Over the last week I have seen a few posts on social media, some using identical words, that accuse me of being a racist. Not by any direct action I might have taken, but because I am white and was born back in the nineteen fifties. I have heard this argument more than once over the last six or seven years and I am told that it is taught in school here in the UK.
My initial response that if someone wants to brand me as a racist, then fine, they are entitled to an opinion and I don’t really care what people think of me, especially those that don’t know me from Adam. I will not criticise them as individuals, but their opinion is fair game.
The people using this argument do not know me, nor what I think, feel or do, yet they will accuse me of something whilst patronising me by saying that it is not my fault; that I am a victim of circumstance. I have no sorrow in saying that I think that this argument is a load of bollocks, because I am what I am through the choices that I have made, through the way that I have interpreted what I have learned and experienced over the, almost, sixty eight years that I have existed. I am capable of critical thought and am not some brainwashed product unable to understand the world around me. If I am a racist then it is not by accident of birth.
I am appalled at the thought that an officer of the law could kneel on a man’s neck until he was beyond help. I am appalled that this could happen anywhere, let alone in the country that has become my part time home for the last twenty eight years. But there is much else afoot in this world that appals me too and at the heart of most of it is ignorance and intolerance. The argument that I am a racist because of my birth does itself demonstrate both of these traits.
Am I a racist? If you want to believe that I am then go ahead. But if you accuse me of that then where is your evidence? What have I done that gives you the right to make that accusation? The principles of natural justice require you to present your case against me, but if all you have is a sweeping generalisation that I am a racist because I was born white then I suggest that you need to take a long look at your own attitude and beliefs.
The people who believe that my contemporaries and I are inherently racist are probably not bad people. I don’t know them all so will not judge. I think that they mean well and want to live in the same sort of tolerant society that I do, but if we are to get there we need to understand each other and work together.
A fundamental part of the accusation of my racism is that I would have been brought up in an atmosphere of white supremacy. This ignores the fact that my parent’s generation fought a war against, in part, the white supremacy of the Nazis and the yellow supremacy of the Japanese. Far from any belief in white supremacy I was taught that all people were equal and when there was the occasional comment from someone to the contrary it jarred. White supremacy is an obvious illustration of racism, but racism is more than white supremacy. Consider the acts of genocide around the world; yellow skinned people killing other yellow skinned, white on white, black on black, brown on brown. These are all illustrations of racial hatred, even when some are wrapped up in religious banners.
To say that I am a racist because of the environment that I was born into is an interesting argument from an academic point and I understand it, but it ignores much that would contradict it. The world was changing rapidly when I was born and things that reflected attitudes of white supremacy like imperialism were already being rejected. After a second major conflict in a quarter of a century there was a strong movement to a more equal and tolerant society, not just in racial terms, but in all terms. Consider where we are now to the time that I was born into nearly seventy years ago. One thing that you will find is that ignorance and intolerance have not gone away and social media has exposed just how rife they are. Not necessarily just in racism, but generally and sadly that is a facet of human nature. We are complex people and do not all think the same.
My code is simple; I will treat you with kindness and respect regardless of your skin colour, race, religion, sex, sexual leanings, wealth or anything else that might, or might not, differentiate you from me. If that is reciprocated then we will get along fine. If it isn’t then I will do my best to have as little further contact with you as possible. If that makes me a racist in your eyes then so be it. In my eyes it makes you a bit of a bigot.