After my disappointment at racism being a cause of me not being allowed to continue with a career in steel band, I distributed a questionnaire among people I know, mostly on my floor in Newman House.
Below is a copy of the questionnaire including the answers received from the participants:
Modern society is rife with racist comments, comedy, wars and has also been a taboo subject in discussion in fear of being labelled a racist yourself. However after a discussion in Engaging Performance 1, I realised that by asking questions and seeking knowledge, I am merely attempting to learn, and hopefully it would be understood that I mean no offence. I had noticed that some of the minority members of our class seemed not to enjoy our conversations on race, although still expressed quite severe views themselves. Please answer this following questionnaire honestly.
1. People often hold back from commenting on the subject of racism. Why do you think that is?
Afraid of being labelled racist. Afraid of comments. Don’t want to draw attention to self. (Vicky Coonan: Newman 2, Classics)
Because they fear the label of being a racist and what people may do or say to those who may have racist views. (Lindsey Craig: Newman 2, Journalism)
Just in case they offend without meaning to. (Anonymous)
Because the media image leads the public to believe that people of different cultures will respond aggressively and in an accusatory manner should people from other cultures comment upon their culture. (Daniel Hall: Coventry University, Ethical Hacking)
Modern society fears that if they give any opinion they will appear as a racist. Britain is a country that tries to provide for its multi-cultural society but by doing this, causes discrimination against the original Christian white society; e.g. Happy Holiday rather than Merry Christmas, or blackboard has to be chalkboard. Britain makes its people worried of causing offense when those who may be offended think that it is ridiculous! (Tara Leanne Dove: Newman 2, Education Studies)
Because they don’t wanna get beaten up and get called a racist themselves by talking about it. (Harriet Pond: Newman 2, Philosophy)
Fear of being Labelled (James Leadbetter: Newman 2, Classics)
Because they are uncomfortable with the fact that they could quite easily be judge harshly on their comments, e.g. against immigrant workers and therefore be labelled as racist or slightly so. (Aimee Howard: Newman 2, Photography)
2. Do you think you would hold back through fear if being labelled a racist yourself?
To an extent yes. There is always a difficulty in your use of language. People may be preferred to called or classed as one name but ot another which makes it harder to discuss in PC terms. (Lindsey)
No I do not believe I would. My mannerisms and typical actions would lead me to believe I would challenge the person’s label. I would reduce any ’racist’ comments whilst resolving the issue of whether or not I was being racist. (Dan)
No. I have very strong views on topics but I also will listen and take in other people thoughts. You are only racist if you mean to cause offence. Racism is ignorance. You need to understand your topic properly before people can brand you for saying something that might be wrong. (Tara)
Yeah! Like you cant call a ‘black’ person ‘black’ because that can be offensive. Also you cant say ‘coloured’ person as you are a colour yourself. You can’t win.(Harriet)
Ha-ha! No not at all. I make a lot of comments and jokes about race a lot of which could be taken the wrong way by someone not understanding that it is a joke. I know I’m not racist and I’m quite capable of standing up to anyone labelling me as such. I’m half Portuguese born in Bermuda with black cousins so luckily i grew up understanding a lot of different cultures, and where and when it is appropriate to joke on race. (Aimee)
3. How would you classify racism? For example, list an action or type of comment you would class as racist (to give a better understanding of peoples interpretations)
A verbal or physical attack on someone due to their race – colour of their skin etc – when an attack wasn’t provoked. (Vicky)
I will classify it as the discrimination of someone due to their own appearance – ethnic background e.g. nigger. (Lindsey)
Treating someone differently because of the clour of their skin. For example “I wouldn’t go to Africa, the black people steal my money.” (Anon)
I would classify racism as a comment or action intended to cause harm or offence related to a person’s culture, skin culture or cultural values-stereotypes e.g. of an action – a white male assaults a black male for the fact that they were black. E.g of a comment: go back to your bomb making. (Dan)
Racism is ignorance. (Tara)
Like when people say Nigger, or making fun of anyone because of the colour of their skins. Nowadays you can’t say anything without being racist or being un PC. (Harriet)
Racism, in my understanding, is not the comments you make, but the tone you say it in. It is easy to notice a comment made with genuine malice. anything seen as degrading and insulting like spitting on someone outside your race purely because they are outside your race that is racism. Also, actions as simple as a facial expression can be meant as an insult. (Aimee)
4. Do you think popular culture, such as television, internet, movies and music pigeon-hole, or create stereotypes within the realms of racism?
Yes But then again, everyone uses stereotypes so its not the media’s fault. (Vicky)
Yes and no. Corporations often try to use or promote actors/musicians from all background/cultures so as not to be bias/classed as racist (Lindsey)
I think those things do but even without them racism would still be about because its part of being human. If you’re different to me then you must be wrong and I’m right. (Anon)
Unfortunately so, and in my opinion as a white male the black and Asian cultures do have a habit of creating images and stereotypes through their actions in music videos and song lyrics. Alot of stereotypes created are confirmed or strengthened by music. (Dan)
Yes. There are many things that promote racism. People can post anything on the internet – moves and TV – show it occurs and discuss it but music separates cultures. MOBO awards celebrate black peoples music but if there was an award ceremony for just white people racism black people would go mad. (Tara)
Not so much now people are more aware of the situation. (Harriet)
Yes. Look at a rap music video. (James)
Of course, as long as there a people there will be stereotypes. It’s just the way we make sense of each other. (Aimee)
5. Do you think people of race themselves over indulge the use of the word racism, which can potentially cause more problems?
Yes. Can cause people to be afraid of making a comment due to labelling. (Vicky)
Yes. In some cases the slightest comment can be interpreted in the wrong way or manipulated and things can become more complex. (Lindsey)
Sometimes people take advantage of a situation for example: saying people were being racist when they weren’t to get what they want. (Anon)
Yes. It is well known that blacks and Asians use the phrase “Is it cause I’m Black?” and there are a lot of examples of this in society. This causes itself problems and leads to a new stereotype. (Dan)
White people make it an issue as they don’t want to be labelled as a racist. But it’s well known that black people are the most racist culture yet one something is brought on them, everyone is classed as a racist. They also bring up the past a lot, the apartheid and slavery. (Tara)
Like, when black people go out and think people are being racist, they may say “Is it cause I’m black” when really they can be quite paranoid. (Harriet)
Yessss! Some of the most racist people I have ever met are black and mixed race. Nowadays, racism isn’t generally isn’t a big issue. But people who “milk the past” to get an advantage cause a lot of problems. So many times an insult with no connection to race is turned around (by the person insulted) to become racist, which they then use as a weapon against the insulter. A lot of people fear being labelled racist which does cause a lot of problems. (Aimee)
6. Do you believe that the nanny-state is controlling our personal rights of free speech, therefore taking control of what were allowed to think?
In some ways yes and other no. Its our own responsibility to question things and create our own understanding of what is right and wrong/racist or not racist. (Lindsey)
I do not believe so, political correctness does have it’s advantages as by complying to the standards all people comply to a linear approach that can not cause offence to any of the races it applies to. (Dan)
Britain is supposed to be a democratic nation but there are so many vices on what you can do. The “nanny state” has become so ridiculous that life for the British nation is extremely restricted. Discussion topics have to be handled with care. (Tara)
Na, Your allowed to say what you want we don’t have a nanny state, were the UK. (Harriet)
To some degree, yes. (James)
No one could ever control what you think because it is your mind and you can do what you want with it. (Aimee)
7. How would you propose racism be tackled in this country?
It’s not going to be solved as people will always be racist therefore there will always be consequences. (Vicky)
Honest answer… don’t have a bloody clue. (Lindsey)
More education given to children that celebrates diversity. I think it’s becoming less of a problem as the world is becoming more travelled e.g. people travel more so there is more integration of cultures. (Anon)
The introduction of politically correct comments assists with erasing regional and cultural differences and not causing linguistic racism issues as for discriminatory racism (offences to the person and so on) can be tackled merely by strong Policing and a sense of punishment which is a general issue for the whole of the UK anyway with the country possessing weakly punishing courts. We must improve punishment for racist crimes. (Dan)
Stopping trying to provide for everybody and forgetting the original English culture. (Tara)
More understanding, it’s PC gone mad. (Harriet)
With the aid of fire. (James)
Face it full on and make whatever joke you like about racial stereotypes. People would learn the difference between talking about different races and slagging them off. (Aimee)
8. How would you respond if you were labelled as racist?
Laugh and walk away. (Vicky)
I would defend myself as I am not a racist and that in regards to race and ethnicity it’s hard nowadays to say something without the fear of being labelled as a racist. In the case of immigrants so many people think that there are many more illegal immigrants than there actually are due to the language used in the press / media which can often be misleading. (Lindsey)
I would find that upsetting and I would change whatever it was that made someone think that. (Anon)
As referenced in a previous question I would challenge the label no matter who provided it as I know that my comments would not have intended to be racist and thus would feel inclined to fight my corner. (Dan)
Shrug my shoulders and move on. I know I’m not I’m intrigued by other cultures. (Tara)
Ask how. (Harriet)
Mildly offended. (James)
I’d laugh and politely ask the labeller if they were dropped on their head as a child. I’m not racist I hate everyone equally. (Aimee)
Any other comments?
I think that University has been a great experience. I have met people from all over the world and I feel that I can learn from those I meet. (Anon)
Wonderful questionnaire. (Dan)
Yeah, black people dance way better than white people. Booyah! (Aimee)
My questionnaire is a fantastic cross section of varying opinions. We can see how the youth of today from both the UK and abroad view racism and have given their suggestions on how we can tackle racism. I included all the answers exactly as they had been written as in my opinion this gives the most honest and accurate results.
Examination of the answers leads me to several conclusions. Firstly, we can see how people from a white british background feel threatened when it comes to racist allegations. It would appear that people often make harmless comments (in their opinion) and feel that negative responses are often unwarranted and unjustified. White English people are accustomed to sharing towns, cities and streets with people of many cultures and enjoy the experience of living in a multi cultural society. I myself, am from Birmingham, a huge city with many nationalities working together and living together bringing new ideas and cultural differences to an already culturally exciting city. An anonymous quote I enjoyed reads, “I have met people from all over the world and I feel that I can learn from those I meet!”. Tara Dove wrote, “I know i’m not [racist], I’m intrigued by other cultures.” These are two examples of how young people enjoy immersing themselves into the cultures of others. This shows a complete opposite to racism as someone who is racist has no interest other than insulting these cultures.
I do not label myself as a racist, infact I believe most people would say the same about themselves however I remember my feelings of disgust and upset after being told that I could not begin a professional career within a steel band due to my being white. If I was to create a new music format that did not allow people of other ethnicities to be involved I would be labelled as a racist and rightly so my opinion therefore is that many racial issues are often brought on by the people of other ethnic backgrounds themselves an opinion shared by the people in my questionnaire.
Overall, I would say that my questionnaire, although short and simple, has given many wonderful answers showing peoples disgust towards labels and feelings towards other cultures.
The questionnaire itself was even labelled as racist by one participant who believed the wording could be seen as racist, this prompted a discussion between participants which I believe made this a successful questionnaire.
Juxtaposed to the opinions given in my questionnaire, Richard Schechner discusses race as a performativity. He believes that race is unable to be a sustainable cultural category, and visible racial traits cannot be reliable. This is because people can now easily alter their appearance through cosmetic surgery. Also, cross cultural breeding makes it that much more difficult to identify ones cultural background. “To take ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’ as an instance, many so-called ‘whites’ have darker skin than many so-called ‘blacks.” (Schechner (2006) p.154)
Backing up my opinion that race is a word created out of fear and used as such, is Geneticist Kenneth Kidd of Yale University. He says that all DNA is basically the same. “there’s no such thing as race in [modern] Homo Sapiens.” He goes on to justify this with a comment on how there is no definitive line between the DNA from two adjacent cultures; they are both the same, even if the colour of their skin is different. (Schechner (2006) p.155)
If we applied this theory to my steel band’s racially disturbing past, then the argument in regards to my skin colour should never have been an issue.