An Alphabet Of My Life: X

X=Xenophobia

xenophobia
/zɛnəˈfəʊbɪə/
noun
dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.
“the resurgence of racism and xenophobia”

I was introduced to this from a very early age. I didn’t know the word until I was in my teens though.

The area I was brought up in was predominantly a white working-class part of London. In my youth, many of the local older men had travelled abroad during the war, but few of the women had ventured outside of Britain. Attitudes to foreigners were ingrained. Almost everyone hated the French, dating back to the Napoleonic Wars. That had been updated by the French surrender at the start of WW2, and the Vichy collaboration with the Nazis.

The Japanese were detested because of atrocities in WW2, and their treatment of allied prisoners. (My uncle had been a POW captured by the Japanese.) Italians were considered to be cowardly, and not worth thinking about. As for the Germans, well they had started the war and bombed London and other cities, so were still hated with a vengeance in the 1950s.

Nobody I knew spoke a foreign language, and the only black or oriental people I ever saw were sailors from ships in the nearby docks. Foreigners were described as ‘Wogs’, Wops’, ‘Darkies’, ‘Chinks’, ‘Yellow Men’, even ‘Cannibals’. Much of this was purely descriptive, and rarely spoken with any outright malice. It mostly derived from ignorance, lack of interaction with outsiders, and the old jingoistic love of ‘Empire’.

At junior school, there were no foreign-born pupils, and no black or mixed race ones either. The only Jewish boy was the son of the barber in the local High Street. We were sometimes jealous of him, as he was excused morning assembly on religious grounds.

But Jewish people were also unpopular. They were considered to be money-grabbing, unfair businessmen, and not really welcome in that part of London. They were routinely referred to as ‘Kikes’, or ‘Yids’, and I knew some older men who would not use Mr Cohen’s Barber Shop because he was Jewish. Catholics were rare, and almost all from Irish families. Though there was a famous Catholic school nearby that many girls went to, where they were taught by nuns. The attitude to Catholics was that they were all Irish, the men were drunks who did menial labour, and that they had too many children.

Once there was an influx of West Indian immigrants in the late 1950s and 1960s, there were still very few living in our area. I went to a senior school with 1,500 pupils, and we had two West Indian pupils and one African pupil. As I grew into my teens, I still had little or no contact with anyone who was not white and working class, though I had been on trips to France by then. Once we moved away to the suburbs, the only foreigners in that affluent area were the Indian family who owned a local Indian restaurant.

Times changed, and not for the better. Race riots in West London, the rise of neo-Nazi political groups like the National Front, and overt racism reared its ugly head in many parts of Britain. I was working by then, and married not long after. We were not racist. We embraced the new cultures, the tasty food, the shops that stayed open late. We developed an interest in foreign countries, and travelled to them. We worked alongside collagues from many countries, of many races, and didn’t think twice about it.

Xenophobia has not gone away, far from it. But most of us did not inherit the attitudes of our parents, I am happy to say.

What They Say. What They Do

Harry Windsor. (Formerly Prince Harry) On Climate Change

‘What if every single one of us was a raindrop?’: Prince Harry asks ‘what’s the point of bringing children into the world if it’s on fire’ but says we can beat climate change by ‘relieving the parched ground’.

“The climate change emergency is a race that we are losing. The world has seen unprecedented temperatures, unrelenting storms, and undeniable science.”

Flew with his wife from the USA to the UK and back on a private jet with a bigger carbon footprint than any commercial aircraft, at a cost estimated to be £320,000. Just to attend the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Dame Emma Thompson, actor. (Or’luvvie’)

“Britain is racist for not taking in more refugees”.

“Young climate change activists have “made me feel so ashamed that we have let them down to such a degree”. She urged world leaders to follow young people’s example, to “face facts” and accept we are now “inside climate change”.

Emma Thompson became an Italian citizen after Brexit. She now has a house in Venice, and flies regularly between Italy, the UK, and America. Her carbon footprint knows no bounds.
First Class seat of course, so she doesn’t have to sit amongst those other passengers that she considers to be below her greatness.
Here’s an idea for you, Emma. Give back the Damehood bestowed on you by a country that you no longer want to be a part of. Then talk to Italians instead, seeing as you are Italian now. Oh, but I see the problem here. Half of them don’t know who you are, and the rest don’t care about the patronising and entitled rubbish that comes out of your mouth.

Boris Johnson. The Prime Minster of Britain. His record since 2019 speaks for itself.

(Hilary Clinton)
“She’s got dyed blonde hair and pouty lips, and a steely blue stare, like a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.”

(Barack Obama)
“The part-Kenyan president has an ancestral dislike of the British empire – of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender.”

(Muslim Clothing)
“If you say that it is weird and bullying to expect women to cover their faces, then I totally agree – and I would add that I can find no scriptural authority for the practice in the Koran. “I would go further and say that it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.”

(Talking about the EU)
“We cannot turn our backs on Europe. We are part of Europe”.

(Political promises)
“It is easy to make promises – it is hard work to keep them”.

(President Erdowan of Turkey)
“There was a young fellow from Ankara
Who was a terrific wankerer.
Till he sowed his wild oats
With the help of a goat
But he didn’t even stop to thankera”.

(Women attending university in Malaysia)
“Female students went to university because they have got to find men to marry”.

(Tony Blair and the Commonwealth)
“What a relief it must be for Blair to get out of England. It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies”.

(Single parent mothers and their children)
“Outrageous that married couples should pay for ‘the single mothers’ desire to procreate independently of men. Ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate children who in theory will be paying for our pensions”.

Boris Johnson has seven children in total – from three different women, including his former wife Marina Wheeler.

Friendly Racism

We live in a world where racism is being addressed and challenged like never before. Black Lives Matter, debates on slavery and removal of statues, equal opportunities in education, job discrimination, positive discrimination by having quotas of non-whites in TV advertising and films, as well as in some industries.

And much more, even extending to the censorship and banning of some books.

Then we saw the now-famous Oscar ceremony ‘slap’. Two black men having a dispute in front of a mainly white audience, seen by a worldwide television audience of tens of millions, with some 17 million watching in America alone. That dispute, which started over a joke made in bad taste, ended in violence. Arguments have bandied back and forth since about it being a bad example to others. Maybe Will Smith should have his Oscar taken away, maybe not. I have no firm opinion either way, but I do know that if it had not been a popular millionaire actor delivering that slap, the chances are the offender would have been arrested, whatever his/her colour.

That got me thinking about my past, in working-class London in the 1950s and 1960s.

Until I went to secondary school in 1963 at the age of 11, I didn’t know any black people. I had never spoken to one, nor socialised with any. There were some around the dockside area where we lived: mostly sailors from the ships in port, national servicemen on leave, or workmen fixing up the bomb-damaged houses. But only a few.

My dad had served in India during WW2. He had a high opinion of Sikhs, who he spoke of with respect as ‘brave fighters’. He also loved to listen to black singers and musicians, like Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Paul Robeson, and Count Basie.

Yet he called black people ‘Spades’ or ‘Schvartzers’ in everyday conversation. My mum, who was a very kind lady, referred to black babies as ‘cute piccanninies’. And she meant that as a compliment. People of mixed race -also a rarity where we lived- were referred to as a ‘half-chat’, or ‘Chalky’. When considering the need to sound polite, my parents upgraded this term to ‘Half-caste’, a saying my dad had picked up during his time in India.

I was too young to know any different. And even if I had been old enough to challenge all this as racist, I am sure they would have been shocked. They both considered themselves to be completely tolerant to all races.

Other races were not spared. Anyone from SE Asia, Japan, or China, was called a ‘chink’, or ‘chinky’.
(Even Prince Philip, as recently as 2017, referred to Chinese people as ‘slitty-eyed’. )

When many Indian-owned restaurants and corner shops began to appear on the streets of Britain, my mum referred to them as ‘Pakkies’, even if the owner was from India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, or Uganda and had no connection with Pakistan whatsoever.

But my mum would have been mortified to ever have been called racist. She was a member of The Labour Party all her life, and described herself as a Socialist. Yet when she was older, she would think nothing of saying something like “That bus driver was very nice, considering he was an African”. She had smiled at the man, and made what she regarded to be a compliment in his hearing. She was friendly to him, and thanked him as she got off the bus. In her way of thinking, she couldn’t have been anything like a racist.

When more African families moved into Peckham, the part of London where she lived, she became annoyed at the way the shops were changing. They began to sell things like Yams and Plantain, Salt Fish, and ‘exotic fruit’. The world she knew was changing fast, and she could no longer find what she needed in the shops she had once known well. She telephoned me, asking me to drive over and take her a couple of miles to a large supermarket.

“I can’t get what I need in Peckham anymore. All they sell now is foreign muck, and I can’t bear to even smell it or look at it. And all those fat-arsed black women are so big, I can hardly walk down the pavement with me shopping trolly”.

Meanwhile, my own experience couldn’t have been more different. I had met black pupils at secondary school, and become close friends with one West Indian girl in my class. When I left school and started work, I made a new group of friends, including one mixed race guy with an afro the size of a small country. Then I joined the Ambulance Service and had a crewmate who was originally from Barbados. I worked with him for almost eight years, met his family and friends, and enjoyed learning about West Indian food and culture. My next door neighbours in Wimbledon were a young couple from India who were delightful as neighbours and as friends.

Then my mum became old and infirm. She needed the services of home carers, all of whom in that area were foreign, and predominantly black. One of those was Vilma, a West Indian lady who went on from being a carer to becoming a real family friend. When mum needed that care increased, she became increasingly frustrated with not being able to understand the accents of the carers, and begrudged having to be undressed and washed by them too. She finally asked me to speak to Vilma, and ask her to become the only carer, paid for by us.

I remember saying to my mum, “But Vilma is black too, mum. And she has an accent”. My mum just shook her head and replied. “But she’s a good one, I like her”.

‘Friendly racism’ is what I call that.

Another view

With the current situation in America dominating the headlines, and most social media, it is almost impossible to find another view that is well-balanced, well researched, and written by someone who has personally experienced racism.

But here is one, and it is well-worth reading. If only for some sense of balance.
https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1268898468766134279.html

I am unable to reblog it, so only have that link to it.

Virus Deaths: Racism?

I am reblogging this from my other site, as I find the whole thing very worrying and disturbing.

REDFLAGFLYING

I have been reading and watching the growing number of disturbing reports in Britain that claim the fact that virus deaths are disproportionate in people from backgrounds that include African, West Indian, and the Indian sub-continent are ‘deliberate negligence’. There is a Facebook group of British Muslims who openly accuse the NHS and the government of allowing their relatives to die, because of their ethhnicity. One member even called it ‘ethnic cleansing’.

Now I see on the BBC that the new Labour Party leader is calling for a public enquiry into this, and it is to be led by Baroness Lawrence, a black woman who is famous for campaigning for justice for her murdered son many years ago.

I have to say that I personally find these accusations to be appalling. I worked in the NHS for 22 years, and know many who still do, including my own wife. I…

View original post 619 more words

Thinking Aloud on a Sunday

Racism and Bigotry

No idea why, but I woke up thinking about this today.

When I was young, I had never met a black person. I had seen them singing on TV, and by the age of 11, I owned many records recorded by black artists. Outside of some day trips to France, I had never been out of the UK, and my family circle did not include anyone who was not from a working-class, white English background. I took my lead from my parents, and believed what they told me, using the same terms they used, and holding the same opinions they did. I didn’t know any different. It was very common back then for black people to be called ‘Darkies’, though sometimes, the Yiddish/German name ‘Schwartzers’ would be used instead. Their well-dressed children would be admired, but referred to as ‘Piccaninnies’. There were few children of mixed race at the time, but those that were seen around the area would be known as ‘Half-Chats’. Until I was in my early teens, I had no idea that these terms were derogatory. In fact, I considered them to be affectionate, strange as that may seem now.

Then there were the people of Asian origin. Most Chinese people in London at the time seemed to only be involved in the restaurant trade, so unless we went for a Chinese meal, we never came into contact with them. They were always referred to as ‘Chinks’, sometimes as ‘Chinky-Chonks’. The Asiatic races were never separated by nation, either. There was no difference, as far as we were concerned, in someone from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, or any other Asian country. They were all happily known as ‘Chinks’.

This wasn’t just about people of a different appearance and colour though. Irish people were also looked down upon, and often mistrusted too. They were called ‘Micks’ and ‘Paddies’, and everyone believed that they were all ignorant and uneducated. Of course, I had never heard of James Joyce, Brendan Behan, Oscar Wilde, or many others at the time. People from the country districts far from London were called ‘carrot-crunchers’. They were also considered to be unintelligent, with indecipherable accents, and a bad taste in clothes. Scottish people were known as ‘Jocks’, and thought to be always drunk, and ready to fight anyone. Then there were the Welsh, known as ‘Taffs’, also considered to be little more than primitive sheep-herders or miners, with nothing in common with us at all.

Because of the area where we lived perhaps, there was no religious or racial bigotry towards Jewish people in my youth. They were admired for their business acumen, and the fact that they used to own many of the shops we used, especially for tailoring. They also lived in very clearly defined parts of the city, so you would rarely see a Jewish person unless you went to those districts. Despite our good relationship with those people, it was still considered to be perfectly acceptable to refer to them as ‘Yids’ though. Once again, I believed it to be an affectionate name, and would never have known it was insulting.

By the time I started secondary school at the age of 11, I had spent those formative years totally immersed in prejudice and bigotry. It was never violent or aggressive, and had no hatred attached. But it was no less tangible, and no less offensive to those on the receiving end. My attitude to other races and religions was already moulded, and my belief that I was somehow better than all of them was entrenched.

Luckily, I went to a mixed school. Not only mixed in terms of gender, but taking in a large catchment area around the boroughs immediately south of The Thames. Within days, I was mixing with children from Nigeria, The West Indies, and also India and Pakistan. Not that many of them mind you; they still stood out enough to be noticed, often pointed out, and sometimes ignored or avoided. There were kids from Irish backgrounds too, and one or two Chinese who came from Hong Kong, still a British colony at the time. There were some from Cyprus, of Greek origin. We called them ‘Bubbles’, from the rhyming slang ‘Bubble and Squeak’. Also Turkish Cypriots, feared as the children of men we thought of as gangsters. They were called ‘Johnnies’, from the WW1 nickname for Turkish soldiers, ‘Johnny Turk’.

No longer in that white working-class isolation, I soon got to know many of these other children. Despite some cultural and religious differences, I quickly realised that they were just like me. They supported local football teams, watched the same programmes on the television, and liked the same film stars as I did. They bought the same pop records, and mostly ate the same food. Like me, they wanted to do well at school, and many had firm expectations of jobs or careers to follow their schooldays. In most cases, they worked harder than the rest of us. They handed in their homework on time, and often studied in their own time too, when we would be playing out on our bikes. As my teens arrived, it started to dawn on me that I was not ‘better’ than any of them. In fact, I could learn a great deal by following their example.

Once I became friendly with some of them, I also discovered that those supposedly affectionate terms and names were considered to be insulting. Those things categorised them unfairly, held them back in ways I couldn’t even imagine, and affected their well-being in ways I could never understand, coming from the dominant race and class in that area. I started to feel guilty, to challenge my parents and their uninformed perceptions of people. Perhaps they were too old to change by then, but I was determined not to follow in their footsteps. I discovered something else too. You can change. You do not have to be a prisoner of your upbringing, or the attitudes of others.

I lived the rest of my life as free of bigotry as I could. Because I chose to.

Not Justice

I have just watched BBC NEWS 24, and seen the sentencing of Anders Breivik in Norway. This man killed 77 people in cold blood. The murders were planned meticulously, and his main motive was racism. He admitted the crime from the outset, and during his trial, he has obviously enjoyed the infamy and the publicity. He is often seen grinning in Court, and has made no mention of remorse, quite the opposite in fact. He has sought to justify his actions by portraying himself as some kind of modern Crusader against Islam, and by claiming to be a Norwegian Nationalist.
After declaring him sane, the judge gave him a sentence of 21 years. However, with time served awaiting trial, and early release for ‘good behaviour’, he could be released in just under 9 years. He is currently 33 years old, which means that he could be free of prison by the age of 42. Surely someone of this nature would be only too ready to try to repeat his crimes? He will hardly be too old, or too infirm, to carry out the planning and execution of something like the Utoya massacre in the future. Whatever your beliefs on the penal systems of The World, or whether you are for, or against, Capital Punishment, surely any sane person can see that this is not Justice?
Life imprisonment, without release, should have been the only logical sentence passed on this man.

The Norwegians are undoubtedly hoping to portray themselves as a liberal society, with progressive views on incarceration and punishment, and this may well be laudable in many cases. However, it is simply naive in this instance, sending the wrong message to Breivik, and to others like him.
It is not just about retribution for the 77 victims, it is also about the protection of others in the future. When Breivik is released from prison, and goes on to commit another murder, or murders, perhaps they will then realise that this soft approach comes at an unacceptable cost.