Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Shades of black and white

I dislike nothing more than racism and bigotry. But I don’t very often bring up the subject of racism on my Blog. I cannot be bothered. Folk who are not racist don’t need to be lectured and in my experience folk who are racist are unlikely to be changed by any logic or emotive argument of mine. (I hear some of you groaning about my defeatist attitude – sorry that’s the way I am.)

By contrast, some folk devote all or most of their blog to the subject. Good luck to them, say I. I can understand their need to blog on the subject and sincerely wish them the very best of luck. After all, if one blog changes one person’s attitude it will have been worth it.

One such blogger is Shirl, a white girl, who had the gall to marry a black man. Her family disowned her as a result. Note how I defined Shirl and her husband – by their colour. That’s because I don’t know her well enough to describe her as, for example, a 32 year old married to a 35 year old. I can only go by what her website tells me – just as people on the street only go by their eyes. Equally I could describe myself as white and Jo as being of mixed race. [Jo’s origins are so weird and wonderful as to be incapable of standard definition but somewhere in there are Greek, Swedish, English (white), English (black), West Indian...]

But what about if I described myself as punctual and Jo as unpunctual – a far more relevant (and, in our case, divisive) standard. Or I could mention that she is little and I am of medium height. We vote different ways in elections. What about differentiation based on the fact that I am annoyingly organised and she is (equally annoyingly?) disorganised. I am a poor mixer and she is a brilliant extrovert. Jo loves telephoning people and I hate the phone with an intensity bordering on the pathological. (We are both Liverpool FC supporters but if she had been an Evertonian that would have been the ultimate in differences from my point of view.)

All these could be ways of describing ourselves and are certainly more relevant to how we view each other and interact. And yet to many people in the outside world the difference would be based on skin colour. I don’t just find it sad, I find it incomprehensible.

If things are going badly many people’s natural reaction is to blame somebody else and what better and more easily identified scapegoat than someone whose skin is coloured differently or who has differet facial features. When the national economy is very weak, as it is now in many countries, people will look for a scapegoat to blame, and in many cases they will choose the people that they do not know, such as those with a different ethnical or cultural background. Economic crises cause anger and fear and amongst these are the anger and fear that a stranger will take your house, your job, your wife. You don’t know who this stranger is, and he doesn’t know you. To fight racism we have to get to know each other and learn more about each other’s cultures. We have got to share each other’s joys and learn that we often have the same problems and worries.

Jo often berates me for being too logical (she being far more emotional – another big difference between us). I would love to be able to find some logic in racism. That way I might stand a chance of arguing against it but how do you argue against something so illogical? After all, the very boys who hoot their car horn and shout abuse at Jo and my son head off each summer to warmer climes so as to get their skin darkened. And the tanning studio just round the corner from us does a roaring trade. How weird and illogical is that.

I once heard the story about a girl who was sitting on a bus with her Mum when a man of a different race got on. She asked her Mum – in that loud voice children always manage to adopt for embarrassing questions – why his skin colour was different. Her Mum immediately said – “Why shouldn’t it be? Think about all the colours of flowers in the garden – it would be very boring if they were all the same colour.” The story may be apocryphal for all I know but to me it sums up an attitude that says it all.

If you agree with my point of view can I ask that the next time you see or hear an example of racist behaviour you challenge it. You may or may not open someone's eyes to a different point of view but at least you will have done your bit and, hopefully, will feel better for it.

(End of lecture!)


  1. Very nice post.

  2. I did challenge it recently and I wrote about it, too. (When the Tide Turned...)

    Thanks for the beautiful post.

  3. You, Mr. Scriptor, are awesome! Nuff said!

  4. I couldn't agree more! When I was 17, I married my first husband from Hong Kong, full Chinese. It was frowned on (it was 1958) and maybe it was people's disapproval that made me stubbornly determined the marriage would work! We had our rough moments, like any marriage, but we had 5 wonderful children and 32 years of marriage before cancer took him from us.
    We are all God's image. he made Man in His image, and man is made up of many different colours. Who are we to say one is better than another. How dare we criticise God?

    I'll come off my soapbox now!
    Love Granny

  5. As someone who has argued against any form of discrimination (be it in relation to colour, religion, or football club) since I was at school I am in awe of your posting. For two people who are so close and know each other's views on many issues I cannot recall us ever discussing the subject in depth. Mind you as we know each other's views I suppose there is no need.

    I feel that I have another posting stored in my head.

  6. Wow, when you get going, it's quite the thing! I agree with everything you said in this brilliant post. Racism is incomprehensible.

  7. I feel the same. Thank you for writing such a wonderful post. :)

  8. I am in agreement - totally!! You must know that I would definately say something - racism in all forms is WRONG!

    Also - I, too, have very MANY ethnical backgrounds running through my blood. Actually similar to that of Jo's only we've been in America for generations.(Irish, Scottish, Northern and Southern Indians, English...etc.)

    Honestly, I am one of the most colorful flowers, all by myself.

    It is horrible to think that anyone would yell anything abusive to her or to your son.

  9. So true, Scriptor. There's nothing more ridiculous than trying to characterize someone by one's physical attributes. I do think that we are showing signs of moving beyond that kind of stupidity, with the election of our first mixed race president, here in the USA. I look forward to the time when nobody feels the need to define another by their skin color.


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