I’m not racist – there, now that’s said and out of the way. Trouble is, I really am racist and I can’t help it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll fight for equal rights for anyone, and I don’t care what colour, race, creed, or culture you are, I’ll stand beside you at every turn and not flinch. Everyone is as good, bad, or indifferent as anyone else and we all have, or should have, equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities. I fully believe this – but that belief is conscious, subconsciously I am racist and I have to continually fight it. Here’s why –
I was born and grew up in the years immediately following World War Two. Rationing was still in effect and mass immigration hadn’t started yet. I remember, as a child, travelling on a bus with my aunt and seated next to us was a black, American soldier. He started talking to us and I was transfixed. I’d never seen a black man – ‘darkies‘ I’d heard my grandad call them – and I thought this was great. When we got off the bus, my aunt told me we shouldn’t have been talking to him because ‘he’s not our sort‘ and I didn’t understand this. “What sort are we, then?” I’d ask, and was told, “We’re proper people.”
This sort of racism was endemic during my early, formative years, with the result that I grew up believing that we (white, english people) were somehow superior to other races. I never had an explanation as to why this was so, just the affirmation that ‘this is how it is.’
Then mass immigration begun and there were riots, and shouts of, “Darkies taking our jobs,” and I continued my growing up with all this going on around me. There were no black children in our schools in those days so we continued our isolation and false superiority. As kids do, we joked about these things, as we’d heard our parents do, and this only reinforced the divide. We began to call them ‘coloureds‘ in an effort to force integration and veer people away from the ‘N’ word. Now we call them ‘blacks‘ again, as ‘coloured‘ is considered racist – but that’s just a symptom of political correctness and the basis of a whole other argument. Yet, simply referring to them as ‘them‘ is racist because it sets ‘them‘ apart from ‘us‘ and continues the divisive nature of society.
People are people and should be considered so, not as individual representatives of superior or lesser races. There is only one race – the human race – and I’ve known this all along. But my education and upbringing taught me otherwise. And it’s not my parent’s fault, because they were only perpetuating what their parents had taught them, and on it goes.
Since leaving school, entering employment, and meeting all sorts of people of all colours, races, creeds, and cultures, I’ve learned that this wide diversity of people is to be celebrated not shunned, and I’ve tried to educate my children into this way of thinking. And a large number of my generation have done the same. Hopefully, this will continue with each successive generation and we will eradicate racism once and for all.
But still, when I’m least expecting it, my early conditioning rears it’s head and I have an argument with myself over this, and I have to try to hide my innate racism. I hope I’m successful …