Ollie's Modern Life

This month, Ollie asks what each of us can do to recognise and combat deep-seated societal racism


The other day I popped to the shop. It’s only fifty metres from my house, it really isn’t a chore. I was after some sugar because lockdown has for some reason awoken an inner Mary Berry in me I never knew I had. As always happens when I pop to the shop, I clocked the crisps in my peripheries and loaded up on as many bags as I could while clutching two bottles of beer and balancing the sugar in the fold of my elbow.

I waddled over to the checkout, popped it down and engaged in some pretty typical socially distanced pleasantries with the shop keep, tapped my card and went home.

The thing I noticed though was that, not once, not even for just a fleeting moment, did anybody discriminate against me for the colour of my skin. Come to think of it, in the 34 years since plopping out of my mother’s womb, I’ve never, not on one single occasion, in this country or abroad, ever, EVER been discriminated against for the colour of my skin.

My nephew on the other hand, who is half Singaporean, plopped out of his mother’s womb six years ago. Since then he HAS been racially abused. He was playing on the swings with his mum in the park. The people that abused him were his age. 

Because I am white, I don’t have to worry about being racially abused while playing on the swings. This is white privilege. If you’re white and you don’t think this is a thing, ask yourself this. Have you ever been rejected for a job you knew you were qualified for, and think it might have something to do with the colour of your skin? I expect not. Because for us, this simply isn’t something we need to think about. It is something we will never understand.

That’s why as a white man, I have to actively engage my brain to work out what the war-like images on the news flickering into my living room are really about. I forcefully quell the attitude bred into me over the last three decades, an attitude so heavily ingrained in western culture it’s barely visible, an attitude that makes me jump to the conclusion that these are just thugs burning down buildings and stealing TVs’. I force myself to realise that ‘these people have faced generations of racial abuse and discrimination, they’re pissed. I don’t give a fuck about stolen TV’s, we have to listen. I shouldn’t have to force myself to think this way, I should automatically think this way, but that’s what years of institutional racism does; it’s melted into you without you even noticing and without even knowing it, you hold racist beliefs.

Yup, even you. Deep down, whether you like it or not, racist sentiments are pre-loaded into your subconscious. Artful manipulators and leaders have subtly moulded language, social structures and headlines for hundreds of years to favour you, and discriminate against the BAME community. You will never admit it, because you’re not a racist are you? No, but you are part of a racist society and your failure to recognise that and to do something about it, makes you complicit.

Deep down, whether you like it or not, racist sentiments are pre-loaded into your subconscious

I can say without doubt, the United Kingdom is an institutionally racist country. I can hear some of you physically jarring at the sentiment. But if you don’t realise there is a problem, you ARE the problem. It’s time to do something about it. 

But what? I’m going to start by listening. I want to better understand systemic racism and what I can do to put a fucking lid on it. I want to use my privilege, my super power that allows me to say whatever the fuck I like without being persecuted just because I am white to say, fuck this. Fuck all of you in denial. Fuck getting upset over some smashed windows. Fuck this being a blueprint for prosperity. Fuck those who capitalise on division. Fuck this being acceptable. Fuck leaders that ignore it. Fuck leaders who encourage it. The world is changing, get over yourself.

As a white man, it pains me that I haven’t acknowledged this sooner. I can feel it gnawing at me that it took a man with a knee on neck for nine minutes, his throat crushed until he was dead for me to publicly voice my outrage. I feel physically sick at that thought. WE have been collectively turning our head away from the issue as if it doesn’t exist, but just like the cancer it is, it’s become too big to ignore. If we don’t do something about it, we will all suffer.

Read, learn, listen, shout and share it wide. Silence is compliance.

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