Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

The Left is wrong about racism

Witnessing the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK over the summer, I felt an old sense of frustration: the Left is wrong about racism and has been wrong for a long time. I know this, because I have lived much of my life near the hearts of the black community in London – Notting Hill, North Kensington and Brixton – and attended, back in the 1980s, a very rough and very multiethnic, largely working class and black secondary school: Holland Park Comprehensive. I was a white, Left-wing, ‘right on’ (as ‘woke’ was then called) teenager who joined the Labour Party Young Socialists and agitated against Apartheid South Africa. But my lived experience taught me that racism was not how the Left perceived it.

Our multiracial, mostly Left-liberal teachers taught us that racism was white and anti-black. In English class, we studied Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry; Mildred Taylor’s 1976 novel about racism in Mississippi in the 1930s. But London in the 1980s was not the Jim Crow South. I honestly cannot recall a single incident at Holland Park of any pupil or teacher ever being racist to a black person to their face. There was, however, plenty of racism, and it primarily involved white and black kids being racist towards ‘Asians’; i.e. children whose families were from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka. I recall a playground fight, in which a very large black boy punched a much smaller Asian boy in the face so hard I could hear the blow, and was later told by a teacher it had begun with the black boy racially taunting the Asian. On another occasion, an Asian supply teacher took our class for a lesson and a black boy commented ‘this school is being P***-ised’. A white girl in our class went on a racist rant when a new boy turned out to be Asian, complaining ‘Why can’t we have someone English ?’ An Arab boy was reduced to tears when a white girl he fancied called him a ‘P***’.

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Monday, 14 September 2020 - Posted by | Britain, Marko Attila Hoare, Racism |

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