I took Friday off, as usual, and took the girls on a nine mile ride, to such exciting places as the bank, down a big hill, and home again. On the way I ate a vegetable samosa, the girls had some cookies, and La Serpiente asked me about bail, racism, and whether you’d be unhappy if your next door neighbour had a different coloured skin to you.
Growing up in Beckenham, I don’t recall anyone in my primary school who wasn’t white. In my class in secondary school, there were three persons of colour, and I think in total across eight classes of around thirty boys each, there were six boys I can remember who weren’t white. If I think really hard, I can vaguely remember a seventh or eighth, but tiny proportions. University was slightly less so – there were more people with a Chinese or Korean ethnicity than I’d ever encountered, but again, a sea of white faces. LA Serpiente and Destroyer have had quite a different experience to me; in their school in Singapore, they were a minority, rather than in a world where everyone looked like them.
And then I remember our music teachers, who thought it was fun for us to sing songs popularised by the Black & White Minstrels Show, a TV "entertainment" from the 1970s when it was apparently unremarkable for people to dress up in literal blackface and play songs from the Deep South. And this was British TV – was there a nostalgia in 1970s Britain for antebellum slavery from the US? Still, apparently, acceptable for a school concert in the late 1980s.
Which is to say that there weren’t many discussions of race in my upbringing. It’s good that there’s the opportunity to have these discussions with our daughters. It’s saddening that there’s so many examples of racism to talk to them about -wouldn’t it have been nice if people had stopped finding ways to be awful by the time we got to the 21st century?
This afternoon, my wife went to a protest down in Seattle. I looked after the girls, worried about her getting teargassed, and did very little else. I should do more.