Tuesday 5 March 2013

Google Royal Mail and Daily Mail and you'll find my sister !!

WARNING: There is strong and potentially offensive language used in this post. 

In the latest episode of Call the midwife they tackled the thorny issue of racism against a pregnant new immigrant who another mum-to-be referred to as the 'coloured' woman. Of course by the end of the episode they were the best of friends and all was well as it is in these heartwarming Sunday evening dramas. That was set in the fifties in the East End of London so you'd be forgiven for thinking those kind of casual shocking attitudes don't still exist.

Unless you are in my family that is. In which case it's not that unusual or indeed uncommon to face some kind of ridiculous comment or treatment from a muttering under the breath to a full blown insult to my face - from a lad who I swear looked Korean - when I was on a bus.

Recent events surpass any of this though. You may have seen a story about an asian woman whose post was intercepted and a racist comment was written on the letter and resealed and delivered to her. Well that woman is my sister and this is what was scrawled onto her letter - without the pixelation over the 'offensive words.' Underneath the article are a lot of comments ranging from those correcting the inaccuracy of the use of the word 'Paki' and some suggesting that this culprit isn't that well-educated.

Let me say first up that I am tired of this now. The reason I didn't blank out the offensive words is because if we have to put up with this you can put up with seeing it too. They are words on a page. They are hurtful words, yes. They are inaccurate, yes. However, that is missing the point - it's not the inaccurate geography or poor grammar is the most hurtful thing. Oh the irony that it's the Daily Mail who ran this story when that is the very paper that encourages this 'send 'em all back' attitude, but shows moral outrage when someone responds to this incitement by doing something hideous.

When someone shouts out 'paki' in the street I'm not considering if I should respond with "well actually my parents were born in pre-partition India, but I was born in Perivale." The sick and knotted feeling in my gut is not just about the wrongness of what they have done, it's about the shame, the humiliation, the unfairness. It is also about the fear that they might not stop at words.

Dismissing racists as 'thick' or 'un-educated' is to underestimate their ability to use this to their advantage. Of course they'd be better educated if they had a chance. If there weren't so many foreigners they could have lived in a nicer council house or gone to a better school or had a better job. If all those immigrants didn't come over and take all the jobs and qualifications that is.

Indian women wearing saris walking down the road alongside a white man
How long do you have to be a resident before it's no longer appropriate to tell you to 'go home' ? I was born in England - Perivale maternity unit since you ask - so does that make my home the Hoover building ? It is no longer the case that indians are 'coming over' in droves so where exactly are they thinking we should 'go back' to ?

It is so disappointing when people post facebook statuses that contain racism. In the last few days I've read a 'genuine' letter to the passport office that becomes increasingly ranty then ends with 'my doctor is a bleeding pakistani' - ok yes that's hilarious. He or she probably isn't, the were probably born and trained in England, but the joke isn't funny if it's not a bit racist is it ? Or the posts that go on about how the island is full already and there's no more room. The story of a white person who can't get cancer treatment because of all the foreigners who keep coming here and using the NHS. It goes on and on.

When I say I'm tired I mean I'm tired of arguing, explaining and making the point. It is tiresome and boring:
  • I don't know why a man spat in my face through the car window while I was having a driving lesson - I don't want to know. 
  • I don't know why Samantha Peacock came into school one day and said, "my mum says tell me when your dad's head gets better." (He is a turban-wearing Sikh). 
  • I don't know why my father-in-law thought making a joke about Enoch Powell being right was funny, it isn't. 
  • I don't know why a man I dated for a while thought it was perfectly ok to use the term 'coloured' to describe the drummer in a band - this was in 2004, not 1954 !!  
I don't ever want anyone to hurt the ones I love for any reason. I don't ever want to have to explain to my son why someone might use the word 'paki.' How it's not the word that hurts, it's the intention.

For now all I can say is: I don't know, I don't know, I don't know. 
woman in read sitting with head on knees

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