Racism

This is a difficult post to write. As someone born and raised in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, I have, for as long as I can remember, had (and still have) a deep love for the culture and traditions of these islands.

Britain has been instrumental in assisting in the spread of parliamentary democracy across the globe. And Shakespeare, Chaucer and Dickens are literary figures known and celebrated throughout the world.

The area in which I live is composed of groups from all over the world. Friendships (and love) exist across the artificial barriers of race which is, of course as it should be for love and friendship should not be dependent on skin colour, religious affiliation (or the lack thereof), or any other artificial barrier.

Yesterday evening I popped into a pub with the intention of enjoying a few pints and perhaps catching up with a few of the regulars there. I was engaged in a pleasant conversation with a customer when another drinker said to the young man behind the bar “you don’t belong here”. It was an ugly thing to say, as the gentleman serving behind the bar is of asian heritage. He was, however born and grew up in London and is as British as I (a white man) am.

I don’t usually embroil myself in other people’s business. However I did say that what had been said was wholly unacceptable and that the young man behind the bar did belong here/was British.

I have, of course come across the expression of racist opinions previously. However these have been in the form of diatribes and/or rather more veiled comments regarding people who are not white. This was, however, the first time I had seen racism directed at an individual human being and it upset me.

The target of the abuse is, I believe 19, while the abuser is considerably older. Other than the racial element (which is shocking in the extreme), I felt that the man uttering the racist comments felt emboldened by the youth of the barman. I don’t believe that he would have aimed such abuse at a non-white person of his own (or similar) age.

After the incident, the young man behind the bar thanked me for my intervention. All I could say in response, was that I was upset by what the customer had said, but obviously not as upset as he (the barman) must have been.

The London School of Economics has a good article about the spike in “hate crime” following the referendum to leave the European Union (EU) in 2016, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/brexit/2018/03/19/hate-crime-did-spike-after-the-referendum-even-allowing-for-other-factors/.

Of course many people who voted in favour of leaving the EU are not racists (and members of the non-white communities did, themselves vote in different ways, some for leaving the EU and others in favour of remaining). It should also be pointed out that there are undoubtedly amongst those who voted for remain, people who harbour racist opinions. However one can not ignore the spike in crimes of hate following the Brexit Referendum, or say that racism did not play a part in explaining why some Leavers voted to leave the EU.

I do believe in immigration controls. This is a small island and one can not ignore the adverse impact that uncontrolled immigration would have on the country. However immigration controls should not be based on race, but should be predicated on the needs of the economy, and bringing families together (where relatives are already legally present in the UK). In short, racism is an ugly cancer which has no place in a decent, tolerant society which is, at bottom what Britain is.

19 thoughts on “Racism

  1. Victoria Zigler (@VictoriaZigler)

    It saddens and angers me that racism – and disabled discrimination – still exist. You’d think the ability to so easily connect with others around the world these days would help everyone to see that we’re all just people at the end of the day. Why doesn’t it? Why can’t people see that we’re all just human beings, regardless of skin colour, nationality, faith, physical ability, or whatever? Is the human race so eager to hate that which is different that turning against your neighbours, co-workers, and random strangers is considered acceptable? Because that shouldn’t be the case. We’re all people, and deserve to be treated equally. What matters is the person beneath; the heart and soul that lies within. At least, that’s what should matter.

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Thank you for your wonderful comment, Tori. I agree with all you say.

      I think that racism (and other forms of prejudice) often stem from the person who holds the prejudice sense of insecurity. This does not (in any way) excuse hateful views and actions but does, perhaps help to explain them.

      Best wishes, Kevin

      Reply
      1. Victoria Zigler (@VictoriaZigler)

        I think you’re right. More often than not, it’s insecurities, or fear of things that are different from their view of what “normal” should be, which causes it. However, as you said, while that does go some way towards explaining the reasons behind it, it doesn’t excuse the behaviour. Especially not in this day and age, when we are no longer confined to our corners of the world, and have frequent interactions with those from different walks of life.

  2. The Story Reading Ape

    Like you, I rail against racism, religionism and the many other ‘isms’ that abound in society.
    The ‘Them and Us’ attitude has probably been present in human psyche since our inception in prehistoric times (like most other creatures I may add).
    However we, as thinking(?) humans, should know better by now, especially since science has proven we ALL share common ancestors.
    Sadly, this attitude will likely remain until we wipe out our own species.

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Chris. I agree with you that “them and us” has probably been around since the dawn of human history. In the past a village would regard those from a town (or another village) a little distance away as “outsiders and/or foreigners”. Indeed this view has not wholly disappeared (witness the growth in gang culture), although gangs can, of course be racially mixed. Today it tends to be race (or something else) which divides us from our fellow man. I think the jury is still out as to whether we will wipe one another out. Humans have a great capacity for stupidity, but also an equal? ability for co-operation/pulling back from the brink. Best, Kevin

      Reply
    2. K Morris Poet Post author

      I meant to add that, in the year when we reflect on the horros of the holocaust, people who hold/express racist views should think on where such views can lead. Not all racists are Nazis/Fascists, but racism is used by neo-Nazis (and is an integral part of their ideology).

      Reply
  3. blindzanygirl

    I too hate racism or ANY “ism”. In my town we have many different races and cultures, and many of the old Scunthonians do not like it. But like it or not, there is no excuse for being nasty as you have described Kevin. We have to remember also that many of our doctors and nurses are drom difderent countries and cultures, but they are the ines who iften save ournlives. My lufe was saved by a wonderful Pakistani lady G.P. And an Indian haematologist. Not to mention Philippinos and many others in the chemo ward. And of course it is not only doctors and nurses but many more. Of course, the most extreme case if an “ism” is anti semitism, and we all know the results of that. I wiuld like to ask whose earth it is anyway, in fact, though people like to claim a particular land, does land in fact belong to anybody in particular in reality? I am glad that Victoria brought in disabled-ism. It exists. And where does bullying in schools stem from? From seeing someone as different in sime way?

    I would have reacted the same as you Kevin, and I am glad that you said what you did.

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Many thanks for your comments, Lorraine.

      I agree with the points you make. You make a good point about the doctors, nurses etc of different races/cultures who work in the health service and save lives.

      Discrimination is, obviously wrong in whatever form it happens.

      Best, Kevin

      Reply
  4. colinmcqueen

    The person that ‘doesn’t belong here’ is the moron with the mouth. Why oh why can people not see that we are all the same by being gloriously different? People are people. Some are bad, most are good, and everything else is irrelevant. Well done for speaking up!

    Reply
    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Many thanks for your comments, and your kind words as regards me speaking up.

      I think we are all a mixture of good and bad, if the truth be known. However some people are undoubtedly much closer to the angels, while others have a distinct reek of hell fire surrounding them.

      Thanks again for commenting.

      Best wishes, Kevin

      Reply
  5. the seeker

    Living abroad myself has made me much more sensitive to all shades of racism (I’m not living in the UK – I live in another European country, but the problem is everywhere). Despite the fact that I’m white and European, I notice subtle forms of racism. As an immigrant, you never truly belong, even if you are not immediately recognisable as a foreigner. If there are opportunities, nationals always come first.
    I do have a few non-white friends, and the racism they face is a whole different order of magnitude – taxi drivers refuse to drive them, bus drivers insult them, in the hospital they have to wait longer and are treated with contempt. I witnessed this myself, and now I have a lot of respect for non-white immigrants, because of the amount of rejection and condescension they face on a daily basis. Racism in the health care system in particular is shocking – a (non-white) friend of mine went to the hospital with a fractured arm. She waited for 8 hours until she was treated, and the nurses told her that “pain is no reason for prioritisation”. Essentially, they said: “Your pain doesn’t matter, your health doesn’t matter”. It leaves you speechless.
    I also used to believe that what politicians say has no impact on daily life, but it does. Racist comments from politicians don’t just evaporate. They change the atmosphere, and encourage ordinary people to voice their racism. If you live in your own country, you may not notice it, because you are not the target, but if you are an immigrant, you can definitely feel it.

    Reply
    1. the seeker

      Let me add: you did a great thing by standing up for that young man – you cannot imagine how much solidarity and compassion means to those who are used to being marginalised. It is like a ray of sunlight breaking through the clouds – you will surely be remembered for a long time.

      Reply
    2. K Morris Poet Post author

      Many thanks for your comments. I was shocked to read of your experiences in another European country. As you know we have legislation in the UK outlawing discrimination on the grounds of race, disability etc. This does not (sadly) prevent discrimination from occurring. However it does help in tackling it. From what you say, there is no such legislation in the country in which you live or, if there is, it is not enforced? I am also sorry that you yourself have felt discriminated against at a more subtle level. I remember once going to Cornwall and Devon with a black girlfriend and being told by her how people where staring at us. I suspect some of this was down to racism (a black girl with a white man), however it may also have partially stemmed from curiosity due to me being a blind guide dog owner, with a rather attractive young woman. Thanks for your kind words regarding my actions. Best wishes, Kevin

      Reply
      1. the seeker

        I think it also depends a lot on where you are. In rural areas, people tend to be less open-minded, and there is more racism. In big cities the situation is better.

        It’s a difficult problem. It is my impression that most people are unable to have the same degree of openness with immigrants as they have with nationals. They simply prefer to socialise with people who share their culture, language, and outlook, and that’s fine. Nobody has to do something he/she is uncomfortable with, but it is also true that this isolates immigrants. Sometimes, it is hard to say where discrimination begins.
        – You eat lunch with colleagues at work. They consistently have discussions you cannot take part in, because you do not share the cultural background. They make no attempt to include you. Is that racism?
        – You are not considered as a relevant factor in decision-making processes, because you don’t share the cultural outlook, and it is easier to arrive at a consensus without you. Is that racism?
        – Someone enters the room, and he only greets nationals and avoids eye contact with immigrants. Only upon being first greeted by the immigrant, they greet back in a friendly way. Is that racism?
        It is also clear that some of these behaviours are not due to racism, but to insecurity and anxiety/lack of familiarity with foreigners, that is, people’s limitations. Nevertheless it creates a sense of being excluded that can be hard to bear, and it puts immigrants at a disadvantage in many situations.

        You see that all of this is below the radar of anti-discriminatory legislation, which doubtlessly exists almost everywhere. Actually, I think lack of awareness of this more subtle kind of exclusion is a bigger problem than people who are openly racist (because openly racist people effectively discredit themselves). The fact is that with people who share your culture, there are so many channels of communication and understanding that are not available if you cannot rely on a shared culture, and if there is no willingness to bridge that gap with an extra effort, it leaves immigrants gravely disadvantaged.
        Moreover, most people are blind to these more subtle ways of excluding people who do not belong (for whatever reason) and have a strong need to hold on to the belief that discrimination does not exist in their country, which makes it hard to discuss these problems.
        I don’t want to blame anyone. Interacting with people in a healthy way is a difficult job (I frequently fail myself). Being an immigrant also means that one has to be willing to bear some additional problems. Nationals certainly do not have to go out of their way to fix all the problems an immigrant may encounter. But a little awareness and compassion on all sides helps…

        Thanks for this discussion, it is an important one.

      2. K Morris Poet Post author

        I agree with you that a certain amount of racism doubtless goes on under the radar. I do, however think that its important not to confuse race and culture. To take an example, there are black and asian people who are born in the UK who regard themselves as wholly British and have little (sometimes no) interest in their ancestor’s culture. Such people may feel more at home discussing Dickens, the traditional customs of the UK and drinking in pubs, than they would listening to rega or talking about Islam. Although (in the latter case) there are many white muslims.

        I know a number of women from Goa who have married (or are dating) white Europeans. The Catholic/European/Portuguese influence in Goa does, I think help to explain this fact. So a person of Asian origin (from Goa) may feel more at home with Catholics (of whatever skin colour)than with Muslims, so it all gets rather complicated!

        Also, relating to someone because they share certain cultural values is not, necessarily the same as racism (E.G. the case of the person from Goa who identifies with many aspects of “European” culture).

        Being visually impaired (I see outlines but not detail) I do, perhaps have a rather different take on race, in that I can’t distinguish skin colour.

        A gentleman who works in a pub frequented by me is a non-practising Sikh of Asian origin. However he has a south London accent and a very English name, so I wouldn’t know that he is of Asian origin had he not mentioned the fact during conversation.

        I hope that, given time racism will become less and less prevalent. The growth of mixed race relationships gives me hope. Love is love irrespective of skin colour. As the hymn has it: “And the creed, and the colour and the name wont matter …”.

        Best, Kevin

      3. the seeker

        I agree with you, race and culture are independent factors, racism and non-inclusion due to culture are separate problems, and it is important to distinguish the two. Thanks for your perspective on this, I had not seen it in this way before.

    1. K Morris Poet Post author

      Many thanks for your comment. As you say, I’m sure that racism will deminish over time. My understanding is that there is also a big problem with racism in France, with the National Front frequently gaining a significant share of the popular vote.

      Reply

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