Casual racism (Mark Ryan Smith)

Anybody who looks at local online forums such as the Shetland Times website or the Shetlink page will have noticed the casual racism that sometimes lurks there.  Whether it’s people winding themselves up about perceived wrongs done to “native” Shetlanders by Scottish “incomers”, or jokes about ordering takeaways being the only use for teaching Chinese in schools, the underlying attitude is clear – some commentators enjoy attacking people from other places.

Thankfully, though, what can be read on these websites isn’t a reflection of the views of the wider community.  The fact that the same names appear again and again tells us that.  But it is troubling to see how racist language is slowly infecting political and cultural discourse, both locally and nationally.

Things are, of course, better than they used to be.  There aren’t grotesque racist stereotypes on TV now, and doling out explicit racial abuse in the street can get you in serious trouble.  Even when I grew up in the 80s, it wasn’t unusual to hear what would now be considered serious racist language. It’s good to reflect that we now live in a society where that stuff is pretty close to unsayable.

Pretty close, but not quite.  Because, especially as we approach the general election, it looks like things might be taking a few steps back.  With UKIP riding high in the polls, and with the other parties desperate to avoid losing votes, the current talk is often about “getting tough on immigrants,” and so on.

A race to outdo UKIP on immigration won’t be pleasant to watch. That approach does nothing but pander to the worst kind of instincts and won’t help to keep racist language out of political and cultural discourse.  Hearing Nigel Farage say that blacking-up is OK, or Godfrey Bloom foaming about “Bongo Bongo Land”, or William Henwood telling Lenny Henry that he should go back to a black country is pretty laughable.  Anybody who isn’t a Neanderthal recognises this for what it is.  But the fact that this stuff is being said is a real worry.

So, maybe when people send comments to local websites they should think a bit more carefully about what they write.  Blatant racism is easy to identify, but more subtle, implicit kinds do damage as well.  People have the right to say what they want, but when racist language becomes normal we’re all in trouble.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a national politician or a local online commentator, the responsibility is the same.  Racism, even a little bit of it, should never be part of the picture.

 Mark Ryan Smith





Add Your Comment
  • Peg Young

    • November 21st, 2014 5:42

    Well said, Mark.

  • Geoffrey William Hay

    • November 21st, 2014 9:45

    Whilst you should be congratulated Mark, for being the politically correct ‘Blade Runner’ of the local cyberspace I feel a tad offended by your post. On what basis are you making the assumption that the extinct hominids ‘Homo neanderthalensis’ (no italics available) were in any way xenophobic? The fact they are extinct means they can’t defend their honour and you shouldn’t really be so stereotypical….If anyone finds this post pedantic, patronising or over-sensitive I can only apologise.

  • Gordon Harmer

    • November 21st, 2014 21:34

    I believe that political correctness can be a form of linguistic fascism, and it sends shivers down my spine and makes my blood boil when I think of the generation who went to war against fascism. I have used quotes from other people to say what I dare not say for fear of being deported my self. This country would be a far better place if we allowed all the immigrants in and expelled the politically correct brigade to make room for them.

    “I am politically incorrect, that’s true. Political correctness to me is just intellectual terrorism. I find that really scary, and I won’t be intimidated into changing my mind. Everyone isn’t going to love you all the time”. Mel Gibson.

    “Political Correctness doesn’t change us, it shuts us up”. Glenn Beck

    “Political correctness does not legislate tolerance; it only organizes hatred”. Jacques Barzun

    “The problem is that it has become politically awkward to draw attention to absolutes of bad and good. In place of manners, we now have doctrines of political correctness, against which one offends at one’s peril: by means of a considerable circular logic, such offences mark you as reactionary and therefore a bad person. Therefore if you say people are bad, you are bad”. Lynne Truss

  • Michael Garriock

    • November 22nd, 2014 14:56

    “Whether it’s people winding themselves up about perceived wrongs done to “native” Shetlanders by Scottish “incomers”, or jokes about ordering takeaways being the only use for teaching Chinese in schools, the underlying attitude is clear – some commentators enjoy attacking people from other places”.

    Ahh, how easy life must be for those who only see what they want to see.

    I think that you may find that the former example would possibly be more accurately described as xenophobia than racism. Regardless, it of course couldn’t have anything to do with being an observation of evidence based facts when applied in a historical context, could it? Or simply be an expression of individual opinion (which is a basic right each individual still has at least a shaky illusion of holding, despite the persistent and concentrated efforts of the Nanny State/PC Police to eradicate it) based on personal experience, with no intent of discrimination or prejudice intended, when applied in the present.

    In the latter example, the joke is on you, I’m afraid. As things stand I would have very serious doubts that the vast majority of individuals purchasing Chinese food can even begin to pronounce the names of the dishes properly, and it would not be unreasonable to suspect that fluent Chinese speakers might take offence at hearing their language being mangled and murdered. A few more people actually being able to fluently pronounce a few Chinese words, even if they are only of use when purchasing food, could arguably be helpful to reduce any racial divide, not increase it.

    Take it any way you want, but to my reading of the given example concerning Chinese, if anyone was being made a fool of, it was those who currently cannot competently speak Chinese, but persist in believing they can when interacting with fluent Chinese speakers. Not the innocent bystander Chinese who end up having to put up with them.

    It is hoped that when penning the above letter, one was also sent to this publication concerning the rhetoric used in the lead story of this week’s hardcopy edition.

    Quote: “….two British girls being hassled by two Turkish men,….”

    In the uber-PC world described in the above letter, surely the mention of nationalities as quoted above from the linked article constitutes “racism” of some degree, no?

  • David Spence

    • November 22nd, 2014 17:22

    I am intrigued as to where the balance is between highlighting issues related to nationality to this of the free movement of people from one country to another. The balance between businesses employing people from other countries rather than from local area’s?

    It seems when bringing to the fore anything related to nationalism, cultural identity, traditions and customs being eroded for the sake of political correctness etc etc.

    If knitwear was being produced abroad because the manufacturer’s found the costs far cheaper, would you regard local people as being xenophobic because they were complaining about not being employed by local traders or would you brand the manufacturer’s as xenophobic because they preferred employing foreign workers to do the work?

    It seems that voicing an opinion on any subject is not politically correct these days in case you may offend some person or persons or location or religion or political ideology.

    Highlighting issues where a creed of people only, for the best part, work within a particular industry which is based on facts, but this is deemed racist, xenophobic and offensive despite the facts indicating this.

    Where does one draw the line between debating subjects which may highlight prejudices or racism or some other issues which is perceived as not politically correct.

    If I say ‘ I do not believe in god, and I think religion is nothing more than divisive and controlling.’ should I be prevented from such an opinion because it may offend those people who do believe in god?

    ‘ I think it should be illegal for a particular religion to introduce Sharia Law because it is highly sexist and offensive to women.’ Should one be prevented for saying such an opinion in case it may offend the muslim religion?

    Where is the principle in defending your culture, religion or whatever because political correctness and multiculturalism is eroding away what you hold dear?

    No doubt, some people may accuse me of being racist, xenophobic or whatever, but it seems these days, having an opinion, no matter what it is, is a no go area of expression……….and we call ourselves a free society?

  • Haydn Gear

    • November 22nd, 2014 21:46

    I think that David has hit the nail fairly on the head (casual racism) so I’ll add just a few additional points. It is a well known fact that the teaching of foreign languages in Britain is at a low ebb and has never been easy. As regards racism, which is obviously about different cultures,ethnicities and religious beliefs, how does Mark know that regular correspondents to these columns are not speaking for the silent majority?I think that they probably are.I think it is well established that most people have views and opinions but are either too lazy or too afraid to publicly air them. That dire situation is not helped by the reactions of the zealous PC brigade who love nothing more than to exert control if at all possible. That is not to condone racism or anti social behaviour of ANY kind but to recognise that many reasons exist which create ill feelings and opposition to what may be perceived as threats; and they do exist. In regard to to the teaching of Chinese, I suspect that there is a hidden and undeclared agenda.Teaching that complex language for a relatively short time will bear no fruit and is doomed to failure. Other subjects need to be emphasised such as English literacy , maths ,IT and a European language or two. As for ordering Chinese or Indian food in restaurants or takeaways, I have yet to see a menu not printed in English, so no worries there then! My daughter’s work takes her to many places in the world and she told me that both Chinese and Japanese detest the faltering attempts of English speakers attempting to speak their languages. Indeed,despite spending time in Japan and learning a few useful phrases, they pretended to not understand and always called her” the foreigner” even though they knew her name!! Prejudices and racism run deep and there is no quick fix. Some people will argue that Shetland will benefit from trade with China. Maybe, but how long before China begins to use Shetland as yet another place to sell its products? It’s likely that The Great Wall Steed will be coming soon (a 4×4 truck).

  • Alvin Leong

    • November 23rd, 2014 15:22

    Mark, I am one of these “incomers” you described and also as you can tell from my surname, I am also a Chinese. For years in Shetland, I had to put up with the “Chinese takeaway” jokes, something which I had not experienced when I was working in other Scottish or English cities. Fact is, I have nothing to do with Chinese restaurants or shops, never worked in them or had any dealings with them. Yet, people in Shetland seem to assume I work in one. Once, I had someone abusing me because they saw on TV that the Japanese are killing whales! Did Shetland not have a whaling fleet until the 1900s? I used to deal with these people by dismissing them as narrow minded and ignorant. They cannot see beyond the pint they have in their hands.

    Students in Shetland are offered free lessons funded by the government in China and yet people are moaning that they will prefer other European languages. Well, will other European countries fund the lessons in Shetland? I think not! The local government in Shetland cannot even fund music lessons locally or keep schools open while this will cost nothing and yet they are still complaining. I wonder if the government in China will “adopt” a Shetland school to keep it from closing, will these people still moan?

    Fact is, China is a fast growing market with the demand for high end products growing rapidly. Many big businesses are trying to or are already established in China. China is now the fastest growing export destination for Scotland’s main export, whiskey. One Shetland product I see that has potential in the China market is Shetland salmon. When I used to visit my friends, Chinese or otherwise, I will bring them gift of Shetland salmon. They always ask me for more and where they can buy them. However seeing the amount of Chinese bashing comments on that news article, I think I will send them that page instead for them to share on their social media and news website. Let’s see how well Shetland products will do in China after that!

  • Brian Smith

    • November 23rd, 2014 16:04

    The idea that the Second World War was a war against political correctness doesn’t appeal to me.

    • Chris Johnston

      • November 24th, 2014 21:30

      @ Brian Smith
      According to Dr. R.V. Jones in “Most Secret War”, Churchill had a principle, “In war you don’t have to be polite, you just have to be right!”
      It was a battle against political correctness.

      • Brian Smith

        • November 27th, 2014 17:07

        Most people know that ‘right’ and ‘correct’ mean the same thing.

      • Ali Inkster

        • November 27th, 2014 19:22

        “Correct” and “politically correct” are worlds apart. Most folk know that

      • John Tulloch

        • November 27th, 2014 22:51

        Does that mean your political views are “wrong wing”, then, Brian?

  • Michael Garriock

    • November 24th, 2014 0:10

    “For years in Shetland, I had to put up with the “Chinese takeaway” jokes, something which I had not experienced when I was working in other Scottish or English cities. Fact is, I have nothing to do with Chinese restaurants or shops, never worked in them or had any dealings with them. Yet, people in Shetland seem to assume I work in one.”

    Of course no Lerwick resident ever calls a resident from anywhere else in Shetland a “yokel”. Shetlanders don’t get ribbed about having a penchant for engaging in acts of bestality with ovines whenever they venture further south than The Fair Isle, or be termed “Jocks” with trademark cobweb entombed wallets, should they travel further than Alba, do they. Neither of which contain any more truth than they would if applied to any other grouping of homo sapiens from anywhere.

    It is an unfortunate aspect of human nature to stereotype others not of their immediate “tribe” in some way, even if it should only be the folk at the opposite end of the same street, and attempt to gain advantage in some way, however small, over that group.

    Some might argue that it is the very thing that gives each human the sense of “belonging” or allows humans to band together in a group for a common cause, that also causes some humans to place such an increased emphasis on “differences”, and virtually ignore how alike we all really are. Whatever it is, it is a deeply entrenched facet of the human condition, and while education and reasoning may curb its wildest excesses, total eradication is utopian wishful thinking.

    Accepting it as generally harmless banter as it is usually intended, and resisting the urge to be baited by it in to a reaction, which just encourages it, is probably the best that can be hoped for. Unless for those who live in total isolation from mainstream society, we all have to take it from time to time, whatever colour or creed we may be. That is why when one self-defined group cries “foul”, there will always be a backlash from other self-defined groups demanding to know why the complainer is so “special” as to be made exempt, when everyone else is going to still have to put up with it.

    • Alvin Leong

      • November 24th, 2014 18:25

      Michael, yes, I do have friendly banter with my friends. The keyword here is “friends”. When it comes from a total stranger that I had never met before in a pub, is that still banter? Is it not common decency not to abuse a total stranger? Like I said, I had never experienced that before in any Scottish or English city, is this kind of random abuse of total strangers a unique “cultural difference” of Shetland?

      • Ali Inkster

        • November 25th, 2014 0:16

        If said by a friend it is banter but if said by a stranger it’s abuse. I can only advise you to get over yourself Alvin because what is a stranger but a friend you haven’t met yet. The reason you probably have not experienced it in pubs in scotland and england is down there glass is a verb not just a noun. I for one am glad that in Shetland at least all that is needed in this situation is a bit of friendly banter in return and that person will be a stranger no more. They may still turn out to be a moron but at least you will know and you won’t need to spend your nights fretting over what some moron said to you in the pub. You may also have time to consider a simple fact of numbers there has been chinese folk here running restaurants since I was at primary school, their kids grew up here and are every bit a part of the community. Now with two restaurants four takeaways and trips to rural halls at the weekends it is hardly surprising in a small community that folk will mistakenly associate you their culinary success. So get over it not every glib comment is meant as an insult.

      • Michael Garriock

        • November 25th, 2014 2:42

        @ Alvin Leong: Banter can originate from anyone anywhere in my experience, friend or stranger. From a stranger it may or may not be “friendly”, the only way to find out is to receive it with indifference, as to react negatively to it without knowing its intent, will ensure that from there on it will definitely be a negative exchange. Perhaps the best advice I can offer though, is to judge people from a setting other than a pub, as by design what is said in such places to both friend and foe has little to do with what is said and who said it, and a very great deal to do with the effects of the products sold and consumed within. Things tend to fall out of mouths that the accompanying brains know nothing of, among other less than favourable traits and indiscretions…..

        While I do not profess to have the answer as to why you have experienced “abuse” in Shetland when you experienced none in UK Mainland cities, and why Shetlanders experience “abuse” as already detailed, in those self same cities. I would postulate that possibly familiarity plays a significant part, the UK Mainland has had a Chinese population, and indeed a multi-racial population in some number for a very long time, and encountering peoples of other races for dwellers in the main cities has long since been the “norm”. Shetland on the other hand has only very recently, within the last generation or so, begun to gain a multi-racial population that couldn’t be counted on the fingers of both hands. Non-Caucasian races still have a certain curiosity or “novelty” value within much of Shetland society as a result of being such a recent addition, as I suspect Shetlanders similarly do in many cities on the UK Mainland, simply on account of there not being enough of us to make any significant impact within such larger populations.

        Of course neither scenario excuses anyone “abusing” another person or makes doing so in any way acceptable, but it perhaps provides a level of explanation as to why it occurs as it does. Curiosity and “novelty” attraction again are two very strong natural human traits, which take time to wear down, which unfortunately leaves someone like yourself who is close to the forefront of a change, and those of us in too small numbers to ever be anything but a curiosity, having to put up with the inevitable fall out of being such to far greater numbers.

    • Robert Duncan

      • November 24th, 2014 23:20

      I think when it is “harmless banter” it is not a huge problem, but I’m not sure that’s all it is. I think there is very noticeable “fear of the other” with a large number of Shetlanders. Racism is rarely manifested in physical or even verbal abuse, but often through social exclusion, a hesitance to interact etc. It is problematic and makes it difficult for incomes to fully integrate. I think Mr Leong’s first hand experience is not something that should be passed off with a fairly glib, “toughen up and get on with it”.

      • Brian Smith

        • November 25th, 2014 14:47

        You hit the nail right on the head.

      • John Tulloch

        • November 25th, 2014 15:47

        Shyness is a weakness in social skills, not a manifestation of racism and plenty of people feel excluded from various social circles for a variety of reasons, other than race.

        If newcomers possess whatever attribute(s) are considered desirable within a particular social group, they are likely to be accepted, irrespective of creed or colour and “friendliness” cuts two ways. I know from my own experience that it often takes people time to get used to us before we’re accepted, or not, as the case may be and if we fear being thought unacceptable in some way, our body language will exude a negative “vibe” which can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

        Crying “racism” when we feel excluded or see others excluded, is too simplistic, there’s far more to human relations than the colour of people’s faces.

      • Robert Duncan

        • November 25th, 2014 16:54

        Who said anything about “shyness”? It’s not always a shy person who is excluded.

        I have had very close friends who have come here from abroad, who have lived in their new community for many years, in some cases longer than I have been alive. Suggestions they join a particular group (say, a committee, or UHA squad, or sports team) are all too often met with reservations. “Oh, what is he like? Do you think he will fit in? Is he ‘like us’?” I’m afraid I don’t paraphrase any of those, they are real quotes.

        These are people, often outgoing, friendly and ambitious, who have not been able to fully integrate not because they haven’t made the same effort, but because others have silly preconceptions and an uneasiness about the unfamiliar. If I suggest another stranger, but one with a familiar Shetland name, there is no such uneasiness.

        I am not suggesting it is impossible for them to get involved, as that is clearly not the case if we look at many of the immigrants who have become key figures in their respective communities. But it is made more difficult.

      • Robert Duncan

        • November 25th, 2014 16:55

        I don’t “cry racism” whenever I see people excluded but I am certain that it is an issue for many immigrants to Shetland, especially those of a different skin tone.

      • John Tulloch

        • November 25th, 2014 21:01

        @Robert Duncan,

        Try getting a Shetlander, say from Skerries, who has moved to Lerwick because the secondary school has closed, into an Up Helly-Aa squad and you will meet EXACTLY the same reaction:

        “What is he like?”

        It’s because they don’t know anything about that person and skin colour/origins have precious little to do with it.

        It’s about whether they will fit in with and enjoy whatever kind of “on-carry” the particular squad in question “hadds apo Up Helly-Aa Nicht.”

        Real racism is atrocious, and some Shetlanders likely dislike outsiders of whatever colour or nationality. It’s important to speak out whenever we see injustice, however, it’s a mistake to trivialise it with stuff like Up Helly Aa squads and we shouldn’t invent racism where it doesn’t exist.

        In raising Up Helly-Aa squads you have provided a splendid example of precisely the kind of thing to which I was referring in my above comment – reasons for caution which have nothing to do with race.

        Too many “nannies” jump on such bandwagons to seize the “moral high ground” and preach from a pulpit of moral righteousness to the less worthy, sinful, ” great unwashed”.

      • Robert Duncan

        • November 26th, 2014 9:44

        As I clearly stated in that comment, the level of suspicion is much greater than were it somebody else. It’s not just “is he good craic”, it’s an uneasiness about somebody from elsewhere. Whereas the man from Skerries would just be invited along to see what he’s like, the man from further afield may never get the chance.

        The UHA squad example was weaker than the others of course, as it is a very insular affair even before you consider a part for recent immigrants.

  • David Spence

    • November 24th, 2014 1:09

    Brian, I would be more interested in the connection between US Banks and war.

  • David Spence

    • November 24th, 2014 1:20

    ‘ how long before China begins to use Shetland as yet another place to sell its products? ‘

    Not that long at all, Haydn. A relative of mine was employed by a Chinese manufacturer to test out cheaply made Violins, since he was a reputable player of the instrument. He did this for a few months before the quantity in proportion to the testing was well over the odds, and was ‘ more work than what it was worth ‘ in terms of pay and the amount of work which was required.

  • David Spence

    • November 24th, 2014 23:56

    Mr Leong, the subject matter at hand was the introduction of the Chinese language into the education curriculum. This has brought to the fore the question as to whether or not it it is worthy, even although it may be partially funded by the Chinese Government, in terms of cost, time and justification in respect to the outcome in proportion to other languages incorporated within educational syllabus.

    Now, within our society, what references do we have in which to connect the nationality of Chinese and this of the provision of a service or product, in real terms? Here in the Shetland, I would anticipate the majority of people would make reference to the catering or hospitality industries.

    Given Shetland’s isolation, small population and limited infrastructures, I do not think at all that highlighting a particular industry that is successful within the islands is, in any way, being xenophobic, racist or call it what you want. It is the dynamics of the social structures within remote and isolated parts of Scotland, and I do not think that the people of Shetland are in any way xenophobic or racist. In fact, I would go as far to say it was very much the opposite in terms of hospitality, friendliness and of good character.

    It reminds me of the situation where a certain writer accused, very much unjustly and with an element of back stabbing, a local trader of being racist when it was anything but this, and quite rightly, the people of Shetland defended this trader and put right the accusations, once the true story was revealed.

    If you have taken offence, I am sure, including myself, the contributors (those where it may be relevant?) would quite rightly apologise……..but this is not an admission, it is just politeness and mannerly to acknowledge that if the wrong impression was given or that you may have misinterpreted what was said.

    • Alvin Leong

      • November 26th, 2014 0:03

      All right, in that case Mr Spence, let’s look at the subject matter at hand then. I suggest you look up the 1 + 2 system. The + 2 languages are optional, no one will be forced to take it. Unlike US/UK, China will not be dropping bombs on anyone that do not do as they say. It is a free lesson that will cost the SIC nothing and no schools will be closed down to fund it. If it is really as useless as you claim, no one will take it up and it will die a natural death like Russian did.

      You are right about Shetland is an isolated place, and do you wish for it to stay that way forever? Given that Mid Yell JH had express an interest in it shows that at least someone has a broader view of the current world than you. If the student decided to just stay on in Shetland for the rest of his/her life, then there is no need to learn any other languages. However, if he/she decided to seek a future in a multi-national company that is expending in China (which many are doing right now) will he/she not have a better opportunity if equipped with at least a basic skill of the language? You seem to be focused on one industry when the world’s economy is much more diverse than that. Maybe it is your view that people should just stay where they are forever and not expand their horizon? I had given an example that there is great potential for Shetland salmon to expand in China and the Far East. Is it in your view that Shetland should keep its salmon and China should keep its cars?

      Of course you can debate the pros and cons of having lessons for any language. However, when the news is announced, the debate descended into narrow minded comments of Chinese restaurants instead. When I described the personal experience I had in Shetland, I was dismissed out of hand. Since you brought up the incident of the doll, that doll was sold in a shop which was not directed at a specific person personally whereas the incidents I experienced were directed at me personally. Therefore I think it will hardly be an equal comparison.

      • David Spence

        • November 27th, 2014 2:24

        Mr Leong, I am not criticising you or your culture, I am questioning the validity of teaching such a complexed language in secondary education in such a short time as 2 – 3 years. I have done extensive research into this, and based on this, it seems that even a student who may have an aptitude for languages would still struggle with the very basics of the Chinese language after 7 – 8 years of studying.

        Yes, China has taken over the USA as the worlds number one economy, and it is good that China can diversify in many different industries and markets, and no doubt the language may become widespread as a consequence of this economic prosperity. I just question whether or not, from a secondary school perspective, if it is justified in the long term in respect to the likelihood of it being used, and for the student to memorize the language once they have left the academic world.

        As they say with any language ‘ If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.’ and this is how, I think, will be the experience of many students in Shetland attempting to learn it, but not having the opportunity to really put it to the test, lets say.

        There is also the geographical aspect too the language as well, compared to Europe, where the opportunity for students to use and master the language further does have higher odds, hence these European languages being taught as well.

        In my opinion, it is not a case of criticising China or you Mr Leong, it is, as mentioned, questioning whether or not it is a good use of school resources compared to the likelihood of the taught subject having any long term benefit to the student, that is all.

  • Allen Fraser

    • November 25th, 2014 9:47

    Ironic or what?

    For years Shetland seafarers were called “North Sea Chinamen” because they could be found on ships in every port in the world. Even the much lauded Sir Arthur Anderson of P&O fame paid them less on his ships.

    When my generation went to school we were told off for daring to speak wir ain dialect in the classroom and earlier generations of school-bairns could get thrashed for doing just that. Now Chinese is to be taught in Schools; presumably this will take time away from any local culture and dialect tuition.

  • Harry Dent

    • November 25th, 2014 12:35

    The thing about “political correctness” is that it’s a completely meaningless phrase frequently bandied about by people who worry that they’re not free to abuse whomsoever they please, whenever they please, in whatever way they please.

    I have to say that, in forty years’ political activity I have never heard anyone on the anti-racist left use the phrase; people simply avoid using offensive terms – something that might more correctly be described as “good manners”.

    In a decent society, freedom of speech should not include the “freedom” to abuse, threaten, or belittle fellow citizens on account of their nationality, skin colour, etc.

    Banter is one thing, but when it’s unwelcome and unwanted (whether between friends or aimed at complete strangers), a line has been crossed. If it’s a personal characteristic such as weight, height, hair colour etc, we’d see it as bullying and act accordingly. At least I’d hope we would.

    If it’s a more general characteristic such as race, nationality, religion, gender, sexuality, disability and so on, we’re into the territory of racism, sexism, homophobia etc. This will often still be bullying if, but it also takes on a more sinister edge when you see it alongside the increased levels of prejudice that are apparent in political discourse at the moment.

    That requires a more general response, which is why I’m so pleased to see Mr Smith making a stand in his letter.

  • Carl lanning

    • November 25th, 2014 13:01

    Having lived in Shetland for most of my formative years, I can honestly say that the “casual racism” mentioned is not purely aimed at those considered of foreign heritage. I’m white and English, from early on in my time in Shetland I was targeted because I was from England, high school was the worse by far and God help me if england and Scotland were playing any international matches. While my group of friends would use anti English banter as a joke, that’s how it was taken, but unfortunately I have taken many a kicking in Shetland from other people because I was English. Don’t get me wrong, there are many lovely people in the islands who I will remember fondly, and I was no angel either. But the term ” you English……” Was more regular than I care to remember.

  • Alvin Leong

    • November 27th, 2014 21:11

    In that case Mr Spence, as I said earlier, if it is as useless as you said, it will die a natural death like Russian when SQA scrapped it in 2012. However figures posted by various sources are quite clear.

    You (and others) stated a preference for other European languages, and that is fine. The + 2 is a free choice. I just pointed out that non of the other European countries fund lessons for their languages.

    I did not accuse you of criticising anyone did I? What I (and a few others) did was to highlight the racial stereotyping we “outsiders” encounter in Shetland and was dismissed as “harmless banter” and told to “man up”.

  • Haydn Gear

    • November 28th, 2014 19:25

    Alvin , as you will have read and hopefully accepted at face value the general message is that it doesn’t matter a toss what some people may say or insinuate so long as you maintain a sense of self worth. You appear to be well blessed with that capacity. Maybe if those who offend you either intentionally or even unintentionally were to stand outside themselves and consider this Hindi. expression. much aggravation would be avoided ——-What is important is not what lies behind us nor what lies before us but what lies within us.

  • joe johnson

    • December 1st, 2014 10:03

    In regards to carl lanning’s post, I’m Scottish and proud to be scottish, but I don’t hate the English. I’m afraid it does happen in Shetland, English folk getting racially abused because they are English. Nothing wrong with a bit of banter when it comes to sport but as carl said it does sometimes go too far and can be hurtful. I was gutted when Scotland got hammered 3-1 by England at Celtic Park two weeks ago and I was also ashamed of the Scottish fans booing God Save The Queen. That’s when it goes too far, that is not harmless banter it’s racial hatred. Let’s stamp out racism. It has no place in today’s society.

  • Haydn Gear

    • December 1st, 2014 16:48

    Much has been said in these columns about nationalism and racism and the negative consequences have been clearly shown. If the anthropologists have got it right then we ALL began in east Africa. Therefore, we are ALL related regardless of physical variations and the numerous facets which make us what we are— HUMAN BEINGS!!! I can’t call myself a Shetlander, a Scot ,an Englishman or an Irishman though I have had plenty of aggrro from those , who for historical reasons, are anti Welsh.That’s their problem, not mine —( ie the English). As we say in Wales————- Yn bye ac yn gadael I fyw —-live and let live. If that could be taken on board petty and not so petty squabbles would stop .

  • Steven Jarmson

    • December 12th, 2014 20:41

    I’ve read most of the comments here and have re-read the original letter.
    I lived in Edinburgh for around 7 years.
    I experienced “banter.” Sheep whateverer, do you have electricity? Even dumb questions like “how do you keep the polar bears out of your house?”
    I also experienced “proper” racism.
    I was called a white so and so, in front of a police man. I asked to report it and he said no crime had been committed.
    I’ve been sexually assaulted in a bar by a man, I reported it to the bar staff who asked me to leave as the man was gay.
    I’ve experienced sexism, one job interview I had, the lady said they were actually looking for a female but interviewed me to “balance the numbers, if you know what I mean?”
    So, when people talk of casual racism it always pricks my ears.
    I don’t mind banter. Its how you take, as has been said repeatedly, take it good and the story ends happy, take it bad and it ends bad. Simple.
    From time to time, indulge in a bit of private humour at others expense, note private humour. That doesn’t fuss me.
    But this country has gone so PC mad Tha being white, make and straight is a disadvantage at times.
    We need to stamp out this PC scourge. Its a new mind control. Kind of like “double speak.”
    Words change, society changes, and, so it would appear has discrimination. My generation is the first where “equality” is meant to exist. But it doesn’t. The PC brigade are punishing my generation of white, male heterosexuals for the attitudes and badness of our predecessors.
    That’s not equality. Its revenge.
    I would personally shoot every advocate of PC if was ok to say so!!!

  • Stacey Hamill

    • November 21st, 2019 6:03

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