There’s a fair bit about racism in the news at the moment, what with the potential issues during Euro 2012 and John Terry’s trial in London.
Now, I’m not denying that racism exists for one second or that we should do anything other than stamp it out when it does rear its exceptionally ugly head.
But sometimes I think the focus and understanding about racism is all wrong.
Take this story for instance…
I got a call from a friend of mine, oh, quite a while back. She’d been summoned to school and told in no uncertain terms that her 10 year old son was a racist of the worst kind. (Not quite sure what the ‘worst’ kind is… they’re all pretty bad).
She was devastated and more than a little surprised. After all, a 10 year old boy who hasn’t been raised to even think in racist terms… where could he have got his inherent racism from?
She asked the teacher (think of a stereotypical hippy type teacher and you’ll get about the right perception) what her son had done.
‘He called one of the black boys in his class a monkey.’
Something didn’t ring true and so her son was sent for so he could face his accuser.
She asked him outright: ‘Did you call (name deleted) a monkey?’
A confused look from the boy: ‘Yes.’
‘Oh no! How could you? Why did you do that?’
‘Because he looked like one.’
This was getting more and more shocking and terribly upsetting for my friend… but then something occurred her.
‘What were you doing at the time?’
‘Well there were ten of us playing in the trees at the bottom of the school field trying to swing from branch to branch like the monkeys we saw at the zoo on the school trip last week… and (name deleted) did a really good swing and I said to him: ‘well done, you look just like a monkey.’’
My friend turned to hippy teacher with raised eyebrows.
‘It’s still a racist remark,’ she said defensively.
‘But you didn’t bother to check the context or what those boys were doing? You simply decided to accuse a 10 year old boy of racism instead? To be honest I think you’re the racist.’ And with that she stalked out, taking a bemused 10 year old with her.
Now, this story sprung to mind because I had to complete an Ethnicity Monitoring form the other day. There was an Asian fella working for the firm in question. The choices were: Asian Chinese, Asian Indian, Asian Pakistan, Asian Bangladesh.
That was it. When I asked him about it, he said ‘None of those… I’m Asian British.’