I’m not racist but when I was eleven years old, I wanted to go go karting for my birthday. I had a limit on the invites so once the word got out, I was being lobbied during breaks and in classes. I put the list together and handed it over to my dad. It was an all male list due to the phasing out of my female friend base to prove I was a man. Dad ran through the names from top to bottom and told me I was not taking this group.
What he saw was the names of every boy in the class except the two muslim children and the one disabled kid. I couldn’t believe what my own faither was inferring. This was a heinous misunderstanding. I had given pocket money to stop African poverty at least three times that year so I knew I was no discriminator. I felt my dad should have known better too. I wound up in tears wailing ‘I’m no racist’ but I had to sit on it. And if I thought about it, there were kids on that list I didn’t necessarily like that much. If I was pressed, I’d say there were a few I wouldn’t choose to sit next to in class. I liked the boys I wasn’t inviting. They also didn’t come in a package and were very different to one another. But as it stood they wouldn’t be coming to the party. Why not?
Go karting is expensive. I could bring a fixed number of kids and I felt the pressures of social obligations. I recall thinking that some kids were going to feel excluded if others came and they didn’t. Not often seeing them in social situations, it seemed that the boys who were left out wouldn’t feel like this. It’s possible to see a pattern to that now. Though none of this was spoken about, little subconscious assumptions made me figure it’d be fine. Overlooking that there were no girls and no disabled kids coming either, there was one race in my mind and it had a podium finish.
When most folk say ‘I’m not racist’ what they seem to mean is ‘I don’t want to be racist’ or ‘I don’t want to be seen to be racist’. But when the laundry’s on, shite’s still getting trapped in the washing machine so whose not wiping their arse?
To be called out at home was embarrassing so I understand how much more difficult it must be in a public setting. But what does denying it do? ‘I’m not racist’ is an intention but it’s not a fact.
And now I’m angered by the violence of an American policeman but I am not an American policeman. I won’t ever be accountable for the crimes of an American policeman. However, there are issues within my own parameters. I remember this example for its innocence but it’s not the only time I’ve made myself wince. Ultimately, I’d rather be standing up tall than caught out leaning on things I don’t know about. So I’ve got to surrender to the idea, not that I’m always going to be wrong, but that sometimes I might be.
We didn’t go karting in the end. We got a football pitch. Everybody came, all the boys, a few of the girls. It was a good birthday and I got more presents.