by Jon Biddle
Its Not Just The Virus We’re Fighting
I am not sure where you start on this post; I think it’s important to make a comment about what’s happening in the world, to make sense of what is going on. But the world is burning, and on many fronts.
I feel I should make a comment as I have an opinion, as provoked by my daughter. Who is a passionate fighter for equality and inclusion? Living in a same sex relationship, her destiny is to fight cause’s like this and thank the stars that there are people like my daughter, who will call out what she sees as something that isn’t equal and inclusive.
She wanted a response. So here it is.
Covid-19 is a virus that is still active, running through the human race demonstrating zero prejudice to who it infects and affects. It’s a disease that will either kill you, incapacitate you for the remainder of your life, to an extent we don’t fully understand yet. Or, it’ll pass you by like the sea breeze and you will feel nothing.
But its effects are universal.
The uneasiness in which it creates, fuelled by a media system that feeds on fear and people’s insecurities, has stoked the flames. Along with misinterpretation that seems to be universal, poor leadership in western governments and a sprinkling of advice from armchair epidemiologist who have a mediocre influence on social media, make baseless comments based on stupidity and rumour which helps construct a generalised opinion that creates more fear, more anxiety and more anger. Those armchair epidemiologist have this uncanny knack to become armchair civil rights lawyers at the flip of a coin.
Which Segue’s appropriately to the killing of George Floyd.
And let’s be clear from the start, they murdered him. No sane person with even the most primitive of educations would kneel on a man’s neck, who was compliant and subdued in the pursuit of law enforcement. The four deranged police officers involved have to be held to account over this, their time in prison will be short, given the fact that most jails in the American Penitentiary system are disproportionately filled with people of colour. A fair percentage of them will be there through systemic racism that is evidentially woven into the American police forces’. Their deaths will be painful and most probably… very slow.
I won’t lose any sleep over this.
As a soldier, I have worked in law enforcement in the Northern Ireland, and dealing with some of the most reprehensible creatures on the planet. We would never have used this method of arrest to the people we encountered.
So, the one thing that I want to say is, why in 2020, we’re still talking about this? And that is a genuine question, not a statement.
Reflecting on my experience to direct and indirect racism was a normal as having chips for my tea.
I’m a Generation X child, born to baby boomers that were conceived on the back end of a war. The UK wasn’t even properly recovered from that war when I knocked about under the threat of global annihilation of the Cold War in West Germany.
I went to a boarding school in North Wales, where I’m still friends with some African lads that attended. I was expelled, and that is another story.
Mr Morris, the deputy head of the prep school, didn’t like black kids. He would dust them down with the chalkboard eraser, making their faces and hair white with chalk. Didn’t we all laugh, even the African kids!
It was a mindset that I grew up with. My school in North London was diverse, I use the word diverse to not offend. It was a simmering melting pot.
I would cut about the Broadwater Farm estate to meet mates and smoke. All of my mates at the time were not white, I could hear the riot that went on through the night on Sunday 6th October 1985. The sirens blaring all night, a police officer killed, hacked to death. PC Keith Blakelock.
I have never forgotten.
I walked through the estate the following day, the consequences of police corruption and brutality, another day of significance in my development. Two people killed by an imperfect police force; Cynthia Jarrett and Dorothy Groce, precipitated the riots with, as described by the Macpherson Report after the Stephen Lawrence enquiry sum twenty years later, institutionalised racism in the Metropolitan Police Force.
I had friends of colour, who were being searched by coppers, they didn’t want to see my pockets, because I was white so I was told… by the police.
I am happy to say, still a predominantly black area, the Broadwater Farm Estate has the lowest crime rates in London. A far cry from the drug gangs and football hooligans that clashed daily amongst the tenement flats of the 80s.
To fit in around those parts then, you had to like football, the lifeblood of North London.
I couldn’t support Arsenal because I wasn’t black, I couldn’t support Spurs because that was for the Jews and the Greeks, hence their nickname, the Yid’s. The only half decent team they allowed me to support was Chelsea.
Millwall was ultra violent, even for me.
But for those that don’t know, in the mid-80s, Chelsea FC isn’t the powerhouse soccer team it is now. It was a white supremacist football team supported by a group of thugs called The Pensioners. They would make monkey sounds in the stalls when John Fashanu came with Wimbledon FC, or West Brom, the team mainly of colour. Bananas thrown onto the pitch. That was extra special. Even now, the smell of banana takes me back to those days.
Stalls filled with Doc Martin clad National Front lunatics that would kill you in a heartbeat. But that was an accepted paradigm in school. No-one mix interracially, well I did. I was tough enough to get away with it, conforming wasn’t in my makeup.
I have fond memories of Jimmy Lazarou, a Greek Cypriot Spurs supporter. Loafers, Farrah stay press trousers decked in gold like Mr T sporting a mullet I was hugely jealous of. He was cool and he was the first person to understand me – I wish we were still friends.
In the army, I worked with the USMC; the American soldiers ate and congregated in different mess halls, this was 1989. A concept so alien to us Brits, we had four people of colour in our company. Not breaking bread with these guys even back then was an aberrance, unthinkable.
A life lesson that left an unpleasant taste in my mouth.
Let’s not think about why people feel racism, that’s an ubiquity that the media is filled with right now and something that hasn’t blighted my life.
Let’s briefly examine the why people behave racist.
Why would another person be cruel, prejudicial to another person because of the colour of their skin? This is something that is lost on me. We aren’t born racist; we are taught it. Parents, schooling, social circles. I would say that prejudice is a cultural phenomenon and cuts both ways.
We form our opinions through parental and academic education. We build on our moral code of the same morals our parents teach us.
When our thinking develops, we either align with that thinking, or we object to it through further reading and education. Things of significance shape us, life lessons and revelations cement that thought process. The boundary of right and wrong is always subjective but delineated by an imperfect judicial system.
I will hold my hand up, I have unfairly judged my fellow man because of the colour of their skin, partly because of my social programming by my parents. I won’t blame them for it, as I take the responsibility myself. This is something that makes my heart heavy. On that realisation, it’s something that I have consciously made right and would never do again.
I would say with conviction that my parents are racist. My father calls people of colour, nigger and still does, so why was I not infected with it, they live in Birmingham where that game white folks play called spot the white man is so much fun, right?
I can only consider education that couples my life experiences have steered me away from that model, and something that I am grateful for.
My life experiences along with wider reading and understanding have led me to a place where I think equality is a norm. Discrimination is something that I find alien, uncomfortable, unacceptable even.
My older self, educated, intellectual, bringing understanding, compassion and equality are things that I give all my fellow human beings. The heartfelt condition of the human spirit is something that I live by. You cannot be in the dark if you are in the light.
To integrate, you must first step into the light. I work through the mantra, if you’re nice to me, I will be nice back. Your colour, sexual orientation, job, social standing, religion means nothing to me. We are all equal, until that person tips the balance, and whichever direction the balance tips would evoke a reaction in me.
But the cognitive thinking I possess doesn’t allow one person’s actions to mould and form an opinion to the many. Again, why have we not moved on from this? Why was the headline when George was killed detailed as an innocent
black man, killed by a corrupt white cop; do you see what I did there?
Because I call this what it is, an innocent man killed by corrupt cops. The narrative is all wrong, I can cite stats, percentages and chuck into the melting pot of hate that is swirling, that more white guys are killed by police in the USA than black men, why ANTIFA is branded a terrorist organisation while the KKK isn’t? But that’s not relevant to my narrative right now.
I take Morgan Freeman’s attitude. Racism stops when you stop referring to the colour of people. “Stop referring to me as a black man, and I will stop referring you as a white man. Let’s come together as just men.” This simple narrative from a man who is – of colour.
Of course black lives matter, and I wouldn’t be churlish to say that all lives matter. People of colour may protest, when people judge you daily on the colour of your skin, if nothing else, it must be tiresome, offensive, belittling, insulting, painful, a constant reminder to the yesteryear. A thinking that is as outdated as the slave trade itself. Fucking hell, America even had a black president!
One woman who being white, held a placard in Minnesota said ‘When my child goes to the store and doesn’t return, when my son goes to school and doesn’t return, when my son goes to the mall and doesn’t return, damn right I am gonna protest and burn this town down.’
It’s why I put a uniform on. So these freedoms can be expressed, and they must, because if they don’t, the towns will burn.
Pulling down the Edward Colston statue in Bristol was wrong and supports the mob mentality which is in paradox to what that woman said.
The BLM voice is enormous and never has it been so powerful. Leverage that voice. Force the politicians to make the changes. Dismantle these statues and put them where they belong. In the museums.
We shouldn’t pedestal these assholes that treated the fellow human in such a derogatory regard who was party to killing millions, all in the name of profit, even when he saw the error of his ways and used his wealth philanthropically, the seeds were sown and they have grown into giant oak tress of political, social and ethical debates where the true equilibrium is lost. The statues such as these have no place sitting in places of prominence in our cities, reminding me I’m white and the person of colour is black.
If you want to remind us of the slave trade through a statue, then a chain gain of kidnapped Africans, exhausted and abused would be a better alternative.
I stood at the foot of the Colston statue some years ago, with my children who were at the time young.
The mastermind of the global slave trade also built the foundations of Bristol, one of the most culturally diverse city’s in the UK. Should we consider that history as the building blocks of that city?
There’s no escape from it. We should not look to the past and feel anger for it, but look to the present and grow from it. I said then, this statue is inappropriate and should be removed.
But echoes of the slave trade are all about this amazing city. A hospital in which I once worked was at the top of a hill called BlackBoy Hill. Again, not appropriate for the current thinking.
The history is an uncomfortable truth we conveniently brush under the carpet and bring it out when it suits us, but it’s there. We should still acknowledge the past, it’s how we bench mark our moral understanding on how we move forward. Removing all traces of the slave trade and the inequalities that have grown since does nothing for the narrative now and gives no understanding for the future generations. The slave trade is an important part of global history and should be a means of learning, understanding to bring equality and compassion.
This I feel is something that is more aspirational. Although I subscribe to the notion that humanity is something kinda wonderful. The trouble is, with the human consciousness and how we abuse this beautiful world, we are a long way from that goal. We as humans do not deserve this earth, and I feel the wonder of mother nature has plans for us.
A plan that will not end well.
Love yourself, love your family and love your fellow person. It starts with you, and only you. Once you can achieve this, the rest should fall into place.
I bid you peace, prosperity and all the love in this world that I can muster, no matter where you’re from, who you are and what your life goals are. Go with love, light and peace and make this world something special.
And as always,