I wasn’t aware that I was racist until recently. I am not a monarchist and I’m certainly not a fascist. I’ve always been comfortable with the nationalised culture in which I find myself. I view everyone as equal. Hey, I really do treat everyone as equal to me. I believe in equality and that all lives matter, of course they do. I wish no harm to anyone and I help my black, brown or whatever brothers and sisters whenever I can. And there it is.
It’s subtle and it’s no big deal (to a white person). It’s hardly noticeable and it isn’t meant as an offence in any way. We all do it. Everyone does it. Don’t we? We categorise people, DNA doesn’t, we do.
We do believe that BAME people are equal to us. Our governments have always maintained that everything and everyone is equal, but they aren’t. They aren’t equal to me in so many ways. I’m better educated than most of them, I’m better off than most of them. I have more to show for the type of work I’ve done. My record, across the board, is better than theirs. I am much less likely to be stopped and searched because I live in a nice area and I’ve worked damned hard to get here. I have a nice car, it’s an old car, a classic. I use the latest tech and I enjoy it. I’m typing this on my new MacBook Pro. This morning’s breakfast is gluten free porridge with berries mixed in and coconut milk. I have an anti-oxident smoothie and ground coffee in an expresso cup. Why not? I’ve earned it.
I left school with just one O Level, the equivalent of a GCSE…I blame my mother for this, I’ve always blamed her for it. But I took myself off to college, I worked at my education and I ended up with a Masters Degree from a good university. I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and if I can do it then anyone can. And this is what I’ve been led to believe my whole life. We have been gifted opportunity and it’s there for us all…equally. Equally…
What I didn’t tell you, what nobody tells you, and why it’s not something we care to think about is that I started ahead in the game. I started with a background of middle class wealth. I started by living amongst middle class people. I didn’t have to go without. We didn’t have to choose between rent, food or warmth. My folks didn’t have to hold down two or three jobs whilst wondering if the kids were home, whilst wondering if they were dead or alive.
For hundreds of years we have kept poor people poor. We have allowed them to exist but not prosper. We have given with one hand whilst taking with the other. We have created a sub class of humans so that we don’t have to do the jobs that nobody else wants to do. These jobs are in large metropolitan inner cities and the rents there would make you shudder. Every penny they earn goes on rent OR food…they don’t have a penny for anything else. Most poor people are in our BAME communities.
It’s like asking them to play at the same card table with the same cards and the same odds but they have a stack of halfpennies when you and the other players have stacks and stacks of pound coins. Eventually, and it doesn’t take long, they will lose a hand or two and have nothing. We can afford to lose the odd hand, they cannot afford to lose one.
And this is why I am racist. If I weren’t, I would share some of what I have in my pile of coins so that we can all enjoy the game together. I would take joy in evening up the odds. It wouldn’t be a handout of my hard earned cash, it would be a human sharing of the bounty. A bounty that we think is out there and if we put in the right amount of effort, it’s available to all of us, equally. This is where racism sits. We don’t need this so called level playing field, we just need the same starting line. We started hundreds of years ago, our BAME family is yet to start.
We (white people) need to begin by taking a long hard look at the systems and institutions that keep some of us back from the starting line and we need to remove or improve them. We (white people) need to look at our history, our symbolism and our nationalism and see, for the first time, that it was largely built on the suffering of our BAME brothers and sisters.
In 1833, the British Government paid the sum of £20m reparations for slavery. The government had to borrow this amount as a loan as it represented nearly 25% of GDP. This loan was finally paid off in 2015. The reparations were paid to SLAVE OWNERS. For the next 182 years, British taxpayers paid back this loan. This means that ancestors of slaves paid tax to payback their forefather’s slave owners. That is despicable and disgusting. This money should have gone to pay the slaves, and if we had, they would be much closer to the starting line than they are today.
This is just one of many things that have kept black people enslaved. Sure they are ‘free’ but only free enough to serve us all. And this is why I am racist. I have turned a blind eye to this inequity. It’s been ok for me to look at my fellow competitors on the starting line, to see their white faces and think…yes we are pretty much all equal here. But would I trade places with a BAME person and swap my life for theirs? Of course I wouldn’t. I have turned a blind eye to inequity, to our abuses, to our privilege and to our racist history and imperial culture. And now I know that I am racist. So what shall I do? What will you do? I’m studying to become an anti-racist and this is why I know the above to be true.