I remember in primary school, playing power rangers in the grounds and getting rather upset with my friends as I had joined the game late, and the only power ranger left was the black ranger; which I didn’t want to be. strangely I was fine pretending to be a brightly coloured spandex wearing super hero, (if I tried that now in the carpark in work id probably get sectioned), but pretending to be black was to much of a stretch for my pre-teen brain to cope with, paying super hero was fine but I couldn’t extend my imagination to change my skin colour. to put this into some context, it was a small school on the Essex/ north east London boarder, one class per year with thirty or so kids in each class and the vast majority were white. the area to this day is a true blue tory strong hold, although a lot more ethnically diverse now then it was in my youth; the area I grow up in still has a twang of upper working/ middle class snobbery about it. even where I live now which is more working class it still has a similar undercurrent.
id like to say that this bias disappeared soon after, but no. it continued with me for a long time after that. maybe due to the mostly white area I grow up in. I came from a quite liberal family, 3 line wip Labour voting feminists family’s wouldn’t exactly be what you’d call a hot cultivating ground for racial prejudice and yet there it was nestled in my sub conscious like a porn mag stashed in teenagers forest den. call it an out right prejudice if you will, being kinder to myself looking back I hope it was just a lack relatability. Secondary school wasn’t a great deal more diverse, being a teen emo didn’t exactly grant a great of opportunity to spread my cultural wings shall we say “black eyeliner and nail vanish don’t tend to make you seam that accessible”. the kids from ethnic back grounds at school typically swam in different circles than I did at that age, I wasn’t academically consciences enough to fit into the “boff” category and I lacked any and indeed all lustre for physical competition. I lacked a melting pot to form those type of bonds growing up and the emo culture I attached myself to was more based on the love of the colour black and self deprecating music and once again was majoritively white.
I’m embarrassed to say that this bias went unchallenged until I entered the world of work at the age of 16. I joined an apprenticeship and was lucky to work with a team of 7 other really nice guys, who’s family’s came from India, Pakistan, Finland, the Caribbean and Morocco. I had no trouble getting along with any of them and had a lot of fun with all of them. most of them came from north London, so to them I was the “outsider”, Essex boy amongst prober Londoners. that was something that took awhile for me to get my head around, living wear I did I still had a stereotypical view of what an English person looked like, white. but here these guys where, far more London then I proclaimed to be. needless to say this challenged a lot of the views and ideas that I had at the time and I couldn’t be happier that they were challenged by a group of mates. I started to view then as just British and not by were there parents came from. this should be the standard reaction and blatantly fucking obvious to me now. but this is very common type of soft bigotry, my partners grand parents were from Ireland, put not many people would ague with her dad and say he was Irish and not British. nor would I think that the white children of eastern European immigrants would have as much trouble calling themselves British as the children of middle eastern or Asian parents .
its nearly been ten years since I joined the o so wonderful world of work and I count myself very lucky. I was lucky enough to have my preconceptions challenged by friends and colleagues that I respect to this day. I think now in the age of twitter wars it seams that a lot of peoples preconceptions have become more entrenched, you cant look at a comment section on any news article and not see people fighting on the most common 21st century battle field. I’m glad to have had a gentle awakening, being lifted along by great people. I think that in the long run its far easier to get someone to change there world view by befriending them, then by calling them a bigot or libtard. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as guilty for having arguments with randoms on social media as the next guys, I mean fuck I hate masterchef and I will get on my soap box for that one.
apologies for the fucked-faced nostalgia that was this article, but I cant help but long for what seamed like a gentler time. today seams a lot more polarised, or maybe I was just lucky that a group of people saw past my prejudices and help to get over them with nothing but friendship. I mean only 1 out of 7 called me a cunt to my face, statistically that’s probably my best average.
my two children are now attending pre-school and I’m happy to say there is a far better mix there then when I was growing up. I hope my kids get to grow up colour blind unlike me and get to imagen, play and pretend to be characters just because there cool and not let a silly little thing like race get in the way.