I Am a Racist

I’m going to hold my hand up here and say, I am a racist. Not that I think the murder of George Floyd was a justified act, nor the killing of Trayvon Martin or Stephen Lawrence or any of the black people who have been killed by the police or whose killers have gone free because black lives matter less. Of course I don’t think that. Of course I want to protest about it and put a Black Lives Matter status on my Facebook page and read about it and go on protests. Nor do I think it’s insignificant that BAME people are suffering much worse from the virus and from its economic effects; nor do I think it’s unimportant that we have far fewer black people in Parliament or at the top of business or any other area you care to name. I’m your standard white liberal anti-racist. Why then do I say I am a racist?

I say that because time and again I am ashamed to recognise in myself attitudes of inequality when it comes to race. Stereotypes, value judgments, attitudes laid down long ago have festered unrecognised and although, since they arrived unconsciously it wasn’t my fault, it is my responsibility to get rid of them. Just as in the garden I’m not responsible for the horsetail rearing its ugly mane everywhere, it is my job to get rid of it. (Except you can never get rid of horsetail, but that’s another story.)

I suspect we all have subtle racism inside us; I remember a guy I once knew who was setting up some kind of Oriental business, I forget what. He sounded British but looked a little Middle-Eastern and he told me one of his parents was Iranian. ‘I expect we’re all a little bit racist,’ he said, and I didn’t want to agree but he’s right. If the face doesn’t fit we don’t buy the product, and racial stereotypes are as much a part of that dynamic as gender and class. I’ve caught myself thinking ‘what’s he doing here?’ when I see a black guy behind the counter in, say, a bank; and though I immediately tell myself off for the thought, it’s there; it arises: it’s in me. And we can blame whatever we like; our upbringing, the media, stereotyping in the arts; but at the end of the day it’s our responsibility to confront our own racism and deal with it. Get rid of the horsetail. I wonder if peeing on it would help? Knowing horsetail it’d probably encourage the bloody stuff. As to racism I guess it’s like getting rid of any unwanted characteristics; guilt or self-loathing or fear. We just have to work on it; recognise it when it rears its head and teach ourselves to think differently.

Back in Loughborough it’s not quite business as usual but it’s getting there. One thing I definitely haven’t missed is the traffic, and there is definitely more of it around. It wouldn’t be so bad if it were just the volume of traffic, but it’s not. It’s the behaviour; the aggression, the impatience, the revving of engines and jumping of lights and worst of all the parking on pavements. As a pedestrian you don’t feel safe. I don’t feel safe crossing the road or even walking on the pavement, and I don’t think that’s paranoia. Yesterday there was a car parked half on the pavement, half on the road, as the driver had stopped to take a phone call. OK full marks for not driving whilst on the phone but they had stopped right on a bend where you can’t see traffic coming, giving me the choice of either walking out into the road or pushing past a wet hedge. I chose the hedge and as I pushed through I made a gesture indicating the lack of space and mouthing the words ‘Not helpful.’ They did not look apologetic but at least they looked at me; it’s infuriating to be ignored. There was a side-road a little further up; they could have turned in there instead. They could have apologised. I’d have felt better instead of feeling that I don’t matter.

It’s the tiniest thing beside what’s happening to black people in the US, to feel that you as a pedestrian don’t matter, that your needs are not important and that you can be threatened at any moment by those with powerful engines, but perhaps it gives us a tiny inkling of what it might be like to be black in the US (and elsewhere). So let’s say it again: pedestrian lives matter, all lives matter and BLACK LIVES MATTER.

from Black Lives Matter Facebook page. Image removed on request

Kirk out

The Woman Who Read the Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year in Bed for an Hour

I’ll deconstruct that title in a mo – but first – OMG!!! two bits of brilliant news.  First, this morning I had an acceptance!  A story of mine called ‘Olympic Summer’ which I’d been waiting an AGE to hear about, has been accepted by Everyday Fiction:

http://www.everydayfiction.com

These people are well worth supporting and not only because they’ve published two of my stories: they deliver a short story to your inbox every morning, and it’s completely free of charge!  I’ll let you know when mine is due – meanwhile here are some comments their editors made:

‘This piece is highly accomplished, extremely well written and has a particularly original plot arc that achieves intense tension.’

‘…very evocative of the atmosphere surrounding London during the 2012 Olympics.’

‘The author does a fine job in this of conveying the artist’s thoughts — confusion and anxiety — in such a way that we also get a deep sense of the period and place.’

‘This is a beautifully written and unique piece. I just love the backdrop and meaning of the painting for this story.’

Yes, all in all I am pretty happy this morning, and particularly so in light of the events of last night.  Because the impossible – or highly improbable – happened and Tesco’s planning application for Queen’s Rd was REJECTED!!!  They put in six applications altogether and five out of six were rejected, most by a substantial majority.  The committee seemed really impressed by the objections they’d received, but what swung it I think were the points made regarding traffic.  They’d had submissions from two local primary schools whose pupils walk or cycle and use the junction twice daily, and points were well-made about cars stopping to use the proposed ATM machine as well as people being picked up with their weekly shopping by cars which would stop at unsafe places.  But the killer was the car-park.  Tesco’s proposed a car-park in an existing space at the back; but they also proposed a chiller unit and a condenser unit.  Objectors were able to prove that lorries delivering to the shop would not be able to turn round in that space but would have to back out onto the road.  This is obviously highly dangerous on a busy and well-used junction and I’m pretty sure that’s what swung it for us.

So congrats to all especially Mags and Ian who represented local views and did so much hard work.  Of course Tesco’s can and probably will appeal but I think they’ll have a hard job proving that the rejection was made without sufficient grounds.

So that’s all good.

Good?  It’s great!

And in other news, I have started reading Sue Townsend’s ‘The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year’ which is utterly brilliant, so much so that I was in danger of staying in bed all day to read it…

Kirk out