Saturday, 14 July 2012

John Terry and Racism

The case of John Terry has highlighted the constant lack of burden of proof that seems to transpire whenever trying to prove racism exists. I’ve been no expert or close follower of this trial, nor as a white male, am I an expert on what racism is and the many forms it can take. But what strikes me, is invariably accusations come down to “interpretation”, or one word against another. So often then cases can avoid successful prosecution as in the eyes of the justice system, there is reasonable doubt.

But let’s not forget this is a white justice system. It was a white magistrate presiding over this case. Some may say the legality relates to evidence and not the colour of the magistrate/judge, but I am firmly of the conviction that a white person of the law cannot judge in cases of alleged racism. I, for example, may be a fighter of racism, but I can never see it all. My life experience does not allow me to comprehend the many ways this poison manifests. For that reason alone, judgement requires the perspective and experience of someone who is not white. Once I knew it was a white magistrate, I knew there would never be a conviction.

One positive out of this case is that it comes on the back of a couple of convictions based on YouTube clips on public transport, where racist rants…. No lets call them what they are, attacks/assaults… have been caught on camera. John Terry now adds to this “caught on camera” problem for many white people. And yes it is a problem for white people. Racism is endemic in way too many people in Britain, including the “white liberals” who claim they “don’t see colour.” And now suddenly the tools are there to catch them at it.

My own life experience has taught me that whenever I befriend white people, through work or socially, invariably the majority will come out at some point, in some situation, with a statement that stereotypes those that don’t look like them, based on a conscious or unconscious conditioned profiling that is inherent in European culture.  As bizarre as it may sound, I find myself uncomfortable in "all-white" situations, because I know sooner or later, someone will think that I think like them and say some thing. Even British comedy now thinks it's so liberal and passed the old days of racist comedians, that white people are "blacking up" again. I find this deeply offensive.

Another example is a popular white singer. I had seen him a couple of times on our London poetry circuit, performing one of his songs. Within the tune, he starts singing in what he terms “rastaman time” drawing on white stereotypes about a black male and smoking weed. I’ve always found this offensive, and once tried to make my way to him after a show and mention to him that it’s inappropriate for white people to be chatting like that… alas I couldn’t get through the adoring throng and since then he’s gone global (yes there goes another white singer making it). Many may find this song perfectly acceptable, but to me, it’s on the tip of the same pyramid of profiling.

The annual marches against deaths in custody serve as a reminder as to what’s further down the pyramid. Marches that bring to the fore the rawness of loss because of the colour of our justice system. Where a justice system that allows police to film our every move in the streets, can tolerate police losing film or not having cameras on their own kind. Now I’m not saying that those who speak racism are perpetrators in police cells, but the issue often comes down to who does or doesn’t say “Stop” when a situation escalates… a situation where stereotypes and profiling take over in an adrenalin rush and mob instincts overtake training. There we go again, the terms “profiling” and “stereotyping”. Let’s call it what it is… racism. It’s all wrong, and white people would do well to recognise, their own little versions of it do not constitute racism-lite verses what they can see as blatant racism-hardcore. There is much to be undone in European mindsets, before true equality can be done.

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