An Open Letter to Racist Britain

Dear Racist Britain,

I’m one of those people who has been brought up in, lived in and surrounded myself in an environment which scorns racist ideology and passionately acts against bigotry and hate. Actually, I am the proud product of two cultures that you are currently telling me are incompatible.

I’m one of those people who believes that we as humans all have the same right to Rights regardless of where we were born.

I’m one of those people who see’s headlines on tabloids and feels pained and ashamed.

I’m one of those people who reads the comments under articles on the internet and feels a ball of fury in my throat at the sheer inhumanity of people’s views.

I’m one of those people who up till now has seen you and your views as caricature, created and facilitated by increasingly unacceptable and fear mongering media outlets. I have seen you in the context of an unrealistic, virtual existence which exists beyond the reality of my day to day life.
I’m not talking about the fanatical, hysterical racists who’s hatred borders on psychopathy; I’m talking about your run of the mill, everyday, ‘normal’ person. The silent ones who abide but feel stifled by what they call the political correctness brigade. The ones who devour propaganda and hateful rhetoric in their comfortable surroundings.

This weekend I encountered you by accident, and perhaps because my reality is so deliberately far removed from yours, my shock and pain at what you said felt more acute that I can describe.

You had spent the last half an hour complaining about a variety of things including; unjustified parking tickets, the stitches on a tummy tuck taking too long to heal and the merits of booking with a certain holiday provider. Mundane and annoying I’d already written you off as a group of well spoken, well coiffed, well educated and pretty self involved ‘regular joes’ but I honestly didn’t expect what came next.

I’m sorry but I couldn’t help but overhear; you were so very at ease in your environment and in yourselves. You know the thing that scared me most about you was the lack of passion, the ordinariness in the way you had your conversation. The calm and banal way you conducted your discussion, identical to what I imagine conversations were like in Nazi Europe, Segregated America and Apartheid South Africa.

At some point your ring leader began to read out the entirety of a speech allegedly made by Putin in 2013 about immigration to Russia (although no records have been found in the Russian archives to suggest this speech ever took place…). I’d previously read this speech and was disgusted not because Putin but because of what was allegedly said.

I have to point out your emphasis when you read the line “Russian customs and traditions are not compatible with the lack of culture or the primitive ways of most minorities”. I have to point out your emphasis on the fact that this quote ends with; “The politicians in the Duma gave Putin a standing ovation for five minutes!”. Mostly I have to point out that you did not, as I expected, condemn this as blatant racism but instead said;

“Good on him. If I had been there I would have given a standing ovation too. Cameron should say that and if he did I’d be the first standing.” You, a group of four intelligent adults condoning racism to the point of congratulation.

So I sat and I listened and you spoke:

You spoke about how ‘we are not the same clearly, and not just because of our colour but because of our ‘evolution”.

You spoke about the local Christmas fair.

You spoke about how proud you are of your son who came back from school and said ‘I’m glad no girls in my school wear cloth on their head’.

You spoke about your ‘Pakistani coloured doctor’ who ‘adequately’ helped with your cosmetic surgery – obviously you would have ‘preferred one of my own, especially under anaesthesia’.

You spoke about how you wouldn’t have agreed to him but you didn’t realise ‘what he was’ because of his ‘white name’.

You spoke about your car passing MOT.

You spoke about ungrateful refugees and ‘why should they be here if they want to go home anyway’.

You spoke about their ‘primitive ways’ and how Putin is ‘right you know, even for a Russian’.

You spoke about salad and which lettuce is best in a Ceaser.

You spoke about how ‘Muslims are backwards and uncivilised and will never have the capacity to be like us’.

You spoke about how ‘everyone else feels this way but no one has the balls to say it’.

And you spoke about worse.

I’m one of those people who you might call a ‘sympathiser’ although you’d never consider that I don’t take this is as negative label at all.

And I sat and I listened and I fumed and I teared up. And you continued. I know that no matter how abhorrent I find them, you have opinions and you have to express them but I couldn’t be there any more.

You racist Britain are a coward. You are a despicable, self involved coward who expresses your views from the protection of a privileged embrace; publicly humming about a duty of care to those less fortunate, while quietly seething until the next opportunity to realise your true feelings with other cowards like yourself.

I would never sit silent if I saw someone being abused and I do not sit silent when I speak with people directly who share your views. But my shock and physical disgust at the normality and ease in which you laced conversations about your life, and conversations deemed illegal when spoken of about other sectors of society prompted me to leave. And I feel like a coward for leaving without saying a word.

So this is what I should have said to you racist Britain:

I want you to know that ‘everyone else’ is not quiet because they don’t have to balls to say what you have said. ‘Everyone else’ is quiet because they disagree with the cowardly, racist views shared by you and minority of cowardly privileged racists, hiding behind the protective shadow of for-profit propaganda and the scapegoats you have worked so hard together to create.

One day when all of this has become so bad that it is finally seen as another shameful stain on our history, you will sit quietly in your chair and twist with guilt as the world condemns Islamophobia in the same way that it condemns anti-Semitism and racism towards others.

You will sit quietly in your chair when the same questions you once asked your grandparents are put to you by your grandchildren. When they ask you what you did to fight the atrocities that will soon face an important, equal and relevant part of our human population. Whether you stood silently and watched as an entire people were vilified and abused because they look a little different to you and believe things a little differently to you.

Maybe you will assure them that you never thought those things, you never knew how it got so out of control. You always saw all humans as equal, these people whose only crime is to believe in something slightly differently to you were never your enemy. That you never engaged with the poisonous rhetoric that divides and stings people till they can no longer stand to see each other as the mirror images that they are. That you didn’t have the choice to say anything against it even though deep down in your heart you knew it was wrong.

But you would be lying racist Britain. Because you are not a caricature which will only be remembered through distasteful headlines in years to come. You exist in this reality, and your bitterness and apathy facilitate a toxic status quo, which comfortable as it is for you now, will crumble before you have a chance to convince people you were never part of it.

Sophia Vassie