Can you unlearn racism and homophobia?

I’m going to talk about the controversial topics of racism and homophobia. It’s something that has created tension and bad feelings between myself and my mum and something that has, in the end, left me pondering and confused. Is my mum a product of the environment she grew up in? Is she unable to change? Or am I looking for excuses.

My mum is 72. Our relationship is difficult – if I think the world is round, she is convinced it is square, black is white and right is wrong. And top of our disagreements comes the topic of immigration.

“We have been so kind to them, letting them into our country and giving them benefits” announces my mum. Taking a (very) deep breath I try to keep my composure as I question her views and references to “them and us”, why she feels she has more right to the UK than “them”, why she refers to beautiful amazing people as “them” and why there is no happiness or desire to learn from people who have grown up in different countries, had different experiences and helped to make the UK amazing. She has no answers other than that she knew she was happier when “life was simpler” in a time when she was younger and the UK was “more british”.

At that time, there was more racism. Her childhood and brain was formed in an age where white people had more privileges, where non British people were in the minority, and the movement of people that we see today was simply non-existent. Were those feelings and thoughts internalised for the rest of her life?

A very good friend created further food for thought for me. She is Muslim and has grown up in a religious family. Once, during a very honest conversation she opened up to me on her thoughts on gay relationships. She said she felt very awkward and embarrassed to admit it, but felt weird when she saw same sex couples and instinctly had the feeling it was wrong. She explained that she had argued with herself many times over this – her head said gay people were doing no wrong and hurting no-one, but her heart felt otherwise. In her words “how do I change a feeling or thought when I’ve been told throughout my whole life through my religion that being gay is wrong”

Are the scenarios linked? Is it wrong to blame and be angry with someone for having a belief if they were told throughout their whole childhood that it was true. And can people force themselves to change if they have internalised a feeling that the opposite is true?

Can we break away from the comfort zone and allow our minds to wander free as in the photo?

I don’t know the answer but it does make me think and wonder.