Banal xenophobia

When I went for psychoanalysis, the therapist asked me if I was angry at my mother. ‘No,’ I said. ‘I’m not angry, I’m just sad.’ But then I thought about it, all the neglect and emotional trauma and abandonment and fear, and everything that I had been bottling up for years came tumbling out with a squall of tears.

‘I guess I am pretty fucking angry at my mother, actually.’

She just… wasn’t very good. Not at being a mother, anyway. One prime example of her lack of maternal sense involved her marriage. She was married and separated before I was born (although she didn’t divorce him until years afterwards – I was already living with my grandparents when I heard that he’d had to track her down so he could remarry) and the only details she ever gave me were that he was called Roy and they had two cats who trashed the curtains.

This turned out to be a load of old bollocks.

They probably did have two cats, but my mum’s ex-husband isn’t called Roy at all. Roy is a very white name, isn’t it? Well, it turned out that he’s actually called Leroy. Leroy is originally from Kingston, Jamaica and is definitely, unmistakably, not white. It was my dad – the drunken spiller of any-and-every secret – who told me. He thought it was fucking hilarious that she’d lied to me. ‘Ask your nan and grandad if you can have a look at the wedding photos. You’ll fackin’ love ’em.’

He was right: I did. It looked like John Shaft got married to Red Rum in a ginger wig and a lacy dress. I was more shocked at the size of my mother’s real teeth than anything else. And my grandad was wearing flares, and my nan had a bouffant. The photos were pure art.

I asked my mum why she lied. Her exact words to me were: ‘Well… I thought your dad might bring you up to be racist.’ What… what the fuck does that even mean? I thought your dad might bring you up to be racist… so I thought I’d just let him get on with it? I’ve never spent more than four days in a row alone with my dad, so how would he have the chance to brainwash me like that? I’m guilty of some disturbing logic sometimes, but I honestly can’t figure out what she was thinking.

My dad is a racist. And he did try to encourage it in me. But either I was told at an early age that my dad is an utter cretin and I shouldn’t listen to a word he says, or I figured it out for myself when I was still young. His fascism wasn’t something that dominated our conversations (probably because I would just walk off) but he is so full of hate. What a waste of a person.

Most of my family aren’t (or weren’t, depending on breathing status) exactly innocent themselves, mind you – I never saw the same level of animosity that I did with my dad, but I grew up in a household where people did not say they were popping to the ‘corner shop’ or ordering ‘Chinese food’. They had selective xenophobia, twisted to fit bullshit logic: I like <group a>, because they come over here to actually work. I don’t like <group b>, because they come here and steal our jobs. My dad got arrested around fifteen years ago for benefit fraud – £22,000 over a number of years. My mum is guilty of similar shit. Yet they are allowed to vote, and that kind of logic is how they make their decisions.

(I just want to point out that although I swear like a fucking docker, and generally, in certain circumstances, consider most words to be ‘just words’, I don’t feel comfortable using that kind of derogatory language. British people will most likely understand what I was alluding to in the last paragraph, but if not, or if you’re from anywhere else in the world, just substitute those examples of casual racism with terms you have heard. It’s all the same, really.)

My nan was terribly worried about being seen as a racist. Apparently she would only refer to Leroy’s race using outdated terms for black people (but not that one), never once daring to call him ‘black’ because she was so anxious not to offend. In case he hadn’t noticed his skin colour, perhaps? On the other hand, my grandad had an irrational phobia of asylum seekers and repeatedly told me to stay away from them. (‘Do you want me to ask him if he’s even actually from Bosnia before I tell him to fuck off and set off the rape alarm?’ ‘Shut up.’) I’m not sure why he felt that way. I tried asking him, but he would immediately get suspicious of why I was asking, assuming I was going to try to change his mind, causing him to get overly defensive. I’m certain many terrible opinions are formed as a defence mechanism to cope with change. There were suddenly lots of unfamiliar people and the natives were bewildered by the newcomers. They felt suspicious, and the media fanned the flames and told the people what they wanted to hear (and the people wanted to be right) so it became okay to be suspicious. When something bad happened, aha! I was right about them. All of them. They behave like animals.

(You treat people like fucking animals.)

And this is the problem. Alienationalism. Some people can’t relate to other parts of humanity. They genuinely can’t see the light and the life in other people’s eyes, or understand what has been lost when that light and life has been beaten and blown out of them.

There are bad people. There are good people.
Some people do bad things. Some people do good things.

I kind of hate people, sometimes.

0 comments on “Banal xenophobia

  1. That certainly puts a lot into perspective. Hell, the media loves sensationalizing things like race. Meh…I’ll stop right there, lest I sound like one of those oddball the media is evil conspiracy theory types. I hope your day is well. Cheers! ^_^

    • It’s not really an oddball theory… it’s just how it works, isn’t it? Which newspaper would the average person buy: one which tells them things in a way that correlates with the opinion they already hold, or the one which goes against it? It’s the first – the second one would feel as though what they’re reading is false, because it doesn’t back up the arguments they already believe. But some people have opposing opinions, so they need a different newspaper. Then it all comes down to competition. It’s not evil, it’s just industry.

      But the race thing is awful, and it’s worldwide. Language is manipulated so associations are formed in people’s minds, and it becomes this everyday thing that feeds on itself.

      I will probably write more about this at some point, but it’s way, way past my bedtime! I hope you’re well too 🙂

      • Yeah, not an oddball theory at all. The way you explain it though makes a ton of sense. I never thought of the media thing in quite that way. Thank you though. I find it interesting. Race, the subject as a whole is something that feeds on itself. Right down to stereotypes and how people speak.

        Oh yeah, sorry about that. I hope you sleep well. Hope I didn’t keep you up too late. Cheers! ^_^ (P.S. I’m aware of the time difference so I apologize, as I’m pretty sure you had to be up till at least 4ish.)

        • That’s okay. I just don’t understand why any of it is still an issue; I don’t understand how people can be filled with such hatred for entire groups of people for no reason whatsoever. I don’t get it at all. But if you find this kind of thing interesting, you could try Banal Nationalism by Michael Billig. (I stole his title!) It goes into more detail about how we have so many subtle yet constant reminders of our nationality and it just becomes an everyday thing to be part of an ‘us’. And if you’re not one of ‘us’…

          Ah, don’t worry! I’m trying to post an entry on one day, and reply to comments and read everyone else’s blogs the next. It’s not quite working out that way because I don’t seem to have lots of time right now, but I’m staying up as late as I possibly can 🙂

  2. thanx 4 sharing. good therapy, I do berleave — that of writing out such stuff. ((I should do this sort of thing more often — and, inna sense, do, but sumwhut veiled). again, I think that by expressing, letting go, airing the sheets, it helps work such stuff out.

    • You’re welcome – thank you for reading! It definitely helps clarify things and it’s very cathartic – once you’ve written it all out you can analyse your feelings and figure out what you need to do next 🙂

  3. Yikes – just had a bit of a family reunion with my mother and nieces, and things were said about my brothers, father and ex-stepfather that I cannot unknow. On the other hand, I feel pretty good about my life now, in comparison.

    • Haha, I’m glad my terrible family make you feel better about yours! 😉 I’m sorry you’ve had a crappy experience though – I hope you’re okay. *hugs*

  4. You have a wonderful writing voice x

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