Should I carry the burden of being a racist because previous generations of my family were racists?

I’ve posted before about my Dad and Grandmother, on his side of the family, being openly antisemitic and how I put a stop to racism in my generation. I’m also proud of the fact that our daughter Jen will have nothing what so ever to do with racism either.

But the other day my mate Phil said to me, in relation to the BLM campaign and a debate we were having about it, that he feared that some folks could end up being blamed for the ‘sins of their fathers’. Not surprisingly having had racism present in my own family it made me wonder whether I carried their racism with me. The thought horrified me.

Of course some things do get passed down from generation to generation in many families such as – support for a football team, support for a political party, belief in a religion. Indeed, there’s often an expectation that such family habits are carried on and older generations will take their youngsters to see the football team they want their children to support. They’ll take their children to partake in ‘their’ particular religion and even send them to a school which which promotes the parental religious beliefs. And yes politics too. I once heard an elderly lady say to me that she was going to vote Lib Dem for the first time in her life but she could not afford for her family to know that! I did not ask if the family was Tory or Labour but it certainly made me think.

So if we can pass on sporting team support, religion and politics what else is being passed on? Sadly, I suspect that racism can often be such a hand me down and that’s why our education system should be set up in such a way to challenge generational racism.

Surely we want young people to be free thinking individuals who are happy to challenge long held family views on many things. That’s why I oppose religious schools as my view is that having a religion, or indeed not having one, is a decision for the individual not one to be directed by family expectations.

I rejected my Dad’s religion (CofE), politics (Conservative) and racism but I bought into his love of cricket and support for the same 2 football teams. You’ll notice I only made reference to my Dad there as Mum and I shared what I think are similar political views. I rarely had any political discussions with her but I’m pretty sure she was a Chapel Liberal at heart whereas I’m a Social Liberal without any religion.

The football slogan ‘No room for Racism’ is very apt but for it to really mean anything young people need to have the confidence to reject it when it’s present in their own families.

One thought on “Should I carry the burden of being a racist because previous generations of my family were racists?

  1. Phil Holden says:

    A thoughtful piece. I will gloss over the hurt and pain for you in being a Mansfield Town nil supporter because of an accident of birth and say:
    1. I believe nobody – and I mean not a single person on earth – is entirely 100 % free of prejudice at all times. No-one is perfect but thoughtless and unintended prejudice, including racism, should be kindly and constructively pointed out, not brutally “called out”. We all have things to learn and we can learn from all sorts of people
    2. While we can all recognise (uncomfortably) traits in us we can attribute to our parents (and don’t forget peer groups) we are responsible for our own views and actions. Just as it would be ridiculous to allow the defence ‘it’s my parents fault that I hold these views’, it is equally riduculous to blame someone for views they don’t hold but a parent of theirs did
    3. Unless you do not believe in redemption, rehabilitation etc it is preposterous to blame someone and tear their statue down if they’re dead or – worse – brand them on social media if they’re alive for things they may have said or done in the past which they long since recanted.
    4. Liverpool Uni is making a complete ass of itself over the Gladstone nonsense. If they can’t convey why the name Gladstone should not be expunged from history to their students and other stakeholders how on earth can they hope to teach them anything that isn’t so obvious?
    I like that you are up front about your father’s views Tony. He was of his time and I’m sure you are correctly proud of him and the good things you learned from him.

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