Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
In current times, being a POC (person of colour) comes hand-in-hand, complimentarily if you will, with all kinds of labels commonly associated with one’s respective complexity of colours – one’s complexion. This discrimination sometimes seems complimentary, at least in the sense that it is free and often in abundance. But I refer to a particular kind of discrimination – those disparaging remarks in the form of racist ‘jokes’.
They are complimentary like nuts offered on a plane or an appetiser before a restaurant meal. The proprietor, the creator, the one which does the willing and the doing, intends to cater to the guest with an offering free of charge – for goodwill. Slurs hurled towards me, where I am the recipient, similarly, are free of charge. Most times, neither requests nor bookings have been made. But still I am approached and greeted with that gleaming grin preceding their propositions and remarks.
It really is remarkable – their entrepreneurial spirit and motivation, their contrived-for-customers smile. And like the proprietor, the slur-hurler is of the active rather than the reactive kind. They are vigilant, they spot opportunities and exercise their first-mover advantage. Almost like a predator. Just how the proprietor needs you to provide the lining of their pockets, the slur-hurler or the racist feeds from the pungent energy of their comments. This is how they satisfy and fill themselves. Whether it be a supposed slip of the tongue, or something brewed more slowly and carefully with that extra intent to impress and strike with awe.
Even if just a slip, why are these words and phrases even in their repertoire? What place have they?
And then I am met with their unapologetic apologies. I need not humour them, as they appear already humoured. Those sniggers, laughter-induced wheezes, and faux displays of sympathy. Oh, for sure, they are already humoured! Or maybe I do humour them; maybe I am the source of the laughter, the giggles, the mockery. Albeit on my part, passively or unintentionally. Say I did book a room or a seat at a restaurant table, that need not mean I have to indulge in whatever is served complimentarily – it may not suit my tastes or I might have a nut allergy. I certainly do have an aversion to racism and its related slurs.
My being here seems to be the joke, my race the subject matter, but my core is the brunt. My biology is without consciousness – I am the consciousness. I am more than my descriptive complexion. Often, however, I am perceived as nothing more. It is my first distinguishing feature. Not my character and its content. No! Who has time for that.
‘Do they even have character?’ ‘Can they have character?’… ‘only in a caricatured sense, I believe’. Ah yes, just like in that joke right, that ongoing joke, you know that one which I cannot avoid and am constantly reminded of, and in a searing manner I may add. There are too many, but think and hold onto only one, imagine one, even one of those discriminatory jokes laced in scrumptious slurs, lapped up, hastily, with great joy and embellishment. Have they had their fill? That is unlikely, for their toxicity has always appeared insatiable, to me at least.
Who laps them up we might ask? Or who serves them, furthermore? ‘Who are these slur-hurlers? I don’t see them’. Oh, you know, that friend of yours who ‘isn’t really racist’ and is ‘just having a laugh’. That’s the one. Maybe the joke(s) and the scenario(s) have become ever more vivid and memorable by now. Gosh, ‘they’re so funny’ – that friend – I am reminded. I have been reluctant to find it funny myself, however, if I do say so myself. And I do, I do say so.
But it’s tiring. It is tiring, frequently explaining why others and I might find many of these jokes unacceptable. My efforts have been earnest and numerous. I am nearing exhaustion, as are they it seems, but in a cheery way, with their insides tickling and tightening since spewing that overused joke. Ought I to gain a liking and disposition in favour of these slurs? Maybe my appetite will grow and my aversion fade. Maybe then I too can bathe in ignorance.