wrong does not make you a victim. Being called out for prejudice, and asked to do better, does not make you a victim. Being called to account does not constitute a witch hunt.
We all make mistakes. We’re all informed by the cultures we grew up in. We all need to learn and we all have more work to do educating ourselves about the challenges other people face and the way in which prejudice has been normalised and made invisible to us. No one is going to get everything perfectly right all of the time. The important thing is to do better, to try, to listen, to read, to care. Doubling down on mistakes and poor judgements only increases the misery it causes, and makes the person doing it look like an insensitive ass.
There have been some serious issues with the UK publishing industry recently. Publishing house Picador has been slow to recognise its mistakes. The doubling down in some quarters has been hideous to behold, and the racist abuse this has caused has been inexcusable.