I, Too, Am NOT Racist

The “I, Too, Am UoN” campaign is totally cliché, says James Parker


I think it’s sad that bigots find it acceptable to call a black girl a “foreign f*ck”, or to tell a black guy to “go back to where (he) came from”. Equally wrong is the assumption all brown people are terrorists. These are a few experiences of BME (black minority ethnic) students featured in the recent “I, Too, Am UoN” campaign – a campaign exploring “ignorance related experiences.”

But those responsible for these offences have chosen to be bigoted – not ignorant. A whiteboard-and-frown campaign will not change them. Sadly.

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Whilst there is a clear difference between such blatant racism, as mentioned, and comments that are merely careless, the campaign fails to differentiate between the two. Thus, by grouping them together, all are tarnished with the same “racist” brush, rendering “I, Too, Am UoN” more pretentious than profound.

Undoubtedly, the pictures have good intentions, but it just doesn’t sit well with me that I’m to be perceived as patronising whenever I compliment my black friends on their cool afro or weave – acts hardly comparable with yelling racial slurs.

Likewise, I don’t consider it prejudiced or ignorant when I ask my Asian friends about their respective religions and customs. Not just because I have the same conversation with my white friends, but also because asking questions is how we get to know each other. Isn’t it?

Otherwise, we’ll reach a stage where no one asks their BME friends anything, in case their questions are seen as racist.

Some might take offence when others are seemingly “ignorant”, but there’s a big difference between inquisitive ignorance and deliberate ignorance. A harmless question asked in all innocence shouldn’t be misconstrued as something else, and, in my opinion, doesn’t deserve the whiteboard shaming.

This campaign wants to indoctrinate us with politically correct values. It would have us believe we are borderline racists to assume a brown or black person might come from another country and boast a wealth of unfamiliar traditions – traditions we genuinely want to understand and appreciate, not deride.

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I reiterate that rebuking actual racism with a whiteboard will not change the intentionally ignorant, even racist, few. After all, haters are going to hate.

The rest of us, however, including many minority students, shouldn’t be penalised for wanting to celebrate cultural identity. Otherwise, we live in denial, ignoring the elephant in the room that is our differences.

The problem nowadays is so many of us enjoy playing the victim and take offence at the most innocent of comments or jokes. Maybe everyone, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or sex should lighten up and stop letting political correctness dictate how we both act and react.

Or, before we know it, this campaign will be regurgitated by many other groups seeking to vent their offence. Perhaps polytechnic students will be next, holding a board that reads: “My dad does not work for your dad”, coupled with a pout and tilted head.