Race & Prejudice

Posted on June 18, 2020

I have been thinking a lot about racism and prejudice this week. I still don’t know enough about it to be anywhere near an expert. Still, I hope what I am about to write makes sense.

The problem as I see it, is there are a lot of people who have convinced themselves they are not racists because they are fundamentally decent. They wouldn’t scream racial obscenities like those morons in London last week; so, in their mind, that means they believe there are no prejudices for them to deal with.

Picking up on Prejudice

Let’s be honest here, most of us will have picked up on prejudices in our lives. They may have come from our parents, friends, TV shows, or negative current affairs stories in the news. Racist jokes would have swirled around us in our childhood.

The key to racial equality is overcoming and dumping those prejudices. When I was young, I didn’t know any black people to hate but I can remember not liking Germans and Argentinians’ and even for a while, Irish Catholics.  The first two were based around wars, one that was before I was born, the other, when I was 14. The third was a civil conflict between Irish Republicans and Loyalists that I knew nothing about at the time.

I then realised that I had never met anyone from Germany or Argentina and most of the Irish people I knew seem like decent folk. Hating German people because of a war that ended 22 years before I was born, suddenly seemed insane. Almost as insane as hating Argentinians I had never met all because of HMS Sheffield sinking and Diego Maradona’s handball.

Shedding Prejudice

Shedding those silly prejudices was quite liberating. It also helped me lose any deeper unwitting prejudices towards black and Asian people that I might have carried from watching 70’s TV. To get to the point in life where you genuinely feel that you are dealing with every human as you see them, is where we should all be looking to get to.

What I am saying here is that there is a lot of bullshit coming out of people. The ones who allegedly have a friend who couldn’t sack someone because they were black. Or when they saw a person scream that they were given worse service in a restaurant or shop, because they were Asian. As soon as you hear of an incident someone has made up in their head, you know what is coming.

These are the same people who will state, often in capital letters, that they are not racist…BUT! It can often lead them to get angry about not being racist because some of their best friends are black (which is probably not true). It is a way of not having to admit any lingering prejudice. It’s easier than being bold enough to confront prejudice and ditch it.

A Friend of Mine

A few years ago, a friend of mine up in Oxfordshire told me that when his father died, it allowed him to lose all his prejudices. His old man was the type who would be nice to black people but always harboured nagging thoughts about Enoch Powell having the right idea. He couldn’t help but believe white people were better; but he tried to be nice about it.

My friend said that no longer having to hear that nonsense, allowed him to pack up all his mental baggage and chuck it away so his own kids never witnessed it. I thought he was very brave to tell me that, because I know he loved his old man. He was a tough old boy bought up from the national service into a life in the Rover Plant at Cowley.

He didn’t mean to be racist and he certainly wouldn’t have been one of those slobs in London, last week. However, on the shop floor he would be in the racial hierarchy when it came to the crap jobs being dished out. Obviously, we have moved on from that, but the statistics show that we are still miles away from ridding ourselves of systemic racism.

My assertion is this. If we are going to strive for equality, which I genuinely think most people want to do, we must confront and be honest about our own prejudices first. Pretending we don’t have, or never had prejudices, won’t make our, or anyone else’s lives better.

You only need to see how angry all the racists are to know that. What’s the point in being a raging racist if it makes you so unhappy? Why not deal with it internally and be a happier and kinder soul?
From what I have experienced and seen, not being racist is good for you. Life experiences make people what they are, not nationality or skin pigment.

Next week: How I tried not to hate Boris Johnson

1 Reply to "Race & Prejudice"

  • Norman House
    June 19, 2020 (1:56 am)

    Your post is balanced and makes a lot of sense. I think we all have some prejudices and many of them may not be of a racist nature. My grandfather on my Father’s side, whilst not being an endemically nasty person had a view of black people that they were somehow inferior. My grandmother (his wife) was worse as she had a problem with the Irish (my mother was Irish) and people with disabilities (my brother is registered disabled). That didn’t prejudicial attitude didn’t carry over into my Father, who I never heard say anything discriminatory regarding skin colour. Yet, at least one of his brothers were not so balanced and one of them who spent time in South Africa/Rhodesia was certainly of a different ilk.

    My work meant that I travelled a lot and mixed with a lot of different nationalities, cultures and backgrounds and that for me helped me to treat people as you find them.

    I remember a South African friend (who is quite balanced generally) saying to me that Indians that he has worked with fall into two camps – Those that would do anything to help you and are completely trustworthy and those that would be the opposite. That’s probably my experience too, but this is maybe equally true of white Caucasians from England, that I have encountered 😉

    Racism tends to be pigeon-holed into white v black, but it can work both ways and black v Asian discrimination is also a significant historical issue. The only answer lies in changing people’s attitudes not in positive discrimination/quotas which in mind just highlight that there is a difference between white and black and an arbitrary formula is applied.

    From a different perspective. My brother has always been a wheelchair user. Society has discriminated against him as he cannot easily access what you and I can do. It is better now, but he he was growing up he couldn’t get a job easily, despite being intelligent and sharp. Partly an access issue, partly his disability status. Even now there are huge access issues which to a large extent he accepts, but should he? It is as easy to build a ramp instead of steps, but so often the access is an afterthought or just meeting a legal requirement, which in itself alienates the disabled community – discrimination if you will.

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