Racialism At Work

As I type a rotund bluenose is whistling Rule Britannia outside my window. Lord knows what he has his tail in the air about but there he is ruling the waves. He shall never, ever, ever be a slave to anything - but his appetite.

I've spent most of last week, in between episodes of gardening, wrestling with a moral dilemma. An appalling racist in my work, who despite her repellent attitudes is a likable sort has been deliberately allowing her beliefs to affect her work, or rather my work, in that my refugee clients were being treated unfavourably on the basis of their race. I did suspect her of it for a while but felt guilty for doing so until she proudly announced to everyone except me that she was in fact discriminating. In the interests of privacy and to protect the guilty I shall not mention what exactly it was she was doing other than to say it involved denying my very existence and some very mean spirited acts against my clients.

Very reluctantly and with a heavy heart I have shopped her -running to bosses being something I'm opposed to but given how aggressive and abusive she is when challenged I didn't see any alternative. In truth I should have spoken up sooner -like when perfectly pleasant Asian volunteers who may or may not have been Muslim were being called suicide bombers or when a very definitely Muslim volunteer was also called a suicide bomber because he went to London with his girlfriend for a holiday or when there was a 'darkie' at the door for me, I could go on but you get the picture. I should add that I'm not alone in this, our black member of staff being somewhat fed up hearing 'but I don't mean you' after every darkie joke.

I take a fairly liberal view of racism. My mother is an appalling racist but she has the wit to keep it to herself in the workplace and so in my view should be left to her own devices. Even idiots have the right to an opinion. I would prefer it if folk weren't racist but all I ask of those who are is that they do it behind closed doors and do not inflict it on the rest of us. Why are they always so keen to tell the rest of us about it and make up blatant lies that do not stand up to scrutiny? Did you know that every 'paki' who arrives in the UK gets £30,000 cash, did you know that Incapacity Benefit is being cut to give more money to 'pakis'. I expect you didn't, not least because it's made up. Nevertheless I work beside folk that sincerely believe it despite being repeatedly shown evidence to the contrary.

It may surprise some of you to learn that the benefit rules are the same whatever your colour. I like to think that's part of what makes us civilised but that's me. I also question why those who base their racist beliefs on made up crap feel the need to do so. Are they really such cowards that they can't just stand up and say 'I hate everyone who is different from me', why the need to justify themselves? If the awfulness of folk with different skins is real then we'll all discover it in our own time without pretending to believe bizarre falsehoods.

For anyone about to trot out this notion that has sprung up that everyone opposed to racism is a toff living in an all white area, out of the six flats in my tenement, four are occupied by immigrants, I live a ten minute walk from one asylum dispersal zone and fifteen minutes from another, I work with refugees, grew up in a district of Glasgow that is 40% Asian and went to a school that was 60% Asian. I think that might give me some experience of the consequences of immigration.

I hate the notion of 'thoughtcrime'. I do not wish to see racists put out of a job based on what they think but without going in to detail I felt I had no choice to do anything other than what I've done -given that the individual concerned, like the rest of us signed a contract agreeing to be non-discriminatory. I just wonder if racism or indeed sexism, anti gay feeling, ageism and the rest were dealt with more sensibly in the workplace more folk might might report active discrimination. After all it should be possible to avoid mass hysteria and deal with the situation. I don't want to see anyone sacked or disciplined over the this. A quiet word in the ear about the standards expected should be sufficient.

Still grassing goes against the grain.



eeore said...

I agree with you to an extent, but the problem is the issue is only scene from one perspective.

For instance, I was puzzled why it is that I suddenly noticed that non-English speaking, muslim women in berkas were constantly pushing me out of the way when I was walking along the road - and I happened to mention this in conversation and it turned out that this was quite a common thing.

Then I happened to be listening to a program on the radio about the expulsion of the Jews from Iraq in the 1950's and 60's - and being the BBC everyone was saying who wonderfully multicultural the society was and how they all got on so well with their neighbours - but then it was mentioned in passing that non-muslims (and especially Jews) were not permitted to walk on the pavement and if they happened to be doing so when approaching a muslim they were expected to step off the pavement and into the road.

Now whether this is common in muslim countries I can't say but it struck me that it was pretty much similar to the race laws in Germnay in the 1930's and the situation with the untouchables in India.

I offer this as an examplke because I think it is useful in illustrating that people are the product of their society and upbringing - in much the same way as you highlight your mother's attitudes.

Or take the issue raised in the news today about black teenagers - mainly boys being effectively left to be murdered, and the disgustingly racist claim that Rhys Jones got more coverage because he was white.

Ok the issue of black on black violence is a complex I admit that. But the perception is that blacks are over represented in the legal system and dealt with more harshly - the assumption being that Britian is a racist country and therefore non-whites are treated worse than whites.

Yet if one looks at the actual figures, more whites are subjected to stop and search than practically all other racial groups combined - whites are more likely to be convicted in the magistrates courst than any other racial group - if you are white you will be convicted 55% of the time, blacks 45% and asians 44% - though curiously the figure with the highest conviction rate was undisclosed (whatever that means) (these are figures for England and Wales btw, and does not include all counties - the figures being for @2004, and for some reason the figures for the follwoing years have never made it on-line)

And yet one hand you you have people crying out that black teenagers are being persecuted by stop-and-search and on the other that too many of them are dying because people are not being stopped-and-searched and therefore knife crime is on the increase.

The problem with racism - and indeed all forms of prejudice - is not so much that it exists, but that it is never tackled for what it is - and rather like the poverty conference you attended it is left to those who spout the loudest jargon tend to set the agenda, leaving the rest of society like the women who annoyed you, desperate to conform and all be drinking the same drink - rather than actually tackle the issue of pre-judging people.

iLL Man said...

To tackle a specific in this situation, I don't believe you had any choice in the matter. Regardless of her beliefs, she has a duty to act professionally towards all clients. Her position is pointless and counter productive if she cannot do this.

Anonymous said...

Isn't racism defined so widely that everyone is a racist? I think you need a word for people whose racist behaviour (as distinct from beliefs) becomes intolerable.

Anonymous said...


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