Over the last few days, besides when I have been teaching, a barrage of memories has been assailing my mind, demanding time and attention and reflection. Such is the nature of memory – when once the flood gates are open, all one can do is to remember. And all the time that my memories were coming, I had no one around me to share them with. I felt the temptation to write them down and my reflections on them. I have a number of ideas which I want to present to people. Yet I refrained from writing and perhaps some of those thoughts will be gone as swiftly as they came. But I will try to keep them for later.
One memory which I spent some time on was an experience I shared with my nephew one day when I went to the park. We went down to the children’s play area which was empty and my nephew immediately proceeded to the slide. There is a sort of room you climb up into to go down the slide. When he got past the door of the room, he suddenly stopped and stared and would go no further. There was an anxious look on his face. I asked him what was the matter but he didn’t respond, so I looked into the room to have a look what was wrong. There was a man in the room sitting against one of the walls with a horrible scowl on his face.
I told my nephew to go ahead and not worry about the man. However, every time he came back up to the room which led to the slide, he would look with worry and trepidation at the man that was slouched up against the wall. After a few times that this happened, I went back to the entrance of the room and politely asked the man if he would mind leaving as he was disturbing the child. I reminded him that the play area was only supposed to be for children and their guardians as it said on the sign outside. The man refused to budge. He said that he wasn’t doing anything and the park was for everyone. What could I do? I had a young child with me.
I told my nephew to carry on with the slide, but there was the same reaction of anxiety every time that he entered the room. I can imagine what it was for a child to see that nasty scowl which was interfering with his pleasure. At last, I said to my nephew that we would play something else and go back to the slide later.
As we were playing, another child entered the playground. He went up to the room where the slide was and he showed the same reaction as my nephew. Suddenly, the scowling men decided to leave the room.
I have reported what happened without referring to the small matter of identity. My nephew and myself have brown skin. The scowling man and the boy that came to the slide after us both had white skin. We live in England where the majority population have white skin.
Now, the question is, do the identities matter? And how can it be proved that the identities matter? What is the rational and reasonable way to show that the identities matter?
Someone has written that experience is the school of men and they shall have no other. My experience of life tells me that the identities do matter. I can recognise the pattern in which my nephew was repeatedly intimidated by that grown white man. However, my experience is not what is supposed to be ‘objective’. They will say that the scowling man is simply obnoxious. Perhaps they will add that he is ignorant. He lacks self awareness and the awareness of his being and action in the world. Perhaps they would excuse him. He was having a bad day they might say. Perhaps they will say that he had some sort of mental problem. Perhaps they would say that we were wrong to intrude upon his solitude. Perhaps they will say that it was merely a coincidence that he left as soon as the child after us came. I am sure they could raise a number of other objections. They might say that he was sick of the sight of children and had simply had enough, or that it took two children to make him realise that he was in the way.
These criticisms rely on the argument that I cannot extrapolate from the facts of the case. There is not enough evidence. I have reported what I have seen and what was said, but I cannot read the minds of other people. The mind is invisible and complicated, say my critics. It is hubris to suggest that one person can read the mind of another.
Thus my critics would tell me that I am playing the race card. I am simply playing the victim. Already, they would be indicating that I am an imposter, a liar, that I am full of deceit and delusion. I am myself deluded and I am trying to delude and mislead others. I am being overly sensitive and paranoid. Indeed, they might claim that I was a racist. Why did I pay attention to the colour of the skins of the others? Why did that matter? What does it have to do with anything? They might add that I am at the same time insensitive of the plight of the man. For he might be troubled and hurt and that is why he has retreated to the room before the slide in a children’s playground. I am exploiting his hurt for my own purposes, they might say. Thus, I am callous and unable to read the signs.
However, my experience of the pattern is what I base my argument of racism upon. While that pattern of racism and intimidation is seemingly invisible to my critics, it is horribly visible to me. Thus, I must defend my truth, a truth which seemingly has no ‘objectivity’, since it is based on supposedly ‘subjective’ experience.
And thus, the analysis begins. The burden of proof is on me, not my critics. Because my critics are the stronger. They are in charge of the rules of interpretation and the forms of reasonableness and rationality. They say that their position is what they call the ‘objective’ position. I can only give the evidence of my senses and no more, what my eyes see and what my ears hear. Everything else is suspect. I am only a body, a degraded body that cannot look beyond into the motivations and minds of others. And I can only see bodies and sense the bodies of others. Thus, I have no mind. I have no will. I am simply a body and nothing else. Making me into a body that can only experience other bodies is to put me in the place of an animal, in the space of nature and the material world of flesh and matter. I am denied a place in the supposedly immaterial field of the mind.
Yet I still make my argument. For I am stubborn. I will cling to my truth, the truth of experience. I will make the pattern that is evident to me appear to my critics. Firstly, I will say that the white man is defending his castle from what he perceives as the brown outsiders. He insists on the fact that he was there first decide his rights, despite the fact that the written law on the sign board says that only adults that accompany children are allowed entry. His own breach of the law is ignored. It is us that are wrong, for we will always be wrong. We have presumed that we can intrude upon his ground despite the fact that we have brown skin and came second. I will compare this position to the arguments against immigrants coming to the country and to the immigration laws as they are written and practiced. I will compare it to attitudes against immigration in film, newspapers and works of fiction.
I will add to this argument the second one that the man’s intimidation of the child can be compared to the violent racist attacks which aim to terrorise those with brown skin. There is a sustained strategy of terrorising people with brown skin in this country. I will point to police statistics against race crimes which prove that this is the case.
To this argument, I will add the argument that the very uncertainty and ambiguity created over the idea of the intimidation is significant. The scowling man knows that there is no crime against scowling. However, he also knows that scowling sends a very direct message to others although they do not know what he is scowling about. He is using that uncertainty to terrify because it indicates that another is what is causing him to scowl. The scowling is an act of communication which is meant to unsettle and unnerve the other, the physically weaker child that cannot defend himself against an attack. It is meant to cause him the confusion of thinking he has done something wrong, that he is in the wrong, that he is an intruder. It is meant to make him question his very presence and being. It is to make him horribly aware of himself as a body, as a physical entity. It is meant to make him look and keep on looking in horror at that ugly scowl and to remember it afterwards so that it is embedded into his mind as a brand which causes grave self-doubt and trepidation, the constant questioning of the self. It is the uncertainty and self-doubting which is the key to understanding how it is part of the strategy of terror.
Furthermore, I will state that the attempt to frustrate the pleasure of the child and prevent his access to resources that are there for all children is significant. The brown man is denied the same opportunities in life: the statistics show that there is a non-proportional and continued non-representation of immigrants in the professions, culture and the media, since they are not regarded as properly English or ‘indigenous’. Newspaper reports which I have recently read show that bouncers deny brown skinned people entry into nightclubs in order to spoil their weekends. The attempt to rob the pleasure of a child on the threshold into the slide is of the same order of frustration and spoiling of pleasure.
I argue again that the deliberate ignoring of the child’s signs of fascinated terror is a deliberate attempt to treat him as an object with no meaning and no humanity. He is simply a victim to be oppressed with no other sign on his body apart from the colour of his skin.
The most significant fact, I argue, is the comparison between the right of access to the resources for all and the upholding of the law for the white child, who shares the race of the oppressor. The white child’s pleasure is not spoilt. When the white child comes, suddenly the law becomes objective again, the rule that says that only children and accompanying adults are allowed into the playground. Suddenly, there is no conflict over ground and territory, of who is there first. Suddenly there is recognition that the oppressor is in the wrong and that he is disturbing the children, that he is inspiring terror into them. Suddenly, he is able to see himself through the eyes of another, since the other shares the same skin as him. Suddenly he is able to perceive that the child is a human and a person with rights not to be subjected to a campaign of terror since he is white. Suddenly, the rule of the law is upheld.
I have made my arguments. Each argument can be opposed by counterarguments. Yet I will always believe in my truth and I will always hold to my truth. Am I biased? I base myself in history and immediate context. I compare my understanding with the experiences of others in my community and in the reading of evidence in police reports, laws and culture and media. Are my arguments reasonable? Is my method an acceptable method of reasoning? It is for the critic to base himself against me. I openly admit that my reading is self-serving. I want sympathy and empathy for the plight of my nephew. I want something – I want validation of my truth. I want my justice. I want the one to be persuaded to understand what I describe is oppression and that it must be rooted out. I want something for my community. I want reparation. Is this emotional blackmail? The reader will decide.