Lately, I had cause to give thought to the wider topic of racism – what it is and where it is to be found. Observers will have noticed the recent increase in both Islamophobic and racist sentiment in western nations, particularly the US. Thoughtless fools, such as Trump, spew out careless statements with little regard to the consequences for innocents caught up in an ugly wave of misplaced and manufactured recriminations.
As I see the loud and aggressive rednecks scream their hatred of anyone non-white, and view the impoverished sectors as they blame foreigners, or refugees, or ‘that lot’, or ‘those sort’, I am forced to wonder how much they really understand about who is to blame for their hardships and unhappiness, and therefore how much validity we can attach to opinions that would quickly label such malcontents as racist.
Let me be clear, racism is abhorrent, and racist language is wholly unacceptable. Yet do we understand what really constitutes racist language. For example, if a white person uses the infamous ‘n’ word, then it is deemed racist, but if a black person uses the same word then it is not. This observation could be applied to a host of terms and phrases taken as offensive by various racial and minority groups. However, the words are just that, words. In of themselves they are not, and should not be viewed as, offensive or racist.
It will be seen that, given this context, racist language is not determined by the language itself, but by the way in which it is used and, perhaps most importantly, its intent.
If such terminology is brought forth with the intention of deliberately offending someone, then it can truly be said to be racist, otherwise it is merely a word.
Today, there are many who are much too quick to take offence. Indeed, it would seem that there are those who seek out ways in which they can be offended. I tend to think of them as the ‘Outrage Brigade’. They are everywhere, and their insincere remonstrations actually do a great dis-service to the goal of combatting racist language and racism. They are kinda like the ‘Boy who cried wolf’.
As for where racism is found… we know that it is global, and exists in every racial and ethnic group, where it should always be thought unacceptable.
Addressing this issue, I was reminded of the past, when I was working on the building sites of the US. On one job, a particular work ‘colleague’ was someone who could only be described as a cracker redneck from Utah, who I shall refer to as Cletus- or Clete when I feel nostalgic – for the purposes of this anecdote.
Ole Cletus was a big fella. He was tall and muscled and as thick as two short planks. He dressed in standard hill-billy fare of blue jeans, a sleeveless tee, or plaid shirt, and the obligatory baseball cap. It’s fair to say that Clete was as far removed from black or Irish as it’s possible to get whilst remaining on Earth.
On certain occasions, when Cletus was being particularly annoying, or was lamenting the existence of black ghettoes (for all the wrong reasons), I would politely inquire if his parents were cousins. I would have asked if his parents were siblings, but I feared that Clete would misunderstand the term and begin to tell me of their religious persuasion. In any event, Clete’s response was inevitably, ‘Hey, fuck you, Mick’ (my name is not Mick…).
It was against this backdrop that I once inquired of my north American workmate as to whether or not he had ever been on the Jerry Springer Show, to which he replied, ‘Fuck you, you backward talkin’, potato eatin’ motherfucker.’ I could do nothing but laugh heartily (does anyone laugh heartily any more) at my cracker friend’s witticism. But, even with so much clear evidence of both anti-Irish sentiment, and a professed dislike of black people, was Clete a racist? No, I don’t believe so.
Cletus was many things. He used to meet his girlfriend on the street just outside the site, where he knew we would see her, as they each threw out their rubbery tongues like two cows at a salt lick. I shudder to think what sort of crap his poor wife (and mother of his children) went through.
He used to drive his battered pick-up – with the cab crudely cut off and the jagged uprights still showing – through the centre of San Francisco as he whistled at women and slagged off gay men, dressed as he was like one of the Village People with his Confederate bandanna affixed to his shorn, thick skull.
But Cletus was a product of a tough upbringing, some of which he inexplicably shared with me. He was angry at life and the hand he had been dealt. He had issues and he needed a way to vent, and so he used anti-Irish terms, and racist terms, and sexist language. Clete was an asshole, but I didn’t view him as racist.
Recently I read a great book on the lives of ‘Mad Frank Fraser and Sons’, who were old school London gangsters. Mad Frankie was a friend of the Krays and an exceptionally tough man who had an exceptionally tough life, as did his family. Yet a touching story from his younger days recalled when Frank’s beloved sister, Eve, once led a walkout of a working class London pub, because the landlord refused to serve Eve’s friend who was part Romany. This took place in post-war London, when poverty was widespread. The entire pub clientele, male and female, walked out in solidarity with Eve and her friend, and only returned when the landlord relented and apologised. It was a time when signs could be seen in both guest houses and some pubs that stated, ‘No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs.’
But for Mad Frank and his family there was no racism. The people there, of all racial, ethnic and national identities were united by their poverty. One class.
And so it will be seen, that though it would appear that racism is endemic within the working class, and while there may be some few who are truly afflicted with such a sickness, the vast majority are not racist at all, regardless of their dangerous and pathetic attempts to portray themselves as such.
Racism, like sectarianism and basic need, is just one more means by which the Surplass (that class which is surplus to requirement) divide the people, thereby making them more easily controlled and exploited.
This brings us nicely to the crux of the problem, and helps us to better locate the true source of racism and where it is most readily found. Should those interested pay greater attention, they will observe that the purest and most dangerous racists are to be found among those of high education and privilege.
A true racist will look at three babies, black, white and East Asian, and view one as inherently superior to the others based solely upon race. The same monstrous mind-set is to be found among sectarian bigots and those who discriminate or kill for reasons of ethnic supremacy (such as Israeli Zionists).
‘Lord Spittle-Tit’, the ‘Duke of Chlamydia House’ or the ‘Emir of Frosted Camelballs’ will look down their nasty noses at those of a different identity and sneer at them. It is not the regular people who can judge, condemn and castigate others in a well-informed and confident manner, because the regular people are too busy dealing with all the shit that the Surplass have heaped onto them. It is, instead, the filthy rich and morally bankrupt who are the very essence of racism. It is those WASP’s of old money to be found in the Hamptons, those of ‘noble birth’ in Europe and beyond, those who control the purse strings of the world, who will supply the greatest racists our societies are obliged to suffer.
They divide us. Their introduced racism divides us. Their induced poverty divides us. Their soiled and stank hand-me-down attitude of discrimination divides us.
So, the next time you encounter a Cletus the Redneck, or a Steve the Skinhead, or a Faisal the Fundamentalist, don’t try to embrace them. Instead, kick them in the balls, they’re horrible people. But remember, Clete, Steve and Faisal only exist because of Winston Sagincock III, Oswald Fetidgroin-Smidgeon, and Raja Ganga-Bong.
If we seek to end racism, then we have no option but to attend to the true source of the sickness. And it is said that prevention is always better than cure.