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Are you a racist writer? On the difficulty of recognising our own prejudices…

I’m a member of three writers’ bodies in the UK – the Society of Authors, the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Chartered Institute of Editors and Proofreaders. I’ve been to numerous writers’ conferences and pitched to more literary agents than I can remember. From my experience, the world of publishing in the UK is predominantly white and middle-class.

But for us, introducing stereotypes into our writing isn’t an issue, because the industry is also filled with nice, intelligent, liberal people, right? We’re all far too self-aware to be guilty of writing racism, misogyny, homophobia or class snobbery into our fiction, or contributing to mental health stigma, because ‘that sort of thing’ is only written by people ‘other than us’…

helena fairfax, steretypes
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

…or this is what I used to think for, I’m embarrassed to say, far too long a time.

I’m putting my editor’s hat on and turning to the dictionary. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a stereotype as: ‘A preconceived and oversimplified idea of the characteristics which typify a person, situation, etc.’

Why do we create stereotypes?

Stereotyping is a shortcut to a way of thinking about someone, and our brains love a shortcut. Intelligent school-kids are glasses-wearing nerds; fat women are jolly (especially if they’re black); young blonde women are dumb; all women become sweet as soon as they’re past eighty.

We take stereotypes on board without thinking about it. But when negative stereotypes are repeated and repeated and repeated and repeated, they have an insidious effect, and not just on the victims of stereotyping. The people who carry on repeating the stereotypes are blinkered, and they’re blinkered because they’ve grown up with these stereotypes, and the next generation will be blinkered in turn.

How racists are us…

Last year the Romance Writers of America organisation was accused of ‘systemic bigotry’ after a furore about endemic racism among its writers. These are writers like you and me, who would never in this world consider themselves racist. We think ourselves free from prejudice. However, as writers, our stereotypes are clear to see in our stories – to everyone except ourselves and the predominantly white, middle-class gatekeepers in the publishing industry who share our outlook.

How people are made to feel ‘other’…

My first experience of feeling ‘other’ was arriving from Africa to the UK, aged 6. I couldn’t understand the Yorkshire accents around me at school. Some of my classmates asked me if I’d lived in a mud hut – some genuinely curious, some spiteful. This was my first introduction to a group of peers, except I didn’t feel I belonged and for a long time, I felt ‘other’.

Then there was the fact my family are of Irish Catholic descent. Until I was 16, I didn’t feel ‘other’ about this, because I went to Catholic schools. It wasn’t until I went to a state school that I felt ‘wow, people are really thinking I’m different here. What is this all about?’

And then as a person of Irish descent who speaks with a (now northern) English accent I’ve faced racism in Ireland and been told to ‘eff off back to England’ in Scotland.

Meanwhile, back in England, during the troubles I was suspected by a neighbour of harbouring IRA terrorists – because, like Muslims now, in those days Catholics had to be terrorists, didn’t they?

Why we shouldn’t be complacent

My experience of feeling in a minority is very small fry compared to the experiences of very many, but I like to hope (I hope) it’s made me think more deeply about how I portray people in my novels. I literally get angry when I come across stereotypes in books I’m reading (my husband said he didn’t know people could get so worked up by fiction until he met me :) ) and I’d be mortified if I felt my own unconscious prejudices (and yes, like everyone, I do have them) came across via my characters.

Image by Prawny from Pixabay

Although I come across prejudice and stereotypes in books, because I basically lead a pretty sheltered life working from home, I still thought the days of prejudice are surely drawing to an end, especially in the world of writers. Like I said, we’re all nice, liberal, educated people, right? In the 21st century, surely we’re moving beyond all this.

I thought that until I began freelance editing. Reading other people’s novels has been an eye-opener. Let me say that it’s been a privilege and pleasure to read the vast majority, but there are still – still – many unconscious prejudices and stereotypes coming up in the work I’ve been sent to edit.

Here are some of the stereotypes / prejudices I’ve come across:

  • Greeks are ‘hot-blooded’
  • Italians are ‘highly strung’ and love their families and / or are mafiosi
  • Too many male gay characters described as having ‘effeminate’ gestures, and descriptions of young gay males who appear to be wearing accessories borrowed from a middle-aged woman’s wardrobe. Note to straight writers: gay men shop in the same shops as straight men. There are even – and prepare to be astonished! – gay men who are slobs. And do you even need to mention a character’s sexuality in the first place? If so, why?
  • Characters described as ‘ethnic-looking’ (?)
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
  • Characters with a diagnosed mental health problem who must therefore be dangerous
  • Meals served up in a different culture to the writer’s and portrayed as somehow ‘weird’
  • A gay man who is ‘really half a woman’ (?)
  • Too many addicts as working-class bums. (People have many reasons for becoming addicted to drugs/alcohol, and addiction crosses all classes)
  • Too many men who beat their wives as working-class bums. (There are abusive bums across all classes)
  • Characters described as having ‘almond eyes’. (You can probably fill in the rest)
  • Characters with a mental health problem who apparently should be able to pull themselves together
  • Many, many characters whose ethnicity is declared in the writing when it’s not at all relevant. Do we really need to know where a character’s grandparents came from or the colour of their skin? If you feel it’s relevant, then fine. If not, why is it important to mention it?

No writer I know would like to think their unconscious bias shows through in their writing. I’d be mortified myself if anyone pointed it out to me. But I’d far sooner an editor or a reader told me, so that I could face up to it and deal with it, and I’d like to hope I’d handle it with as much grace as Lisa Kleypas in this article a couple of years ago .

How writers can make a difference

Writers don’t have to write to preach a lesson (although some do). But fiction isn’t just entertainment, even if that’s how we see it ourselves. Our characters become real people in the minds of our readers. Writers of fiction – especially of commercial fiction, which reaches a wide audience – have an opportunity to help break the cycle of stereotyping by portraying a wide variety of characters as people really are, and not how we are programmed to expect them to be.

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Our words can have an influence, for good or bad. And for anyone who thinks readers can easily rise above stereotypes, this article on the terrifying power of stereotypes says exactly why we should try to root them out.

I’d been thinking about writing this post for a long time, but the recent protests in the US and London have prompted me to post today. Our words matter, and we make a difference.

Are there any stereotypes you’ve noticed in books you’ve read recently? What are the stereotypes you find repeated most often? Do you think writers have a responsibility, or is fiction ‘just entertainment’? And have you ever felt yourself to be the victim of stereotyping?

If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you.

26 thoughts on “Are you a racist writer? On the difficulty of recognising our own prejudices…

  1. That’s a very thoughtful post, Helena, on a subject which is often difficult to get right in our stories. Perhaps this is a case of not writing what you think you know, but of being more considered in our choices.

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    1. Rosemary, you’ve summed it up by saying we write what we think we know. We do it unconsciously, and it’s really hard to see outside our own world sometimes. Thanks very much for dropping in, and for your thoughtful comment.

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  2. I think this article is very timely and necessary. In my own experience, some writers appear to be overwhelmingly left-leaning, Labour-voting and Conservative-hating; but cannot conceive that they, in their own way, are being just as racist as those they appear to despise.
    I’m more middle-of-the-road, but with a touch to the right because I accept that sometimes governments have to make hard decisions and people are going to get hurt…
    And yes, sometimes I vote Conservative.
    Briefly, I read one Facebook conversation with a (former!) Facebook friend and fellow writer which just seemed to assume Ruth Davidson (former leader of the Scottish Conservatives) had nothing in common with Scots because she wanted the SNP to stop complaining about an independence decision which hadn’t gone the way they wanted and should get on with the day job.
    About half of Scotland (including me) wants the SNP to stop complaining about an independence decision which hasn’t gone the way they wanted and should get on with the day job, but the way she and her mates self-righteously bored on, you’d think they’d won the vote (they didn’t) and that the rest of us don’t exist (we do).
    I moved to England (not just for that reason), and unFriended her…
    I also had a brutal Facebook fight with a couple of people who just never stopped moaning about Conservatives and demanded I worship Jeremy Corbyn, I read them the dictionary definition of racism and was disgusted but unsurprised that they could not accept that they were in any way racist even though one in particular was bent on forcing me to agree to his political viewpoint.
    I really didn’t like that.
    I waited, coldly, until the results of last year’s general election, told them I’d never vote Labour again because of their intolerant behaviour (I didn’t put it that nicely), stuck two fingers up at them and blocked them.
    While the Right can be equally intolerant, I’ve lately found the Left has a certain sick and repulsive self-righteousness, the assumption, indeed, that “that sort of thing is only written (or done) by people other than us…”
    And writers, in general, lean to the Left.
    I could go on. John Humphreys made it explicitly clear in his recent biography that when the UK dared to vote FOR Brexit, the BBC high-ups (notoriously liberal and Left-leaning) were aghast, sure the public had made the “wrong” decision.
    And so on.
    There are probably many on the self-righteous Left (and that will probably include quite a few writers) who are equally sure that Labour’s great wipeout at last year’s General Election was the “wrong” result, and that the public just needs to be “re-educated…”
    I could indeed go on, and it could be levelled at me that I’m just going on about politics while a black man was choked to death in Minneapolis.
    Well, the police should have respected his right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; but as per Evelyn Beatrice Hall, the people should also support and respect my right not to like Jeremy Corbyn and to vote for Boris Johnson or indeed anyone else if I democratically wish to do so.
    But, by and large, they don’t.

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  3. Just to be as clear as possible, the intolerant behaviour I witnessed and was sometimes subjected to, could more precisely be defined as bigotry but it was all equally unpleasant. A complete dogmatic intolerance of and abuse towards people whose viewpoints, looks or lifestyles differed from some folks’ perceived norm. This can come out as bigotry, racism, xenophobia, take your pick…
    It’s all ugly and we all need to face up to our own prejudices.
    I have to go to work now, but if it’s okay, I’ll explain about Evelyn Beatrice Hall when I get back. This is a fundamental definition of freedom of speech and democracy which is often fundamentally ignored.

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  4. Hi James, you make a very good point about people being prejudiced in politics. Almost everyone I know on both sides votes for the party they genuinely think will lead in the best way. I suppose being absolutely convinced you’re right is more or less bound to make you think the other party is ‘inferior’. There are people who are intolerant on all sides. To listen without prejudice is very much easier said than done.
    Thanks for your comments. We all do need to face up to our own prejudices…

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  5. I read a Southern (US) cozy mystery by a popular Big Four author. It was extremely racist and the black people speaking horrible English. This was a contemporary book. I had to quit after a few chapters. I couldn’t believe it, it was that terrible.

    To tell you the truth, I can’t stand most of the new cozies out there and think they are extremely boring, and delete most after the first chapter. I have a folder on my Kindle labeled “Books too boring to read”. I am tired of a protagonist who always falls in love with the sheriff, police officer in the story. Not in my mysteries. I also don’t believe I have racism, prejudice in any of my books and even included in one mystery a story about racism.

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    1. Hi Susan, it’s hard to understand how racist books like the one you describe see the light of day these days. If the world of publishing is full of white, middle-class people, then I guess the editors and publishing houses are just colour blind. I used to just put down books like that and turn to something else. Now I think that’s not enough. If we all left reviews calling out racism in novels then maybe things would begin to change. Thanks for dropping in and for taking the time to comment.

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  6. Referencing Wikipedia: “Evelyn Beatrice Hall (1868-1956) was an English writer best known for a biography of Voltaire who created the phrase “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
    This quotation is often cited to describe the principle of freedom of speech and, I would say, is the best working definition of democracy available.
    And in my experience, virtually nobody gets it. Many people dogmatically assume they and they alone are right and (in some cases) that if they re-educate people enough, others will finally see their “truth.”
    I heard this once in Scotland, and that’s what broke me: some Scots activist telling the sceptical J. K. Rowling that if she (Rowling) came to one of their independence rallies, she’d be re-educated and see the “truth…”
    That’s more like intolerant fascism than patriotism, so let’s work off that with reference to Hall’s fundamental quotation.
    Hall did NOT say:
    “I disapprove of what you say, so I will re-educate you until you say what I think you should.”
    In this case, I consider that loathsome activist should (as per Hall) have said, “I disapprove of your opposing position re the question of Scottish independence, but I will defend to the death your right to hold that position.”
    But she didn’t, and I bet she continues to think she is such a nice liberal person.
    A firebrand Labour supporter should say to a lifelong Conservative voter:
    “I disapprove of the way you vote, but I will defend to the death your right to vote as you wish.”
    More chance of seeing pigs in flight than that happening, I’d say…
    A Brexit Leave voter should say to a Brexit Remain voter (and visa-versa):
    “I disapprove of the way you voted, but I will defend to the death your right to vote as you wished.”
    Not much chance of that, either.
    I will also make the point that the outcome of a legal vote should be defended to the death as well. Something which hasn’t happened recently. For example, I have never disputed the fact that Jeremy Corbyn was the legally-elected leader of the Labour Party; or that Donald Trump became President of the United States. It can even be argued that the more you hate a decision, the more you should defend a decision legally arrived at to the death.
    This does lean more towards a defence of the right of free speech, so let’s briefly consider democracy itself, a system of government by, for and of the people.
    All the people.
    In this case, let’s say, all the people of the United States, all of whose rights are enshrined in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
    And all of whom are created equal, although many vehemently oppose each other and/or have radically different lifestyles, attitudes and beliefs.
    Therefore, I submit that all American citizens must be treated equally under the law, the Constitution and the Declaration. Some of the police, the Southern U. S. states (up until about 1964 anyway) and many private citizens do not however appear to have done so, and segregation should never have existed. But it did.
    So, to easily expand upon Hall’s original quote:
    “I disapprove of your faith, beliefs, attitudes, skin colour and sexual orientation, but I will defend to the death your right to live as you please in equality.”
    I think that would be democratic, but I doubt I’ll ever see it.
    George Floyd was an American citizen whose rights should have been defended to the death by the police, an executive agency of his government. Instead they were literally choked out of him because, crudely and simply, few people ever really live up to and/or live by the meaning and concept of the Constitution and Declaration they supposedly hold so dear. The Constitution’s First Amendment and the Declaration’s immortal definition of equality.
    Nor is America the only country in breach of basic democratic freedoms. It is just where this latest flashpoint of injustice took place, and has the best known definitions of democracy and freedom of speech in the world.
    But far too many times, in America and elsewhere, far too many people assume they’re too self-aware to be guilty of that sort of thing, which is only the fault of people other than them.
    That, however, is not the case.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, James. I completely agree with your last point that ‘far too many people assume they’re too self-aware to be guilty of that sort of thing, which is only the fault of people other than them’. My feeling is that the key is to be able to listen to others and to constantly be aware that you may actually be wrong in your opinion.
      I’m not sure about the outcome of a legal vote being defended to the death. What if the person voted in – or the entire party voted in – deliberately misled the public and were voted in on the basis of a lie? Shouldn’t we have an option of declaring no confidence?
      These are things that we’re free to debate, and in the ideal world each side should listen courteously and with an open mind to the other. When people become blinkered and entrenched in their opinions is when the trouble starts.

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  7. I like this post a lot, Helena. All my books are set in the UK, and, thus, have some people who are not white – but, as you said, it doesn’t have to be said. Some of my characters are black, or Asian, or Eastern European, but I never mention this unless it’s relevant (sometimes you can guess by the name). I think that to do so is marginalising in itself; ‘look, you’re different, so here’s a pat on the head so show you that I’ve given you a mention’. I refuse to do what the BBC does with its TV series and make sure I have a suitable representation of every race, sexuality, disability, etc, in every book, because it’s patronising; also, not realistic.

    I’m currently writing a book set in a Norfolk village; you don’t find many non-whites in Norfolk villages so I’m not going to put in the token black, brown, Chinese and transgender character just to satisfy political correctness!

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    1. Hi Terry, thanks so much for your comment. I’ve written this post as an editor, but in my own writing I try to do as you do and ask myself who is likely to populate the setting I’ve created. I have two books set in London, where it’s just not realistic to have an entirely white cast of characters. I have a book set in a hotel in the Lake District, where you don’t find many non-whites, but many Europeans travel round the continent as chefs and in the hospitality industry, and so I have a Polish chef. It’s clear he’s been round Europe, and you could maybe guess his nationality from his name. (My main characters are white, and I write from this point of view because that’s the pov I know.)
      The only time I might think about not writing realistically is by weighting my novels so more women have powerful positions. This is something I’ve been thinking about and that I know I haven’t done in my writing. Of course in real life women are in the minority in positions of power, but maybe if we saw more women in power in fiction it might help more women feel these roles are natural for them in real life.
      It’s great to find writers who ask themselves these questions. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, and for dropping in.

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  8. “Defended to the death” was quoting Evelyn Beatrice Hall. If a legal vote produces a lousy candidate, by all means vote them out again or protest against their behaviour or policies, but do so legally. It is also crucially important to remember that people whose politics you dislike or vociferously disagree with may be voted in anyway.
    But what really gets me is those who seem to expect the world to behave as they think it should, and if they don’t get their way start screaming around, not accepting the results, saying the result was a lie, the public were lied to, it’s all a lie and so on. This was the case with the Scottish referendum and Brexit. A lot of people could not accept that the vote hadn’t gone their way so it all had to be a lie. It was all lies, the public was wrong, the public had to be re-educated…
    No folks, you just did not get your own way.
    One of the people I was referring to before said in writing on Facebook “Leave voters are anti-democratic,” and that the Lowell Commission’s findings on the Brexit vote rendered it null and void.
    What, people who voted in a way you did not like are not democratic?
    Frankly, there’s always going to be a bit of chicanery in the process; but on a personal level I will admit to utter loathing for those people who didn’t get their own way, but who instead of acting like adults and just accepting that you do not always get your own way in this world, behaved instead like spoilt brats. Screaming and protesting that it was all lies, lies, lies and that the vote wasn’t valid; finding any excuse or inconsistency (real or imagined) to bolster their refusal to accept an outcome they didn’t like…
    Well, yes. You’re supposed to defend the result of a vote, PARTICULARLY if you don’t like it (E. B. Hall again). I certainly did not like the fact that Donald J. Trump was voted in as President of the United States, but that is what happened. So unless he was impeached or became a literal fascist dictator who then had to be removed by outright rebellion, that is just the way it darned well is, and I am stuck with defending to the death the fact of that matter.
    I hope he’s voted out in November, but if not (and by the way, God help us) that will be the legal fact of the matter.
    I even heard second-hand that after our own General Election last December, some snotty student stood up on Question Time and said the result was “wrong” and the public had to be “re-educated.”
    No, it wasn’t, you spoilt little brat. You just couldn’t stand not getting your own way.

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  9. This makes me think I need to consider carefully what books I purchase for children. What we expose them to at a young age has the potential of shaping their perspective for a lifetime.

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    1. That’s so true, Bobbi. In the books of my childhood, the girls mainly played the traditional domestic role. Not many were adventurers or leaders. I’m sure that sort of thing does have a negative effect on both boys and girls growing up. Thanks for taking the time to read my post, and for your comment.

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  10. Rechecked your comment, and you can indeed declare “no confidence” if the party or candidate breaks the law, commits proven acts of gross impropriety etc…
    But still, you cannot keep all the people happy all the time. If every time part of the population complained about the result of a vote, we’d have to have general elections every week! There has to be some continuity or there can be no effective governance. Unfortunately, that means in practice that it can be very difficult to remove the person in power. Nixon was forced to resign (although the Republican Partly stayed in power via the Vice-President), and from what I’ve heard I think Bolsonaro in Brazil is a lousy leader and loathsome person lying through his teeth to his people about Covid-19 and killing off a significant slice of his population.
    However, same point: it’ll take impeachment, rebellion or defeat at the next election to remove him.
    And they might even vote him in again!
    People often get the government they deserve. We’re flawed, they’re flawed and the system is flawed…
    But I met a real fascist once. One who knew Mussolini or Hitler. I’ve seen the alternative, so for all its flaws, I prefer democracy.

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    1. James, the Brexit referendum has massively divided the country and feelings have been running very high. But we at least we feel free to express them. You say our system is flawed, and I agree, but I can’t look to any other country and say they have a better system*. (They may have a better government, but that’s a different question and one everyone here is luckily free to debate!)
      Thanks very much for your thought-provoking comments and for taking the time to post them.

      *I forgot about proportional representation,but that could open up a whole other debate!

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      1. Well, any system is flawed. On the whole, I think the UK model works better than many people give it credit for… It is a writer’s job to face up to such problems and look at ugly and inconvenient facts (abuse of power, miscarriage of justice and – oh yes – racism); but I think it best to wind up my own comments at this point. I’d merely recommend you keep the Wikipedia link to Evelyn Beatrice Hall which I use as the best possible basis from which to deal with the politically-orientated aspects of the insanity out there.
        Actually, there’s also an INDEPENDENT article on a university research project which found out without any fuss in 1996 that most MPs have a great deal of character traits in common with psychopaths. I also use that as a basis for trying to understand our dear lovely world…
        Last funny (or not-so-funny) thought. The person I referenced who’d met Mussolini and Hitler, and whom I had to endure for three godawful years, was Italian. I saw character traits close-up I still do not much want to talk about; and if I fictionalised this monster in a novel it did occur to me that it might sound racist. Well, what I saw was true of this person, and I’ll admit I’m no fan of the excitable Latin temperament. However, I also know that the glory of Rome was basically Italian, I’ve seen Canalettos in Venice and admire their magnificent Renaissance achievements. A racist would look at the individual characteristics I saw and say “oh, they’re all like that.” Ascribing to ALL Italians the grotesque characteristics of the single loathsome person I knew would indeed be racism. They are not all like her.
        Mind you, some of them are bloody awful drivers…

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  11. Oh, one other little story which came to mind regarding real fascism…
    If you criticise an actual fascist leader, you’ll most likely be taken away one dark night by the state police, brutally tortured for a week or two and then buried in an unmarked grave.
    I was so sick of this punk I’ve previously mentioned (the one who stated Leave voters were anti-democratic and probably equated Conservatives with fascists) that I put it to the test…
    David Mundell, then Conservative Secretary of State for Scotland, did surgeries at my old village hall. I’ve always liked this democratic concept – that you can sit down and talk to a politician holding one of the great offices of state right in your own backyard.
    And I told David this guy’s name and statements regarding Brexit, Conservatives etc.
    In a REAL fascist regime, this guy would have disappeared fairly shortly thereafter.
    Of course, nothing happened.
    The moral of the story, I think, is that our democracy, while flawed and inefficient, works quite well to defend our rights and security. We therefore have to accept the results of the voting system which perpetuates it (and NOT act like a bunch of overgrown children when we don’t get our own way) unless the system corrupts to the point where the government acts like real fascists (murder, torture, violent intolerance of dissent etc.) we have to impeach, remove by vote or revolt.
    But I think the problem nowadays is that society is now so polarized that there are large elements who will simply never accept a party they do not like (usually the Conservatives…) being in power.
    Hence the reason I went right back to the utter basics (E. B. Hall), basically to define and prove that if you believe in freedom of speech and democracy, you darn well need to defend it, ESPECIALLY if you’re stuck with defending (or at least accepting) the result of a vote you personally don’t like and/or a politician you despise being in power.
    For example, right now Trump is President and the Republicans are in power. I am (hopefully) a grown-up adult and I can accept that fact without whinging like a petulant child.
    I feel like I’m in a minority.

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  12. Every day is surreal, one subject off limits ( and the past four years too) Why did I study politics and too much number crunching, Why on earth another degree – thesis on the riveting subject of economic and social consequences of pandemic ? ( not this one !) Teach politics ? That really would be living dangerously… Ginger hair too, and a cat.. . Just as well we’re in the 21st C and I can try to write fiction instead..
    Starting to read, aged 4, I struggled with an unfamiliar word, chalked on a wall. Does that say Apart Hate? Close, said my granddad – ( I lived with my grandparents) ‘ It means treating anybody without love, whoever they are.’ He’d worked in South Africa, explained apartheid. He died when I was eight, so we didn’t have long, but racism and any other conclusion were totally alien to him.
    And yet… Did he believe he was a Yorkshireman, 100% Probably, No racism, but the residents of one county might not agree. No DNA tests then, but how would he feel if a test found no English ancestry, never mind Yorkshire ? Five minutes, maybe, thinking time, and Granddad would be back in the ring. ‘ Heathcliff … Little Lascar. North Africa, Middle East. Of course I’m a Yorkshireman. Hopefully, the life lesson learned age 4 has stayed with me… That said, I’m glad to know now about my family’s African ancestry.

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    1. That’s a great story about your granddad, and the writer in me is thinking your comment has the basis of a fascinating novel. How would a Yorkshireman feel after the findings of such a DNA test? I love your granddad’s imagined response.
      I actually think your thesis sounds really interesting! ‘May you live in interesting times’ is supposed to be a curse, and these are ‘interesting times’ we are living through. (You may already know that Robert Kennedy quoted this curse in a speech against Apartheid https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_Affirmation_Address I only discovered it recently)
      Thanks very much for dropping in. I really enjoyed your comment.

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      1. Thanks. Delighted to find your prompt response – and the North African/Middle East element prompted me to include that in my latest novel Nigerian too – quite recent. African friends in Leeds ( born & bred Yorkshire) loved it.

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  13. Oh well, actually about DNA…
    Right.
    I heard some years ago that there was more genetic variation between chimpanzees on the north and south banks of the Congo than there was in the entire human race. I later discovered that, like the strike that sent off the dinosaurs sixty-five million years ago, another asteroid hit Indonesia about sixty or seventy thousand years ago.
    And Homo Sapiens got hit this time.
    The entire human population decreased to about 6,000 people in the subsequent nuclear-style winter, and only by dint of much manly shagging did we bravely restore our numbers…
    However, the genetic base we started from was now a lot smaller than it should have been, and as a result, today’s human race hasn’t got as much genetic diversity as it should have.
    In a word, not only are we not different from each other, we’re not even as different as we should be from other.
    I would conclude this mean racism is even more illogical than we have come to realise. It is in fact complete nonsense and genetic diversity is vital to avoid bad genetic reinforcement.
    I’m afraid that also means you simply can’t say you’re 100% Yorkshire or indeed anything except 100% human. It is meaningless. I could make a big thing about being Scottish, but I’m quite sure I have a lot of Norse DNA and probably quite a lot of other interesting stuff.
    Hilariously, back when they started genome/DNA testing, Channel 4 made a documentary about this, and tested several highly patriotic individuals. One woman, I recall, went on and on about how she felt she was English to her soul, to the point where she went out every weekend and saluted the Union Jack (honest).
    Well, they tested her and she came out half Mongolian or something!
    She went batshit crazy, couldn’t accept it, sued Channel 4, sued the testers, you name it…
    She lost. The science did not lie.
    To return to the original killing and gross injustice which kicked this all off: George Floyd was a human being like any other and deserved to be treated in the same way.
    Because we are all really created (or more precisely recreated) equal.

    Liked by 1 person

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