We are told we are equal, and we must fight to stop discrimination and to pretend that we are not all different.
I actually find ‘difference spotting’ a difficulty until I am reminded of my own differences. Unfortunately I am reminded all too often.
When events are organised to highlight the achievements of just one particular ethnic group, I am reminded that I am different and am ‘outside’ (or ‘inside’) a label, and so am different, to be treated differently.
Were it not for the way I am constantly reminded of ‘differences’ I’d just get on with the ’sameness’ and common ground I have with the others I live and work with.
Sadly, or even ashamedly, I am English White. I can’t help being English White, but apparently it’s something the thought police say I should apologise for. Actually, they don’t like the ‘English‘ bit of English White, but insist ‘English‘ is replaced by ‘British‘. Ideally they want me to define myself as ‘European‘. I’m not. I’m English White.
To celebrate my own cultural heritage, individuality and diversity would be labelled an act of racism, whilst it is encouraged as a right in other ethnic groups (We’ve got Black History Month every October, but no sign of a White History Month, and there are always events for ‘Blacks’ happening in most metropolitan areas, but none earmarked as for ‘Whites’. When I question this I am barked at and told that every other event ever is for ‘Whites’.).
I find this confusing and it results in reminding me that I am different and have no rights to be treated equally or as if I am the same, despite the fact that in everyday life I enjoy the ’sameness’ (however that’s measured) that binds me to my friends regardless of our ethnic groups and diversity of origin and custom.
About a decade ago, going to certain shows at the Hackney Empire where White people had to pay more than people from other ethnic groups for their tickets, I was reminded that I was different. A guy I went with who earns nearly twice as much as me, but is Black, got in for a lot cheaper than me because I was White. So, that reminded me we were different, despite the fact we are great friends. He felt quite embarrassed about Hackney Council’s kind reminder that I was different to him and was outraged at what he saw as an apartheid system in operation. Up to that point we’d been oblivious to each other’s differences and had been celebrating our sameness and our common ground of interest in the production we were going to watch.
When they deliver the Asian-only telephone directory or the Black-only telephone directory, with their explicit instructions that when you want a plumber you can use the telephone directory to find ‘one of your own kind’, I am reminded that I am different. I never get delivered a White-only telephone directory, and even if I did I’m not quite sure that when I’m looking for a plumber I want ‘one of my own kind’. I’d rather have one of the ‘reliable and knows what he/she’s doing’ kind! I don’t care about their ethnic difference or sameness to me, and I certainly don’t want to give people my business just because of their ethnic origin. Yet, apparently, others do, so that reminds me that I am different.
When I rang the local council about needing extra rubbish collected, they had to note down my ethnic origin or they wouldn’t respond. Now, I’ve no idea if that meant that I’d get ‘my own kind’ collecting the rubbish, or if it meant that I’d get a faster or a slower response based on my answer, but I do know that once again it reminded me that I am different.
I am told that if I hold up the flag of the country I was born in, live and work in, I am racist. And yet the family of Amir Khan, the talented British-Asian boxer living in the UK and representing the UK around the world, wave Pakistani flags at his events, rather than the British flag (the flag of the country he lives in and represents) and this is not racist. So, again I’m reminded that I am different. Indeed, to call me a ‘Brit’ as a shortened part of ‘British’ is fine. To call somebody a ‘Paki’ as an equally valid shortened form of ‘Pakistani’ is not fine. Different rules, so again I am reminded that I am different.
Those who live in the country of Scotland, those who live in the country of Wales, they have their own ‘governments’. When I as an English White man ask for a government for England, usually folks start on about there being no such thing as an English White person, and they deconstruct my cultural heritage and tell me I’m a cross breed, a mongrel, rattling on about Saxons and Normans. It doesn’t matter that the Scottish or the Welsh are equally cross-breeds, they are allowed their own government and their own radio stations whilst I’m not. Once again I’m reminded I’m different.
As an English White man I am different, yes, but, please, I just want to be treated the same as everybody else.