Some things go deeper than ethnicity
Bias is a weird thing, I’ll say that!
Earlier this year — pre-virus — I had a problem with my car. I got online to a service I’ve used before, and they sent a diagnostic chap round to give the car the once-over.
I live in a fairly obscure street in Coventry, and as often happens, the diagnosticians’ sat-nav led him astray, so he called me. He wasn’t so very far away so I talked him in. About five sentences into the conversation, he says “That accent! You’re from the North, aren’t you?” To which I reply “Aye, and so are you.”
“Whereabouts are you from?”
“Yorkshire. Hull, but my folks live in Skipton.”
“Ah, Ah’m from Bradford, Ah know Skipton.”
“Bradford? No wonder tha can’t find thi bluddy way. Hang on, Ah can see thee, Ah’m wavin’.”
His name was Naz, and he did a thorough job on the car. I made him a mug of tea and chatted with him throughout.
Now I’d have done that anyway, but this was different. He’s a brown Muslim, I’m a white atheist. He’s an engineer, I’m a retired Civil Servant. But none of that mattered. We are both Yorkshiremen, both living down South (south of the Humber). We had a lot to talk about, in the dialect that still comes back so readily after forty years (in my case). The shortcomings of Southern beer, Southern tea, Southern women, mothers in law and Lancastrians. The rugged magnificence of the Dales, the joys of Scarborough or Bridlington in the short Northern summers. Proper fish and chips and ginger parkin.
Some things, some identities, are so powerful that they override race, religion and class. I was biased, unconsciously I later realised, in favour of Naz the moment I heard his accent, as he was to me when he heard mine. Race and religion were irrelevant. What we shared was more important than what we didn’t.
We need to find more such identities. We need to find the things we share and make them more a part of us. Same street, same town, same school, same county, same football team. We can find commonalities, if we look for them. All it requires is open minds and hearts on all sides.