Except I am. Spoiler. This post is about race.
Where Can I Find These Children And Inflict The Maximum Amount Of Pain On Them?
Yesterday, All My Troubles Seemed So Far Away
Yesterday, my 8 year old son returned from a holiday club trip, to tell me he'd been racially abused in our local park. My immediate reaction? Where Can I Find These Children And Inflict The Maximum Amount Of Pain On Them.
It shouldn't come as any surprise to me that people are bigoted. Each and every one of us has probably been targeted for daring to be even remotely different to what is considered the norm, by someone, at some point, at some time. But did I expect my son, at 8, living in Central London, to be told he was an Ugly Indian Bastard by a group of kids in our local park? I guess thats where my intense naivety came into play. I assumed, that in the melting pot that is London, we could and would be safe from this type of overt bigotry. My assuming, clearly made an ass of you, me, and my 8 year old.
How you look and who you are, matters. And when I say who you are, I mean the box you fit into.
An A-Z Of Me
And its not that I think London is some Mecca for the progressive. That there isn't all kinds of levels of unconscious bias that most of us aren't even aware we're exhibiting. That yes, when I walk into a room to do a presentation, there are those in the room I have to convince I belong there. Because whether we like it or not, all people are affected by the way they're perceived; male, female, black, white, brown or any of the colours in between. How you look and who you are, matters. And when I say who you are, I mean the box you fit into. The group you belong in, that provides a set of A-Z characteristics that can simplify your entire personality down to a number of crowd pleasing cliches. Indian = brainy, square, overprotective parents, frigid, ugly; well, you get the picture.
The thing is, I moved to London to escape being pigeonholed. To escape the feeling that my colour entered the room before I did. And there are so many ways in which I have achieved that. My children attend a multicultural school, where they don't feel different to their peers. Because they aren't. We live in London, where the world is comfortingly reflected, through the faces of the people around us.
Divisive politics, and campaign slogans telling us to 'go home' if we dare to be anything other than the so-called indigenous population; have become commonplace and acceptable, used by Prime Ministers and Home Secretary's and sitting Presidents Of The Apparent Free World.
Derision And Division
But its not enough to know that things are 'better' here than they are in other places. Because the truth is, the world is going backwards not forwards when its comes to matters of race. Divisive politics, and campaign slogans telling us to 'go home' if we dare to be anything other than the so-called indigenous population; have become commonplace and acceptable, used by Prime Ministers and Home Secretary's and sitting Presidents Of The Apparent Free World. And honestly - I'm scared. And more than a little bit angry, that when I try to have these conversations, I'm told that racism 'doesn't really exist anymore', made to feel paranoid, boring, aggressive, or whiny - like I'm talking about something inane and inconsequential, that doesn't affect the lives of millions of people, every, single, day.
We Need To Talk About Kevin/ Race
Part of me wants to retreat when people have these reactions. When I'm made to feel that I'm playing a 'race card' or being angry about something that the people I'm talking to have no control over. But the truth is, I just want to be heard. I just want everyone To Know, that these issues do exist, that I have every right to be angry, to feel validated and understood.
We're All Normal
Because the thing is, my son was racially abused in a park yesterday. And I am really fucking angry about that. And its made my mission to champion diversity and representation everywhere I can, even more important to me than ever. Because the sooner we spread the word that we are ALL normal, the sooner we can stop using our differences to drag each other down.
So, sorry. I lied. I am nowhere near done talking about race.