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Racism – the Elephant and Chameleon in the Room.

by James Bee

Some people believe that racism does not affect people's lives in any way. Some say racism is a problem but is not the problem. I beg to disagree. It is like saying cancer is a problem but not the problem. In case of the UK’s social, economic, political and psychological health - racism is a problem for a lot of people - both perpetrators and victims. The simple message of 'pull yourself up by the boot strap' does not always explain why some people fall through the cracks in society. To assume that there is a level playing field irrespective of background or status does not reflect reality. Some make it through hard work and grafting; some through applying their entrepreneurial skills; some through education; some through family and friends connections; some through corruption; some through the proceeds of crime; some through the bank of mummy and daddy; some through other activities not condoned by the law and so on. And there are those who do all or some of the above and still fall through the cracks.

Racism has always been the elephant in the room. Some think it is an issue; some think it does not exist; some think it is there but that people should 'get over it'; some think even if it exist, everyone is racist, so what?; some think, throw money at it and it will disappear. Then there are those who are not prepare to see it because it does not affect them and some think it is overstated. Political parties of all persuasion are often ambivalent about it- some, while recognising it, tend to play it to their political advantage. The list goes on.

In saying that, racism has now become a game between political parties and the mainstream media. They engage in a ping pong exchange trying to score brownie points about one another’s racism credentials or lack of them. Then you have the dangerous language of exclusion – those who deserve and those who do not. So government money given to help failing banks are called 'bank bail outs'. Whereas, government money given to help those from lower socio-economic groups in crisis or to help them up the economic ladder are disparagingly called 'handouts'.

Then there is the issue of identifying what is racism. Interestingly, there are terms like 'systemic racism' 'institutional racism', 'unwitting racism', 'conscious racism' and unconscious bias' all adding to the chameleon nature of it. Therefore, the question is - what do people think racism is?

Acknowledging the problem is the first step to solving it. Recognising the extinct and the challenges posed by it helps to focus the mind on some of the tools that is necessary to solve it or make it better. And solving it requires willingness, sincerity, honesty, dedication, commitment, understanding and wisdom.

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