Thursday 2 August 2012

With a big sigh and a heavy heart… a serious blog

I've lived for 42 years and in that time I've been made to realise that there are a lot of things about me that other people don't like. Some of them I can do something about - like talking too much, or having the wrong accent, or making a face that looks a bit too smug, or correcting poor spelling unasked. There are some things I can't do anything about, like the colour of my skin.

It amazes me that there are still people who think it's perfectly ok to make offensive remarks about race and treat it as normal or justifiable to do so. It upsets me, because my parents faced so much racism for so many years that I'm sure their only hope when it happened to them was that their children would be spared the indignity of the same.

My husband hadn't come across racism in his own life so when he married into an asian family it suddenly became a personal insult for someone to make derogatory remarks about asians as they were talking about his wife, or his mother-in-law or now his son. Imagine how much worse that is when it's a member of your own family making the remarks ?

When I was at university I shared a house with friends and we lived in an area on the outskirts of Coventry. On one occasion when I was walking home with one of my housemates and the local kids shouted out racist comments to me I ignored them and she went ballistic. It's not that I wasn't bothered. As I explained to her there is little point in telling them what they're saying is wrong when it's what they hear their parents say.

In the same vein I met up with a friend I used to go to school with when I was 8 just before she emigrated to Australia and we reminisced about some of our classmates. I have few fond memories of my school in Greenwich in the '70s when the National Front were still marching in the streets and me and my brother were the only asian children in the school until the Patels sent their daughters to the school.

My friendship with Nichola was one of the only things I recall with happiness. I was in a classroom where the teacher sat me with the only black child in the class - a strange form of selection as the other tables were based on academic ability not skin colour. One of my classmates gleefully shared that her mother had asked me to let her know when my Dad's head was better - as a Sikh he wears a turban.

Nic remarked that one of our classmates used to sing racist songs which I have no memory of at all. Maybe I've blanked it out like so much else that I don't want to recall. The interesting thing is that this lad had a promising career as a footballer, but his father was unwelcome at the Arsenal training ground due to his unreconstructed comments about people of other races. So that apple didn't fall too far from the tree then.

This has come up now because I read a comment on Facebook tonight that stunned me so much that initially I called it out for the racism is blatantly was. Then I decided that was probably too strong and decided to just say that it was offensive and inflammatory. When something like this happens I have to maintain my dignity and my ability to walk away.

I wish that I could believe I will never have to explain to my son what racism is.
I pray that in his life he doesn't hear the insults or the ignorance that make me so sad.
I hope that he is a kind and loving person regardless of what others say and do.

That's not too much to ask is it ?

1 comment:

  1. Not too much to ask. I suspect it is too much to expect.