Answer on a postcard
7am. I’moutside on the balcony to watch the sun rise and reflect on the week. In a few hours I’ll be gone. My legs are stretched on thecushion of a wrought iron chair while I’m sat on another. I’m looking over manicured lawns peppered with palm trees and connifer towards the silentmorning sea and all is peaceful. The apartment is tidy and at twelve noon we’llbe in the car showered and ready for an easy journey back to Hackney, London were the view is equally as good.
I was onthe beach yesterday with the journalist which is why it’s swilling aroundin my head this morning. “Rise up thismorning with the waves in my head” sounds like a blues song. -Ish. The Journalist andI were the only black peeps on the beach which is cool ‘cept for the constant irritated twitching around us. On the other side of the sea is morrocco, Africa.
Like mostpeople I know I have many white friends and have heard their story on numerous occasions about the timethey where the only white person in a place full of black people. The story goesthus “and I was the only one…..”. It’s a revelation, an event a source ofwonderment. They will often go on to say how uncomfortable they felt or howincluded they felt – either way they are so shocked at the event that it hasseared into the memory and gained almost mythical status.
Thefriend has made no connection that theactual scenario he or she is communicating is replicated before their very eyesin reverse. I am the only one. Somehow the other (W) people in thegroup are invisible to this most illuminating revelation. The friend continuesdescribing the fear, the wonder of the one fleeting experience ofbeing minority. In the company of white people I do not feel those things. I long long ago chose not to either reflect or consume what is negative behaviour based on race. Thisdoes not mean to say that I don’t notice or note the behaviour and its subsequent consequences.
As theytalk of the fear and or child like exitement of being the only one in, say, aclub or a bar - it is not often "I was the only one in the university.." or "I wasthe only one at the conference" - more oftenthan not, more insulting though, this story of their experience has occurred as a direct interruption/perceived embellishment, to my attempt in helping them understandwhat it is like. Astounding!
I needn’tqualify this by saying that I have many white friends nor that I understandthat not all white people are like this, but I use generalisation because it isgenerally true. There are exceptions tothe rule but as a rule they are few and far between as to be virtuallyinvisible. I should qualifygeneralisation. I have in my life time met thousands upon thousands of whitepeople. What is plain wrongand indeed racially devisive is when someone develops an opinion about anotherrace as a generalisation without any form of substantial evidence.
Thisattitude is not particular to any race, though I am using myexperience as example. If there is one thing about racism, it is one of the (learned) behaviours that unites the world - every race I have met is poisoned by it.To beat racism it has to be unlearned. That racism is a virus of the subconscious means the perpetrator must trust thepersecuted to outline both its effectand its cause. This rarely, in any race, happens. That racism is subconsciousis exemplified in the “I’m not racist but I am sorry my father is”. Happens every generation in corrolation to societies general view on race..Neither reflect nor consume it, I tell myself, but register it all the same.
Asmall magazine "The Smuggler" in an internet café in Oliva, the village where I m staying has a bigspoof article on the use of the N-word. Apparently, and here’s the joke,"Parlaiment has passed a law banning the use of the N word". That's the headline. The article laps up the subject matter like a dog anothers piss stain, it continues “apparently the Negro and Negresse can use the word Nigger to each other butwhite people can’t and if they do...”. It goes on and on and on repeating the word "nigger" with relish. I suppsoe in their eyes i am the negro and the journalist the negresse. Next to it there's an advert for a local English carpenter or an English speaking dentist or a doctor or ahairdresser- services that The Journalist or myself may need at some point. Welcome to Coast of Sun (costa del Sol)
Let me make something clear. I had a great time, a great holiday with great people. I had fun fun fun, big laughs and beautiful sunshine. The beach was terrific, the sea gorgeous. Sun sets and sun rise were idyllic. The food we ate and we cooked was gorgeous. But make no mistake, the ex pat community of The Costa Del Sol is racist and it's dark, that I choose to ignore it, could you may say diminish its power. But it doesn't, it just doesn't, you know it and I know it. Answers, on a postcard.... I love Hackney. I love the world.