White people must not ignore racism

·2-min read

Malcolm McKay and Dr Sue Roffey respond to a column by Adrian Chiles about an encounter with a racist in a car park


Adrian Chiles’s article (Why are some people so comfortable being casually racist in front of me? Is it just because I’m white?, 26 January), in which he recounts an incident of racism, ends with “I wish I’d had a quiet word.” He’s right.

Although there are, depressingly, thousands of accounts of racist remarks and actions towards non-white people, the truth is that racism is a white problem. In any place where white people gather with people of colour not present, be they places of work, sport, or social, there is often one person who will make a misplaced remark that crosses the line from banter to inferred insult. When that happens their companions usually smirk, make no comment, or turn away. This gives the miscreant the tacit impression that their words are acceptable, and they repeat the behaviour. As Adrian says, something should be said. Nothing heavy, just “That’s out of order, mate” or “It’s not on”. Most racists will not show themselves for what they are in front of non-white people, but they seem to have no problem in doing so in front of their own race. And it’s there that they must be stopped.
Malcolm McKay
London

• Thanks to Adrian Chiles for writing about his experience in a Smethwick car park, where he had a pleasant exchange with a woman of south Asian heritage followed by a white man referring to “that lot” with some disparaging remarks. Chiles finishes by saying he walked away but wished he’d said something. Getting into a confrontation doesn’t change minds, but politely disagreeing with a smile or saying something positive is worth doing. People may feel they can express prejudice because they expect agreement. It is important to voice an alternative view. Silence colludes.
Dr Sue Roffey
London

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