When is racism actually a surprise?
Speaking to a colleague yesterday, I mentioned the racist, prejudiced actions shown by the far right “football lads” supposedly defending statues last weekend, and his response was to imply there hopefully weren’t that many people there. Because we don’t like to think that racism is a big problem in this country. But when I mentioned seeing racist and prejudiced comments on social media feeds from construction workers, his response was that it “wasn’t surprising” to hear that either.
Because racism from construction workers is not a surprise.
Racism from far right “football lads” is not a surprise.
But racism from our super posh Prime Minister isn’t a surprise either? With his many quotes of outdated judgements and prejudices of people who don’t look like him.
Or from his mates, who don’t understand the meaning of taking a knee, or can’t remember Marcus Rashford’s name.
It’s a more subtle form of racism, but it’s revealing of deeper prejudice, and it’s still not a surprise.
So when is racism a surprise?
When is it actually unexpected, if it’s such a minor part of our society? If it’s not actually a problem?
Would it surprise you to hear of racist incident “up North”? Or from a Daily Mail reader?
Or what about a “well to do” couple in Surrey? Or an older couple from the West Country?
We would like to think that everyone we know is not racist, that racism is a problem for other people, other families, other areas. But if we are only surprised by racism coming from people we know, and we’re not necessarily surprised by generic stories of racism throughout the country, across many demographics, then should we really be surprised at all? And can we still claim this issue only relates to a small number of people?
We are all capable of being racist, just as we all know people who have the capacity to be and act in racist ways. So we all have the responsibility to not only learn and unlearn our prejudices and biases, but to also have the difficult conversations with people we know too – that’s how meaningful change will happen, when we stop being surprised, and start doing something about it.