By William Mills
Calling an opponent racist used to be the tactic of the political Left, yet recently it’s become the favourite smear word of the playground bully seeking to impress his cronies. Here, William Mills explores his definition of racism.
For the last thirty years I’ve lived in Brighton’s lively Kemptown area using my home as a small B&B and since hooking up with a language school over a decade ago visitors have almost exclusively been from overseas and staying from a few weeks to over a year.
These days most are workers from the EU area, although we’ve welcomed guests from as far away as Egypt, Oman, South Korea, and Zimbabwe to name but a few, and some have had a tale to tell.
Over the years many of their experiences have had a profound influence on my views and one which struck a chord in my memory happened in 2015.
That year, Sophie Loi, a young lady from Paris, stayed with us. Ethnically she’s Chinese French of Cambodian origin. Towards the end of her six month course she recounted her mother’s experiences in South East Asia.
In 1975 Mrs Loi was 13 years old and living in Cambodia with her family. The Vietnam War was winding down to its final, agonizing, death throes.
Cambodia’s ethnic Chinese population was desperate to escape from Pol Pot’s murderous Khmer Rouge communist forces.
Alas, she and her brother got separated from their parents in the panicked evacuation from capital Phnom Penh.
Desperately unlucky they were captured by the insurgents. Mrs Loi watched in helpless horror as they killed her brother. He was nine years old.
Somehow she survived, arriving later penniless and alone in a refugee camp in France. Today she is a successful 50’s something business woman running eight laundrettes in a leafy suburb of Paris.
The shock of her story really hit home when I was reading up on the sinking of British warships, Repulse, and Prince of Wales, off Malaysia in December 1941.
When Singapore surrendered the following February, 60,000 ethnic Chinese, sheltering under British protection, fell into Japanese hands. Short of rifle ammunition these brutal conquerors bayoneted to death every man, woman and child of Chinese descent they could find.
In 1945 world leaders said this must never happen again. Yet just 30 years later Mrs Loi’s family faced the full horrors of Pol Pot’s regime. To me, that’s racism.
A more recent experience which has also affected me happened earlier this year.
British born Resh Khan had acid thrown in her face by a white thug.
I tried to cheer her up recounting how when also in hospital as a teenager I used to try and lasso the drugs trolley when nurse wasn’t looking.
I received over 10,000 likes for this tweet alone.
She’s since been able to return home. I’ve tweeted politely asking after her recovery and she has politely replied. We received even more likes!
To me what happened to Ms Khan- that’s racism.
I’m beginning to realise that social media affects the way we think, and wonder if somehow ruthless governments aren’t manipulating us all.
Back in 2005 Qatar’s Aljazeera TV channel first started broadcasting in English and I became an avid viewer of Middle East politics.
Then I started watching an Iranian based TV network which made me so furious with Israel that I began to hate with a passion.
However I soon stumbled across Haaretz, a moderate Israeli English language paper, and I began to realise Israelis are real people, just as Palestinians are. We all hurt when called unpleasant names.
As the fog of radicalisation lifted it became clear there are two sides to every story and to make informed decisions both have to be listened to.
It has been said that once you start burning books you are soon burning people.
Then again public opinion is fickle. What is taboo one minute rapidly becomes all the rage the next.
Just before the summer recess an MP had her party’s whip withdrawn for inadvertently using a prohibited word.
Yet within days there was talk of black American politicians complaining they no longer needed outraged, self-appointed white nannies to speak on their behalf.
They are rich, successful, and well able to look after themselves. They wished to be seen as mature, grown up people.
We should be working together to create a world where we all get along. Endlessly screaming outrage will only delay this.