I was brought up to be inherently racist.
Black – or coloured people (as I think they were called at the time, and most of them were from the Indian sub-continent) – were dirty. So said my dad.
One day I asked him how he knew that these people who did not have a white skin were dirty. I got a lofty comment.
“I have seen them in North Africa, they live a dirty life,” he said. (This was the guy who hated getting in the bath, and grudgingly got in a shower once a week.) Cultural awareness was not his strong point.
Of course, naturally this view did not extend to people he knew personally. So if he felt the Asian market stall-holder next to us was being victimized he would stand up for him. If he met a group of West Indians in the pub, he would talk about cricket with them for hours and cheerfully buy drinks all round.
Do money and sport transcend racism? Doubt it.
I realised how incredibly racist I was one day in a car park in Newcastle. A tall rasta guy approached me. I was petrified. I looked round. There was no-one else to be seen even though we were in the city centre.
“Hi, do you want my car-parking ticket? There’s an hour or so left and I’m going now.” Duh. Very Big Time.
I have never forgotten this moment because I realised then what an absolutely prejudiced rich white woman I really was.
But realisation is a start.
So here in Spain racism is abundant. The Moros (blacks from North Africa) get it far worse than us.
In fact all the Spaniards who come here on holiday or move into the village are ignored/given grief.
Like a lot of European languages, the Spanish for foreigner is stranger – extranjero – someone who doesn’t come from our street, our area, our estate, our village, our calle, our barrio, our pueblo, our provincia, our communidad.
When I was a kid, it was the same. Territorial disputes. You don’t come from round here.
Typical racist/extranjero criticisms:
“They steal our jobs.”
“They are not the same as us.”
“They don’t want to integrate.” (Do you want to integrate with them/us?)
“They eat differently.”
“They think differently.”
“They want something for nothing.”
“They look different.”
To me racism, or exclusion, is something more than a colour of skin. It’s a fear of something/someone you don’t know, sometimes jealousy, unwillingness to accept differences, patronisation of people who you don’t consider to be on your level, oh, and finally, just not people that we want to mix with. For whatever reason.
I accept I know very little about racism. But I’ve finally been on the receiving end of it, and that’s from a white monied educated position of someone with privilege. And I can tell you it still stinks.