My eldest daughter, and many other children that I know are absolutely obsessed with one particular programme – ‘Horrible Histories’. She watches as often as she can. Learning about gory and gross facts from different time periods in history. And she loves it. We were grocery shopping yesterday and told me how much she loves history. How much she loves learning about the past. I explained that history is also important so that we learn from the past – so we don’t repeat the same mistakes from the past. She nodded sagely and agreed with me…
In 2008, the double recession hit Britain – and I called it. I knew what was going to happen next. I remember telling people in the staff room of the school that I worked at, at the time. ‘You watch what happens now. People are going to lose their jobs. People are going to become unemployed. The recession was the fault of the bankers – but the politicians will start to stir hatred and discontent and blame one particular section of society in particular – immigrants. People of colour.’
I was right.
I mean, it wasn’t a mind blowing prediction, I’m not pretending that I’m some kind of Nostradamus! But this shit has happened before. Within living memory of some people. Nazi-bloody-Germany, anyone???? First there was a recession, then came discontent, then came the rise of the far-right, then came the ethnic-cleansing, the holocaust of the Jews. They were blamed for, ‘taking all the jobs’… sounds familiar? They were despised because of their appearance. Massive crowds gathered to hear the right-wing racists speak. Chanting in the crowds. Hatred rife. ALL WITHIN LIVING MEMORY!!!
I grew up in the 1980s. Racism was rife. I was happy at the very first infant school that I went to. My teachers and friends loved me. I had a good life. Which sounds hilarious, doesn’t it, as I was only 6 at the time. But then my parents moved house, I went to a different primary school – and that’s where I learnt that I was different. I was a person to be despised. On my first day at my new school, I was told a joke by a few boys who were in my class.
‘You know what my dad says,’ one of them began, ‘Pakis don’t come in tins, they come in hundreds!’ They all fell about laughing.
I was confused. I didn’t get it. What did they mean? I had just turned 7 – and I could see that I was in for a rough ride.
Luckily, I was academic. Luckily, I was good at maths, I was good at English, I was well behaved, so the teachers liked me. I didn’t react to the racists. To be honest, I didn’t know how to. So much of what they said, didn’t even make sense! I spoke to my mum and dad at home and they only had one bit of advice to give me. Work hard. Become educated. Get a good job. You will have to deal with this for the whole of your life because of the colour of your skin…
Things changed in the 90s. There was a shift. Racism was wrong. It was decided! It was not acceptable for people to be openly racist. Note – I’m being very careful with my words. It was not acceptable for people to make racist comments openly – they would be shot down by others. Other people of all colours would react and the racists would have to modify their behaviour. I loved the 90’s and the early naughties. To me it felt like a brave new world.
2019, on the other hand, is a very different beast.
We have the leader of the ‘free world’ actively goading his supporters to chant, ‘send her home’, whilst he basks in the glory of his power to send a crowd into a racist frenzy, to promote open hatred of minorities, his ability to say anything without consequence. This has had a butterfly effect all over the globe. Here, in the country that I love, once again I’m hearing about open racist abuse and attacks on people of colour. Particularly, focused on women. Groups of people, telling women of colour to, ‘Go back to where you came from’. The abuse that is being reported is from third generation British Chinese, or third generation British Asian women who are furious. This is their country. Imagine how much behaviour is being unreported by others?
Nobody is challenging them. When the women fight back, they are told to ‘calm down, it’s just a bit of banter,’ by other members of the public!!! What makes this worse for me is that I remember that things had got better, and the fact that as a society we are regressing, horrifies me. But the other part that breaks my heart – my daughters. They, because of their skin colour at some point are going to hear abuse like this. They are fourth generation British Asians – this is their country as much as anybody else’s. I don’t want them to be on the receiving end of the type of abuse that I received growing up, or that is happening right now to others.
Anyone who complains is branded as a snowflake. Abuse is passed off as ‘banter’. The attitude being, ‘if you don’t like it, you know what to do!’
Sometimes, when I think of the racists and racism coming out into the open, it reminds me of Harry Potter. When Voldemort comes back, rises to power again, the death-eaters reek havoc and the world is in disarray again. It reminds me of what is happening now, in our world. Hatred is on the rise and seems to be winning again. We know what happened in Harry Potter – we knew what would happen from the very first book. We knew Voldemort would be defeated. It was just a matter of time.
A matter of time. There are so many good people in this world, who are kind and caring and smart. If we can learn anything from history and anything from literature, it is that good will prevail in the end.
We, the good people in the world need to unite together. We need to rise against the hatred that is being spread by the right-wing figures in our land. We need to call it out.
Incidentally, there are some incredibly upsetting threads on twitter which highlight exactly what I have been writing about today. If you wish, please have a look, here are the links.
Meanwhile – take care of one another.