After yesterday’s monologue I thought I’d follow up with a diatribe. The oh-so-predictable mewlings of my Leeds-based relatives (note: parents are not included – firstly, because they’re not in Leeds; secondly, because they’re ace) reminded me again of one of my biggest bugbears about them. The way they harp on about London as though it’s a magnet for nuclear warheads and round every corner lurks a Crazy with a bowie knife. And then in the next sentence say something ridiculously small minded and possibly even racist.
Perhaps you’re not familiar with the mindset of the professional Yorkshire(wo)man. The phrase "God’s own country" exists for a reason. Yorkshire is the be all and end all, there is no life without Leeds City Council walls (thanks, Shakespeare). No, really. The thought of living somewhere else is met with confusion. Why would you want to leave here? Isn’t there everything you could wish for? It’s this small-mindedness that drove me crazy and made me desperate to leave. Why on earth would I want to stay where people can’t imagine other possibilities? And that’s the mindset that fosters a fear of ‘incomers’ – if anything from outside Yorkshire is bad, what must they think of all the darkies coming to live there?
And you get the mindless, casual, racism. The ‘joke’ made about the guy running the corner shop (note ‘about’, never in front of), even though he was the only person you could buy bread from at 10pm. The insults spat about the Pakistanis working in the factory "stealing our jobs" as the white employees get fewer and fewer – you feel insulted to be doing the same job as ‘them’. You’re worth more, surely? You’re white! Never mind that your educational level is the same as these Asian women and that’s why you’re in a low paid job, not some Pakistani conspiracy. You voted for the BNP, did you? And you want to tell us all about that? But you’re happy to run a business in the centre of that Asian community and take their money, you just don’t want to live near them. Oh, that’s OK then.
Cause and effect seems beyond them. Someone who feels included won’t give the cry of the jihad-preaching imam a second thought. Someone who’s happy in their community will tell the guy urging them to blow up their neighbours to fuck right off. But if they see the whispering of the white population, feel the jibes and the simmering hatred, maybe a seed of doubt will start to germinate at the back of the mind. Maybe these people are fucking heathens after all. Why not? If you’ve generally experienced shittiness and pettiness, possibly you would start to wonder why you should make an effort to live peacefully alongside them. Once that crack is there, the start of a willingness to listen, that’s the start. It only takes one in 100, one in 1,000, to go the whole distance, but how much harder it would be to find that one if fewer Asians were alienated.
So my relatives and the people I left behind in Leeds urge me to be careful. And in the next breath say something that fosters the very environment that encourages extremism. They don’t get it, do they? They are racist fuckwits, and then the bombers come down and try to kill me. Yeah, I’ll stay safe. Try and help me, would you?
Thankfully my Mum and Dad have always had a broader view. They encouraged me to get the hell out. And now have done the same. Weddings, christenings and funerals. That’s all I’m going back for now.
(A funnier version over at Will’s. Normal service and cat posts will resume shortly.)