I wanted to write something about the naivety of the British public in the face of Racism for a long time, but since the death of George Floyd, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated and sad at not only the incomprehensibly unjust murder, but the tirade of hypocritical ‘support’ seen across social media. Some of this support has felt counter-productive and more like support for supports sake, with no real impetus on the desire to push for change, further the cause or desire to truly understand racism.
I must stress, this is a small proportion of my viewing, and not a comment on the vast majority of inspired protesters making a stand in the face of discrimination.
I grew up in a small rural town about 30 miles south of Manchester. The town is predominantly white, and we scarcely saw a great deal of ethnic diversity growing up. Surrounded by local quarry’s and farms, the vast majority of the local economy is propped up by manual jobs and people can largely spend their entire lives in the same 10-mile radius, surrounded by the same white faces.
In my experience, this has created a hotbed of racist tendencies, often, without people knowing it is actually racist. Locals refer to people from western Asia as Pa*i’s, people of African descent as ‘N*ggers’ or ‘Charcoal men’. In my year group of roughly 400 students, there was only 4 black students. These students were consistently and perpetually signalled out, often called ‘stormzy’ behind their backs.
‘he was great big spear-throwing type’ ‘tribal looking’, ‘n*gga nose’ are all backwards, detestable, undeniably racist terms I’ve heard pass without so much as the bat of an eye. But this is a truth I’m sure is paralleled across a range of all-white rural towns in Britain.
In my experience, these terms are not used in to be intentionally and entirely derogatory out of feelings of intense white superiority, but rather considered by the perpetrators as harmless jokes or as labelling terms to define those they are talking about. People refer to a car wash within my town, not by its geographical location like the other two we have, but as the ‘p*ki carwash’, and this is the accepted explanatory term for it. From a young age, Children are taught to label people of colour, by their colour, not by typical characteristics one would describe a white person with; hair style, height or size.
And this is the very problem with our country, our working-class white towns have not grown with the times of globalisation. Where our cities place a genuine impetus on being increasingly diverse, cosmopolitan and tolerant environments, which grow as the world and as our laws grow, rural Britain is falling behind. My school did little to bridge the gap, black history month always felt like a month for black people, not a month to educate white people about inequality.
In December, when Stormzy called out Racism, he was critiqued, picked apart, attacked and denounced by large sections of our society. The UK is racist. There is no doubt about it. That this is such a divisive statement, stems from small-minded attitudes, local-level normalisation and lack of education about what racism is. Embedded in our predominantly white suburbs and towns is an intrinsically racist society, blinded by our own excuses of tolerance, force-fed ideas about the greatness of the British empire from a young age and naïve to what racism truly is.
Too often have I heard groups believe they are not being racist, because people of colour cannot hear them. That they’re not racist, because it’s a joke. I was shocked to see the same people who call local corner shops ‘p*ki shops’, sharing posts about justice for George Floyd, out of a genuine belief that they had not been racist.
Rural Britain looks to detach itself from the problem. It feels too easy to absolve uncomfortable truths by saying ‘America is backwards’ to blindly believe in our own innocence. This is unfair, wrong and a complete oversite of the unjust slurs and attacks on our shores. In not recognising its own accepted racism, rural Britain is as bad as the genuine believers of white superiority.
I like to believe that my experience of racial slurs in rural Britain grows out of naivety and a lack of open-mindness, not a genuine belief in white superiority. But is it any less detestable? Does it make the life of black men and women in the UK any easier? No. We must do better.
We cannot dress this problem, we cannot excuse this problem, you cannot justify slurs and bigotry with fantasies that if it’s not said in front of a black person, it’s not racist. It simply isn’t true.
Did Adolf Hitler start at the top? No, he spoke selectively about his racist ideas to small groups in beer halls in Munich. Did Tommy Robinson start on national papers? No, his ideology grew from low-level acceptavism. Localising and normalising racial terms, gives platforms and justifications to extremists at all levels, that is why, regardless of who you speak to, regardless of what context, racism is still racism. It is a plague that needs to be eradicated at its source, and that is within your living rooms, within your group chats, within the ‘dark humour pages’.
Rural Britain needs to stop its own hypocrisy, you cannot label people based on derogatory racial slurs one minute, then post support of George Floyd in the face of popularism the next. The low level acceptavism is the route of racism, the route of the issues which killed George Floyd and so many others in the western plague of racism.
Rural Britain cannot return to this naivety and blatant racism, to truly help the cause, stop the cause at its source, British men and women must reflect on their own naivety, and denounce derogatory slurs at every turn.