Pick a contentious issue about which you care deeply — it could be the same-sex marriage debate, or just a disagreement you’re having with a friend. Write a post defending the opposite position, and then reflect on what it was like to do that.
“I hate Blacks, me. I’ve never met one, but I hate them. And the fuckin’ Pakis. They don’t belong here, not in our country. Dirty, shiftless, Godless layabouts. They take our jobs; they’ll do anything for less, so we can’t get a look in. They come over here for the benefits, you know. They come over here, living sixteen to a room and drawing unemployment and they have no intention of working. They don’t learn the language. There are nice white kids in classrooms full of Pakis and they are forgetting how to speak proper. They just don’t hear English spoken as it should be no more. Half the time the teacher ain’t white, neither.
They don’t belong here and we should send them back to where they bloody came from. Get some of our own people off the dole and into a job and ease the housing shortage.”
Hate is a strong word, and often used irrationally. Somebody once actually used those very words to me: “I hate Blacks, me. I’ve never met one, but I hate them” I was, to put it mildly, gob-smacked – for so many reasons. The fact that he went on to justify his statement, having already admitted the lack of anything on which to base it… One wonders where his received wisdom originated.
It should be noted that were in an extremely rural part of Scotland at the time, but this was a man of about 60 years of age. How had he got through his life without meeting one single person with darker skin than his own? It beggared belief. I can only assume that he had been deliberately avoiding any encounter. He did admit to having met a couple of “Chinks” who had lived in the village for a while: “They didn’t stay, never settled, didn’t feel welcome…”
I have tried to get inside the man’s head. It is not easy to view the topic from his point of view. It is a given that he lacked education, surely? He admits a lack of experience. I have both; it is difficult to drop them in order to inhabit another’s head. It is also challenging to be irrational – I have given my opposite a couple of contradictory arguments in order to demonstrate that facet but overall I find it very difficult to make his case and to sound both authentic and convincing. I cannot understand him, so I have filled his mouth with the platitudes I hear on the radio and read elsewhere.
Not a good job, sorry.
I am left wondering where these attitudes come from – and considering how they are propagated.
Some years ago, I went with my then husband and our two children to London for the day. Our target was the Science Museum. The trip required an early start from Yorkshire, travelling by train. We were up at 05:00 and packed plenty of sandwiches. On this trip, we had the company of one of my husband’s workmates, his own wife and two children. When we got to the museum the two families did their own thing, rather than trailing around as a large party,
After a long day out, and travelling home at supper time, we unwrapped our remaining food. One of the lads – he was about 7 year sold at the time, I think – from the other family began to whine about how hungry he was. He got a clip about his ear for his trouble. It transpired that the family had nothing to eat all day because everywhere that they went, the service staff were black.
This was my first meeting with racial prejudice on this scale. I could not comprehend then, or yet, how a parent could refuse a small child food for over 12 hours, rather than place money into the palm of a dark-skinned person.
I tried to write this post from that man’s perspective but really, I cannot get into his head at all. What a moron.
I grieve to think of those two boys growing up with the example of perspective shown that day.
Oh, I did offer the lad a sandwich, but his father made him give it back.