Monday, 22 October 2018

Dear anti racists

There has been a lot of anger at some instances of overt racism recently and that's good. People should be angry. The sight of a passenger shouting abuse at a woman in her 70s refusing to sit next to her because of the colour of her skin on a flight to London was horrifying.

But I would hope people, if they were aware of the more common, more subtle forms of racism, would be just as angry and would call that out too. It's sickening when it happens but because it's so subtle, most of us who are white and therefore not likely to experience it, are oblivious and therefore there's nobody expressing outrage on your behalf online or in person. People being outraged won't take away the pain of what you've had to experience but it might just make you feel less alone.

The subtle form of racism is the most common, the least visible and the hardest to report or get support for the effects of. It's insidious and soul destroying & sometimes practiced (sometimes unconsciously) by people who would never dream of using a racist term, would never dream of shouting abuse and who would probably even get up and intervene if they witnessed someone doing it.

That's why I think the Scottish Government's Hate Crime Campaign and in particular this poster about racism is a great start to a campaign. But it IS just a start. Because most people reading this who DO practice the more subtle forms of racism will simply not recognise themselves in this. That letter is not to them.

Don't get me wrong, I'm definitely not critical of this campaign. I think it's brilliant, it could be reassuring, even empowering for someone who experiences racism to read and it says that we, as a country, do not support the abuse being meted out to them.

So I'm in no way negative about it. I just hope when YOU read it and think to yourself

'I would NEVER do that',

you'll stop and address how you DO think and feel about people of different races. And how does that impact on your behaviour toward them? 

This is not a definitive piece on my thoughts, as a white person, on racism and I'm sure I'll say more later. It's just a request for all of us (and I include myself in that because I have had to address my own preconceptions about people in the past) to think about it for a little longer than it takes us to dismiss the idea that racism is anything to do with us.