Bad Mum

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8 January 2018

A(nother) Post About Racism

Here I am, writing another post about racism. I'm still not entirely sure if it's OK for me to write about racism, what with me being white and all. I recognise that I have white privilege, and it's hard to write about racism from that vantage point. I don't experience racism personally, and I don't know how it feels to have grown up on the flip side of white privilege. I am learning and processing, and this post will show you that I am very much on the beginner's trail here. I'm sure to anyone reading who has lived experience of racism, this example will show how naive I've been because it has shocked me so much.
Our nephew had a horrible experience on the bus yesterday, his ticket was taken and thrown away by the driver who claimed he wasn't entitled to a child's ticket (for under 16s. He's 15) This escalated into a huge scene where the driver became aggressive, towards a 15 year old boy travelling alone, with no extra money for another ticket and in freezing temperatures where he couldn't walk the just-over 4 miles home. I have to question whether this would have escalated this way if he had been white. I'm not alone in this, one other passenger from the bus (who had offered to pay an adult fare for my nephew, but the driver refused this offer) stayed with him until his mum could come and offered herself as a witness as she also felt it was a racist incident.

I am angry. More angry than I've been in a long time. This incident may well stay with our nephew his whole life. He is at the stage where experiences are shaping who he is and who he will be in the future. His mum shouldn't be worrying that he's now at an age that she will need to worry about him doing simple things like going to the dentist, because his race and age make him a target for this type of thing. After seeing mums in the States being interviewed and talking about their fears for their black sons and husbands we are grateful that we don't have to have the same fears over guns, but this same mentality is here. In the UK. In 2017.
Why is this happening? Why did only one person on that bus go to his aid? What would I have done? I am a total confrontation-phobe. I hate a scene, especially in public, and I know that when I'm on the bus I tend to be in my own wee world. I understand that we can't all dive into every situation and assume racism, and I also know that it is likely that there are lots of over 16s who try to pass for under in order to get a child's fare on the bus. Even taking that into consideration, I think its unacceptable that people watched this escalate and did nothing. If it happened to our nephew then it must have happened/be happening to others. We all have a responsibility to stand up against racism.
I'm venting, I'm frustrated. But I'm not wrong. Racism influences attitudes everywhere, and that won't disappear on its own. I don't want to be a mum who has to worry about how people treat her son every day, I don't want to feel grateful that at least our police don't carry guns, I don't want to see people treated as less because of the colour of their skin, I don't want to hear people tell me that racism doesn't exist in this day and age or that it isn't as bad as it used to be so I should be grateful for that. I want to play my part in making change.
We need to listen to people who have these experiences of racism, and not assume that they are an "angry black person". Victim-blaming is rife, with the issue of race but also in rape-culture and lots of other issues. This stops people reporting these incidents. We need to listen. We need to look at our own behaviours and tackle issues there. We need to practice empathy, imagine it was your son who was treated like that on the bus (/insert any other scenario here) Imagine it was you. We need to speak out when we see racism happening (or any other injustice). We need to educate ourselves on the issue of racism. It is happening, everywhere, now. We need to realise this in order to stand up against it. I know that I often feel unable to talk about racism, because I am white. But in the same way that we need men to also push for gender equality, we need people of all races to talk about and stand up against racism. We all have a voice. We need to use it.
Written by Kirsten (@kirsten_abeeohyay)  

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