This is a picture of me and my friend Maggie.
We’re both Councillors.
One of us is a senior manager in the NHS. One isn’t.
One of us drives a rather nice car. One doesn’t.
And one of us can rent a home from the estate agent we’re standing in front of. One can’t
Maggie is the senior manager. Maggie has the nice car. But only I can rent the home.
That’s because I’m white and Maggie is black.
This week the BBC exposed estate agents across London willing to actively bar black people from renting properties.
Two of these agencies, A to Z and National are in Willesden, Brent and I was proud to join a very well attended protest against them last week.
I’ve never suffered racism. But it still makes me burn with rage.
I used to have the classic white liberal complacency about living in a “post-racial” Britain. This complacency was lost forever after I witnessed persistent racist abuse at football matches. The whole experience shook me to the core.
Firstly, the visceral hatred by the persistent perpetrator. Then the injustice of an incoherent idiot abusing a wonderfully talented individual.
But above all, I was shaken by my experiences reporting racist incident after incident by the same individual.
“Sorry, not enough evidence.” Sorry, your word against his.” “Sorry, no other complaints.”
All this about the same individual, a season ticket holder who the Club had full contact details for. Frankly I lost any hope that the issue would be addressed and felt utter shame at my football club.
Goodness only knows how a black person would have felt facing the same wall of bureaucratic disinterest.
In fact, goodness only knows how you make something of your life when this kind of experience must dog you every day. Where some judge you immediately based on your skin colour. And many more judge you implicitly because they simply cannot visualise a young black man as a surgeon or a barrister – rather than a mugger or a dealer.
The wonderful, groundbreaking, black football manager, Keith Alexander, once said that young black footballers players would complain to him that they had to work twice as hard as white players to succeed. He told them to go away and work twice as hard.
Laudable, admirable sentiments. But I for one will not judge members of the black community who are simply worn down by years of having to struggle so much harder than the rest of us.
The debate on racism in this country has become nuanced.
The biggest influx of immigrants in British history are white: the Eastern European arrivals of the last decade.
Our Caribbean community is well into its third generation: long established, as British as me.
Racism against Muslims is branded “Islamophobia” – as if the fear which causes it is more important than the hatred it represents.
But incidents like the racist estate agents in Willesden show that the debate has become too nuanced. We have become complacent.
Pure racism remains. And that make my blood boil.
It makes my blood boil because it cuts to the very core of us as human beings. It is a betrayal of our innate equality.
This equality is based on uniqueness and empathy. Every one of us is different. There is no us and them, we are all unique. That shared uniqueness is the foundation of our equality.
Because of our shared uniqueness we have natural empathy for one another. Although each of us is subtly different, we are all fundamentally bundles of the same emotions and feelings. So beneath the surface we all share empathy.
Racism is the ultimate betrayal of this natural equality.
It replaces the beauty of individual uniqueness with ugly divisiveness. And it replaces our natural empathy with hate.
Racism is the most offensive of cocktails: hatred, ignorance and injustice.
Whether on the football terraces in Lincoln, the estate agents in Willesden or in a million other hurtful incidents: it is pure barbarism and a dark blot on everything that makes us human.