Racism has been on my mind this week for three reasons.
One I’m making a film for broadcast which, by its nature, brings up issues of racism. The film is not about racism but the subject matter means that it’s inevitable that it’s discussed during filmed interviews.
There was also the case of footballer John Terry where he was found not guilty by a magistrate. That too made me think. And we’ll hear more on that one as he’s also subject to a further investigation which doesn’t require the overwhelming burden of proof that the criminal court demands.
So imagine these things are spinning around in my space.
Then the third thing happened – racism walked through my door.
One of my children was talking with a friend, who doesn’t go to the same school. Indeed, this child’s parents were so anxious to give their child the best possible education they sent her to school miles and miles away. This child doesn’t have white skin, though I’ve never even considered that to be relevant to anything.
This child is beautiful, intelligent, a positive influence who has brought my family into contact with a new culture, new beliefs and has generally enriched our lives.
But she is suffering racism at school – it’s bullying with a ‘black’ tag and it’s something she’s never experienced before. It appears she got into spat with a child who had been a friend and it’s escalated, involving other voices and messages on Facebook and texts which involve racist comments.
This child appears at a loss to know what to do, we’re not even sure she’s told her parents. We feel that this is because the family have sacrificed much to send her to this school and she doesn’t want to let them down. In her primary school life this child didn’t have any moments like this so it’s come as a real shock.
And it came as a shock to me. I’m amazed by how terribly angry I feel and how impotent. What can I do? I don’t know her parents well enough to go around and tell them what’s going on – my child will feel like I’m betraying a trust. Something that needed to be discussed with me in confidence. I don’t know the name of the school.
But my anger is this – why would any child think it’s okay to do that? If my child did anything like that there would be such serious consequences at home – no phone, no tv, all rewards removed until earned through respect. And what about that school? What action would be taking if it was drawn to their attention?
Would they call in parents and then the police? Or will they gently talk through it, chat to the children concerned and hope it all goes away. What’s the betting it’s the latter.
There are no easy answers to this but we must make it clear that it’s utterly intolerable. A teenager today should not have to spend even one second of their life worrying about a racist slur.
What would you do?