Social justice issues are a hot topic nowadays, especially considering the current political climate of the United States. The realization that racism, sexism and xenophobia are far from dead in our society is a hard pill to swallow, but the evidence continues to appear daily. The extent of social justice issues in American society and how they are dealt with are topics of much debate, and so they should be. However, I think it’s important to point out that social justice issues are not just unique to the United States. One hole that I believe even the most forward-thinking Americans fall into is allowing themselves to live inside a bubble that only includes their own country. While your country’s own issues should more often than not be your first priority, it’s important to realize that many other nations have similar issues.
Recently, a milk bar on Burleigh Road, Melton in Melbourne, Australia was called out for posting a sign that many have deemed racist, some even going as far as calling it a hate crime. According to an article by The Sun, a UK News source, the sign read: “Because the 14-18 year old blacks always steal. Prohibit 14-18 year old blacks and dogs into the shop.” The shop owner says that he put up the sign after a “confrontation with a group of youths earlier in the day” and did not expect that people would become so angry about the sign’s content. While both are different nations, many recognize that Australia and the United States do have many things in common, including similarities in government, economy and culture. It seems that the similarities don’t stop there, as can be seen after the incident of racism.
Why should the incident in Melbourne concern us here in the United States? First of all, its racist tone gives it a commonality with the many issues of racism that have occurred in the United States for years. We have obviously failed to eradicate racism from our culture. Observing how other countries deal with similar issues could prove to be helpful as we continue to fight our battle against racism in our country. Secondly, there are many social justice warriors who tend to idealize other countries over their own. “If only we were in country X — it’s so much better there” is something that I’ve heard people say. I’m likely guilty of saying it, myself. Not to say these claims aren’t true — there are many countries around the world who don’t have these same issues. Sometimes it’s tempting to just want to be there instead of here. However, it’s important to realize why some of these countries, such as the Scandinavian countries — several classically idealized nations — are the way that they are and why the United States isn’t.
Some of these countries don’t have the same violent history of the African American slave trade forever looming over them as the United States does, no matter how hard many try to escape its shadow. The complicated power struggle that both came from and created the institution of slavery in our country is something that has still yet to leave us. It isn’t an excuse for the United States to still be racist — not even a little. However, it is for these reasons why we still struggle with these issues. My point is that while it’s all right, and sometimes necessary, to denounce your country’s history because of how undeniably horrible some of it (even most of it) is, that doesn’t mean that you need to denounce your country in favor of another one. You have to believe in your country to fix it, and sometimes that’s hard to do unless you realize that other countries similar to your own are struggling with similar issues. Other countries have problems too — maybe not racism on the same scale, maybe in some places it’s worse, maybe in some places it’s better. Nonetheless, the point is that we should stop comparing ourselves to countries in ways that aren’t practical, and instead start learning from other countries like us around the world, so that we may make progress along with them.