ROOM TO LET
The no Irish part of the notice, had been crossed out, but was still quite plain for anyone to read.
Looking back on it today, I think that is a good indicator of my foster parents total lack of concern for anyone's feelings. The thought that Irish people might still be upset by the notice, never entered their minds. Or maybe it did enter their minds, and they were happy to cause offence. I don't know. I cannot comment on that aspect of their natures. Although she, the foster mother, was a wicked, vindictive person. I can vouch for that.
|Herne Hill, South London, 1950's.|
It was commonplace, this bigotry, in the 1950's and 60's. I cannot recall the word racist being used, when I was a boy. Maybe because there was no call for the word. People used the words, nigger or coon, or wog, or any number of unpleasant derivatives when describing black people, and they used them without compunction. As I write them down here, I feel the wrongness of them. It is literally affecting my stomach. How must it feel to be a black person on the receiving end of such bile?
If I had been a saint in my time, I would be able to tell you I am without guilt in these matters. But alas I am not saintly. Racist remarks have been uttered by me on occasion. Racist thoughts have entered my mind.
It is difficult to change the way we were brought up to be. To change the way we think about things. Seeing things change around us can be difficult too, especially when it involves cultural changes. Changes to things we know and value. It is difficult, but I shall continue to do my best. I have no wish to be lumped in with the bigots who blighted my childhood.
At this stage, I was going to tell you about some of the black and Asian people who have influenced my life, but it has struck me that it would be, and sound, extremely patronising. So I will not do it. Except to tell you this; something my Mother told me. I would not be here, were it not for the fact, that when I was just a few months old, a black doctor saved my life.
I wonder how many doors he was turned away from?