How the big­otry bug is spread

The best way to stop the curse of racism is to tell our kids it’s not OK, writes

CityPress - - Voices -

Awhite per­son’s opin­ion on racism is like a man’s on abor­tion. Ir­rel­e­vant. How­ever, we are all en­ti­tled to our opin­ions, so long as they are based on facts and lived ex­pe­ri­ence, and not on pro­pa­ganda and per­sonal be­lief sys­tems.

In the wake of the Penny Spar­row furore, I can safely say that through my life I have known and come into con­tact with many Penny Spar­rows.

Every­one knows peo­ple like this, peo­ple who – against all odds and ev­i­dence – refuse to treat each in­di­vid­ual on their mer­its and in­stead start sen­tences with phrases like “you know what they are like” or “those peo­ple”.

When I was younger, I used to ig­nore racist, sex­ist and ho­mo­pho­bic com­ments or back away from the peo­ple mak­ing them. Heck, when I was even younger, so many of these com­ments were nor­malised, so I didn’t re­alise how racist, sex­ist or ho­mo­pho­bic they were.

Thank­fully, when one day I started to say some­thing, it be­came im­por­tant to en­sure that “these peo­ple” didn’t think I thought like them or agreed with them. And most im­por­tantly, my daugh­ter needs to be clear on where we stand on this stuff.

I didn’t say a mil­i­tant, foot­stamp­ing some­thing, but I have qui­etly told a rel­a­tive or two that say­ing stuff like that is not okay in my house. They don’t say it any more. Have their opin­ions changed? I hope so, for their sake. But what is im­por­tant to me is that my child isn’t sub­jected to them.

Ditto the thought­less sex­ism that abounds – re­cently I had to ex­plain that “be­ing la­dy­like” is not some­thing I ex­pect my daugh­ter to as­pire to.

I have had to teach my daugh­ter how to deal with peo­ple who ask her ig­no­rant ques­tions such as why she likes boys’ toys. I have also had to re­cently gen­tly put straight a com­ment from an­other child that mar­riage can only oc­cur be­tween peo­ple of dif­fer­ent sexes.

Some­times it is ex­haust­ing (and some­times I just don’t feel like it), but I bet it is not as ex­haust­ing as be­ing the tar­get of big­otry.

I think we have seen this week it is painful and in­fu­ri­at­ing to black peo­ple who suf­fered un­der apartheid and must now still be treated this way in their own coun­try. From my lived ex­pe­ri­ence, I have had to put up with un­be­liev­able sex­ism (and ha­rass­ment, but thank­fully turn­ing 40 put a stop to most of that) and the day af­ter Penny Spar­row’s racism went vi­ral, Chris Gayle’s sex­ism did too.

What the pair of them have in com­mon is that nei­ther un­der­stands what an apol­ogy is and nei­ther seems to un­der­stand that what they have done is wrong.

Both are still won­der­ing why “these peo­ple” are be­ing so sen­si­tive. That is why you have to say some­thing – so peo­ple learn that spew­ing hate speech, pinch­ing women’s bot­toms and telling “fag­got” jokes is not okay.

It is not that you are po­lit­i­cally cor­rect or hu­mour­less.

But what you al­low, your chil­dren will think is nor­mal and even right – and that way we will never breed out the big­otry.

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