Terror, Hate and Why I have Hope

The last three months have been harrowing and the immediate aftermath has re-surfaced a few things I need to share…

These days I play my bit-part in the Media Industry whilst trying to inspire future talent along the way but as a child growing up in my hometown, I remember countless times my mum, dad, siblings and I were on the receiving end of racial abuse from skinheads, fellow pupils, sometimes teaching staff and generally all those who believed England was for white people only. They were many.

Sometimes it was verbal profanities, sometimes it would be spitting at us and on more than one occasion, physical. The Nation Front movement (NF) would stand outside our house and terrorise us…but only to a point. My childhood best friend, Andy S, loved his football, running, cycling and everything else we kids did growing up in the 70’s and 80’s. Whenever these ‘incidents’ disrupted our play, he would be the first to push me aside and stand in-between me and my detractors, challenging fully grown men (and sometimes women)…I mean he was a child too and would never have stood a chance if things turned nasty. However, Andy didn’t care, he had an advanced sense of right and wrong from an early age…of what was unjust and simply unacceptable, he simply would not stand for it. His parents brought him up well and I’m grateful to him, he has taught me a lot about friendship and kinship.

I was lucky really, fate and circumstance meant I grew up on a council estate, tough at times but a place that grounded me in life lessons and in part makes me the person I am today. It was a place where we were all one family, in and out of each others homes at all times of the day. Playing footy until you couldn’t see the ball or who you were kicking, then kerbie under the flickering light of lamp-posts. I had big brothers all around me, all white, so when trouble came to our doorstep the bigots were soon sent packing. One family, one community — we looked after each other.

I often hear that racism is a working class thing, that’s simply lazy and a cop out. Of course sometimes it rears its ugly head but on the whole there is a togetherness on estates that I have rarely experienced anywhere since those days. It might sound odd but the camaraderie in Rugby does come close but even then ‘it’ popped up on the pitch but when it did, it was often trampled on …literally.

Racism and bigotry is all around us, in all walks of life and not all one way either. I’ve experienced it over the years everywhere…It happens on the bus, on the tube, driving, on planes, walking home, in the classroom and in the workplace. The list is long. It finds its way into policy and decision making. It starts with a flippant comment, a joke and a collective laugh or nods of the head, it becomes normalised and accepted but it should not. Adults do it…kids pick up on it. It’s learnt behaviour.

I would like to think that the people I know, in a country I love, would stand up to the Tommy Robinsons of this world and against this kind of behaviour and rhetoric — be it at home, in the workplace, online, on the street and/or in the playground. Islamophobia is real, it’s racist and it’s wrong.

Look don’t get me wrong, I’m not bitter, I am hopeful…all the experiences have taught me a lot but I am also a realist and division in our society has the potential to do greater harm to all of us and our children. In the past few weeks I have met people from all backgrounds, faith and non-faith who, like Andy S share the same hope and ideals. I have hope and I know I’m fortunate, I’ve worked my way to a position where I can enact change and influence but when all is said and done, all I know is that young kids today, who happen to be from BAMER groups, need friends like Andy S now more than ever.

This is the article that made me want to write the above: