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
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.