Today, Finn based his Black History homework on 12 Years A Slave, and when I spoke to him and read it, it made me really proud. I was so unashamedly proud of his values; I could have shouted from the rooftops!
However, before showing me his work, he had so many innocent questions:
Racism is a choice, isn’t it, Mum? None of my friends were born not liking someone because of the colour of their skin, or if they have a religion. Do you learn racism, Mum? Like when Dad told me not to support Chelsea like Uncle Darren when I grow up? Is racism the same? You get told to be racist? Why would someone do that? Why do some people not like other people and other people do like other people? Who tells them to do that? And why do they tell them that?
I can’t work out how to answer any of his questions because I just don’t understand racism.
It makes zero sense to me how and why individuals and communities are racist. It makes zero sense to me how and why such a despicable crime started in the first place. It makes zero sense to me how and why that torrent of abuse still exists today. It makes zero sense to me how we can’t educate the human population NOW regarding racism. It makes zero sense to me why we are still having these conversations. But these conversations are so relevant, more now than ever. There are movements changing everything. Revolutions from people like you and I, who can make a difference. Change is coming.
In an attempt to explain what I know, he looked at me confused as if he was shocked that Mum didn’t have a direct answer, but unfortunately, I don’t. I can’t answer the questions he has.
So I told him the reason I think racism exists: “Obviously, don’t ever repeat this Finn, but it’s because some people are nasty uneducated fuck-wits.” He seemed satisfied with the answer.
He then showed me what he had learned about the story 12 Years a Slave and the letter he wrote to get help. I was blown away by his work and asked him how he had managed to write it. He said he secretly saw me watching the film one day and then looked up the cast (and the story) and imagined how awful it must have been to really live that story.
After telling me this, he started crying. Then I started crying.
It just broke my heart. In so many ways. So many ways that I can’t put into words.
Equally, in so many ways, I, as a white woman, have absolutely no right to cry. Neither does Finn. But I do have the right to feel proud of the family we have brought up who want to change the world they live in and educate generations. And I am proud of them. I’m proud that we stand up to racism.
Things need to change, and the world needs to change now.
No child is born racist. Racism is taught. Racism is learnt. Why?