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Archive for November, 2004

You know, it’s strange, but I’ve never really thought about what it means to have grown up in the time that I have. Being born in the early Eighties I’ve never known a world without, say, computers, mobile phones, or the internet. And having been raised in an ethnically diverse part of London, where white was a bit of a minority in my school, I find it hard to picture a world where colour doesn’t exist.

Racism is a mystery to me.

I live in a world where, on the whole, people live and work happily side-by-side, not caring about skin tone or ethnic background. Granted, there are still those who harbour racist thoughts and feelings, but it’s understood that it’s not acceptable to express them, and that it will, at the very least, be severely frowned upon.

Imagine my horror, therefore, when watching England play a friendly international, at hearing the crowd burst into monkey-chants whenever a black player went anywhere near the ball.

It’s sickening, incomprehensible, and bang out of order. It also saddens me greatly, because it’s not an isolated incident – black players at English clubs have been subjected to racist abuse when playing abroad in Europe for years. What’s worse is that, in this particular instance, the racist abuse was all but condoned, with the Spanish national coach getting away with making a racist comment only weeks previously, and refusing to condemn the abusive supporters. When I think of racism in modern day society, the first place that springs to mind is the deep south in the United States, where the Ku Klux Klan are still rearing their ugly heads – it’s frankly scary to think that such outright bigotry exists just down the road in other European countries.

You’d think that people would have more important things to worry about than the colour of a person’s skin. Sadly that doesn’t seem to be the case, and I find myself wondering if it will ever cease to be a problem. After all, racism isn’t infectious, it’s not a communicable disease, so why can’t it be stamped out?

We managed to eradicate smallpox – perhaps we should start looking into a vaccine against racism.

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Isn’t it strange how life’s little disappointments can knock you sideways? Life’s so full of incident that we become blasé, barely pausing when a real tragedy occurs, but even then we can be caught unawares and be left breathless and gasping by a trivial set-back.

A case in point: I went out to buy some trainers today. Not a big deal at all but I was, as they say, ‘psyched’ as I’ve been in desperate need of new footwear for both work and otherwise. On Saturday, just three days ago, I saw a pair of fairly cute, yet very practical, trainers in a shop that was having a ‘buy one, get one free’ sale. Fantastic, thought I, as I’d previously bought shoes from the same shop at the same sale rate. The shop being packed to the gills though, I left it for the time being. Hence today’s little jaunt into town. So, I strolled in, grabbed the shoes I’d seen previously, and another equally nice pair. I tried them on, faffing about the sizes. I walked around plenty to ensure they fitted comfortably. Then I took them to the counter, only to discover that the sale had ended. Disappointed? That doesn’t seem a strong enough adjective for what I felt. I felt as though someone had knocked the legs out from under me. Two other emotions vied for my attention: anger and frustration. Anger at myself for not braving the crowds and buying the damn things on Saturday, and frustration because despite really needing new shoes, I can’t afford to spend that much money on just one pair. Living on a budget really sucks sometimes, but I just can’t bring myself to be one of those countless people who live beyond their means.

As I wended my way home, shoeless, slightly dazed and on the verge of tears, I wondered why I was taking it so hard. It wasn’t just the disappointment itself, I think; it was the fact that it’s the first stroke of bad luck, trivial or otherwise, that I’ve had for a long while.

We grow thick skins to deal with the sometimes hideous things life throws at us. We learn to shrug things off as though they’re nothing more than specks of dust. So what happened to me? Perhaps my emotional calluses have softened through lack of abuse, leaving me vulnerable to any little set-back. Perhaps it wasn’t disappointment, but instead a sense of impotence because I can’t actually afford to clothe myself at the moment. Or perhaps I just really wanted the damn shoes.

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