Beating off Racial Stereotypes

Posted on July 23, 2021

I was speaking to a chap who carries out work for my company, the other day. We got onto the subject of racism and the recent abuse of England’s black footballers.

I have known him a long time, so he admitted to me that until he started running projects in London, he had always carried inherent racist attitudes. It was when he started working in London that he realised to himself that he had a head full of stereotypes. These had been fed into him by his parents and canteen tabloids.

Racial Stereotypes

He went as far as saying that where he came from (a white, working-class, suburb) it was almost easier to conform to the racial stereotypes he had been fed. This was all a breath of fresh air to me, as I have long tried to say that the easiest way to not be racist, is to confront what you have been fed and try to understand how ridiculous it is.

The good news story in all this, is the chap I was talking with has learnt to judge the people that come on to his sites on their personality and ability. He said it was a bit embarrassing to start with as he tried too hard to be nice to minorities; a bit like the last generation of Germans who couldn’t stop apologising for their father’s conduct in the war. He had to teach himself that despite his big personal push to treat people equally, he also had to accept that ethnic minorities could be arseholes too. Being an arsehole is not decided by skin colour or borders. It is simply being an arsehole.

So now, after moving along his path to righteousness, he can operate with a clear head that has been liberated of racial stereotypes. The reason this is so fascinating to me is that I went through a similar process back in the early noughties. My period of enlightenment was with Eastern Europeans after the EU opened to new member states in 2003.

Eastern Europeans

It was a unique situation where a contractor I was working with, had a traditionally Irish base of labour. They were increasingly heading home to feed off ‘The Irish Tiger’ economic boom. However, the London construction market was also booming. The labour shortage was at crisis point, so Poles, Bulgarians, Lithuanians, and Latvians, recently added to the EU member states, started filling the UK and, London, employment void.

I suddenly found myself in a situation where I was recruiting people who were alien to me. Of course, all we heard about at the time was how these people were coming over to steal council houses, jobs, and healthcare, from us hard done by Brits. I can remember how ridiculous all these allegations were, but some of it had rubbed off on me. I proceeded with more caution than I would for indigenous workers.

Once I started getting to know these people, many of them developed into colleagues and friends. It became apparent they were no more of a threat to me than anyone else. A few of them were unpleasant but no more unpleasant than some indigenous workers. They mixed well with most of the indigenous workforce, apart from those who saw them as a threat. The ones who saw them as a threat were the type who didn’t turn up on Monday’s due to the exhaust falling off their car, their grandma dying, or having the shits all night. Always on a Monday…you know the type. 

Chance of Birthplace

It was a great experience for me as I learnt, like the chap I was talking about earlier, to see the sheer stupidity of judging someone by chance of birthplace. It is such a ridiculous situation to get yourself into, but it comes from being fed it from the day you are born. Newspapers like The Express, The Mail and The Sun, can’t get enough of it. It is a simplistic billionaire’s distraction tactic. Get the masses in a fizz over nothing and carry on not paying tax.

Fighting preconceived stereotypes is an ongoing path to liberation where you don’t stop learning. However, when you get to the point when you can, at last, judge an individual by personality, not race or country of birth, it really is worthwhile. It gives you one less thing in life to get in a pickle about.

If you are not there yet, give it a go.

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