Friday, 5 June 2020

This is our England - The good, the bad, and the ugly

Utterly disagreeable people
“This is England.”, I have heard that before, the righteous indignation of a person who believes we do not have a right to live here. The effrontery we must have to dare hold a job or the sheer audacity to share the hallowed space they exist in, how we must offend them because we are not on the paler shade of the Pantone scale of skin pigmentation.
I just watched two videos on Twitter, of first, a taxi driver being racially abused by a passenger, then of a black adolescent who we are informed is autistic being physically attacked and commanded by a teenaged couple to fall to the ground and kiss the shoes of the white guy. This all happened in England within the last couple of days, those videos are very unpleasant. [BBC News - Taxi] [The Sun – Shoe-kissing]
We are all affected
I am thankful that the evidence of the crimes was recorded and posted online, they both went viral on social media. The West Midlands Police have arrested the perpetrator of the first offence and apparently the parents of the male demanding a shoe-kissing handed him in themselves, I would not speculate on why, apart from commending them on doing the right thing. The police have since asked that the videos be taken down as they also identify innocent parties. [Twitter: WMPolice]
There are no innocent parties when racism happens, the victim and the perpetrator are deeply involved, the witnesses are scandalised, everyone who gets to view the videos comes into the awareness of a malignant cancer that is probably not the lived experience of the majority. It calls on our common and diverse humanity to take a stand, to acquiesce, to condemn, or to be indifferent.
Our conscience is asked to incontrovertibly denounce or find excuses, whether people matter more than symbols and memorials, or our sense of history has pre-eminence over the present day injustices that we cannot ignore when we are faced with stark reality. It is to our societal and communal shame that these things still happen.
Bubbles do burst
I have to be aware of another thing, the taxi driver was abused at his place of work in the West Midlands, the adolescent was abused in a public park in Yorkshire, in broad daylight. I have not left my apartment since Sunday, and this is Friday, apart from going to check my mailbox. I have the ease and accoutrements of being able to work from home and the comforts of my home along with the state of my mind grant me a hermit situation I mostly enjoy.
It means, whether by privilege or by circumstance, I am excluded by fate or fortune from vile and threatening encounters. I cannot live in this bubble for too long, I do need to interact, socialise, and face the world eventually. What I must not do is allow my particular setting and experience to become the narrative of everyone else with my background, my heritage, or my minority status.
Representing humanity counts more
I say this because many make that mistake and it is laid out in an article that I read yesterday in the Guardian, that I would liberally excerpt and I hope when you read it, you can make up your own mind about things.
The government’s response has been to appoint Kemi Badenoch, the minister for equalities, and a black woman, to “get to the bottom” of the problem. What do we know about Badenoch’s approach to racism in Britain? On “institutional racism” – a phenomenon that affects minorities in Britain – she has been reported as saying that she doesn’t recognise it. On former mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith’s Islamophobic campaign? She helped run it. On the black community? She doesn’t believe that it really exists.
Obviously, I would love to have members in Parliament who not only represent me but can advocate for the broadest spectrum of interests that affect my life and wellbeing. I have to say, having lived here and in the Netherlands, sharing the same race is hardly the best determinant or qualification for the job.
There might be a primordial and a primal sense of fellow feeling in seeing an ethnic minority in a position of power, authority, and influence, but other virtues of character, principle, integrity, consideration, and empathy, matter more.
To wheel and deal or not
How we conveniently settle into the abrasion of identity with the view that our positions should not be burdened by causes that question the status quo, provoke the established order, or upset the applecart of long-held traditions is a subjective test of our core values.
Sometimes, to whatever extent, we are in a battle of assimilation and adaptation to gain acceptance and maintain relevance. A minority person doing well in a host society has to navigate with deftness the balance of bargaining with and challenging the system to get ahead, and this is not to castigate anyone, but some of us have played to tokenism.
Survival comes long before self-actualisation on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. However, you don’t make allies by banging on about what is wrong with things, even if things are manifestly wrong.
As we all live in England, we should have all the rights, the privileges, and the freedoms to exist, and to express ourselves in every free, wholesome and life-enhancing way without the fear of even passive dislike that informs reprehensible actions and definitely not overt racism. We should be bold to be our best human selves regardless of who or what we are, treating the other with respect, courtesy, dignity and if we have the capacity, love.
This is England, it is our home and we all want it to be a better place for all.

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