The Trayvon Martin case makes me sad. I don’t know exactly what happened; nobody does apart from two people, and one of those is no longer able to defend himself. It does seem an odd set of circumstances to me, and I’m really not sure why the person with the gun felt his life was in danger. The gun debate is for another day (or now, it’s really simple and quick: guns are bad, mmkay?). But the racism debate is one that urgently needs addressing.
I suppose you could say I’ve had a pretty privileged upbringing. My parents struggled for money when I was a child, but I wanted for nothing. I’m an only child, which certainly made things easier. And I have always lived in predominantly white areas: working class when I was growing up, and middle class now (we live in my grandparents’ old house, we could never have afforded to move here otherwise!). A lot of the time when I hear/read racist rants, people will say that I don’t know, because I don’t live in an area ‘blighted’ by immigration. And no, I don’t. I think there is just one non-white family down our lane. I went to predominantly white schools. But I do live a commutable distance away from Birmingham, which is a complete melting pot.
Racism is a bit of a fluid concept. I don’t think it’s just about colour, it’s also about culture. People have different cultures and sometimes they are a bit at odds with each other. I think the best way to get around this is for cultures to homogenise, whilst still retaining facets; a bit like how curry is now accepted as an English institution. And I’d be very happy for us to embrace things like Diwali as a nation too. I think a lot of the problems stem from when communities are kept separate from each other and therefore remain suspicious of each other’s activities. Everybody’s wary of differences, just some are slightly more accepting of it.
Take my uncle; he is always having a racist rant. I learn to shut my ears to it now, because he’s a bit full of hot air. But the other day he was speaking to me about this female doctor he sees, who is black, and was telling me how fabulous she is. And my dad, not missing a beat, says, “But I thought you didn’t like black people?!” I laughed, my uncle laughed. He has rants but he is not malicious; there’s always an air of jokiness about it.
But my dad’s point still stands, and this is where I get pissed off with racist rants – tarring a whole group of people with the same brush. Every culture, every race, has its arseholes. And every culture and every race has people that restore your faith in human nature. We may not understand someone’s culture, but I’m pretty sure that at the heart of all of them is a longing for community and for love and for tolerance.
I’m also not white-shaming here; I am just speaking about it from my position. Not only white people are racist. ALL human beings have the capacity to direct hate towards a certain section of society. Just look at the poor-shaming currently going on in this country. And I will repeat it again: some poor people are arseholes who game the system and take the piss (though current benefit fraud rates stand at 0.7% [source]). Some poor people are caring, wonderful individuals, and most are just keeping their heads down, trying to make do and not make waves, lest someone shout “WE PAY YOUR BENEFITS”, evidently not understanding the concept of National Insurance.
I’ve been brought up to be respecting of other people’s differences, and also to question things. I think I am lucky to not be scared of people that are different from me. I may think their customs strange, their clothes impractical (all black in this heat?!), their food fatty (but delicious). But I am also aware that they might find things about me strange. As a human race we will thrive so much better if we’re not scared to ask questions and learn new things.
*starts singing Kumbaya*
tl;dr: WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?