Not to the finishing line, but that bigger issue: one of colour, culture, nationality; a word that gets finished with -ism when the ugly side of it appears.
Plenty is written on the subject of racism, but I wanted to consider the role of those who don't normally participate in the discussion: the non-racist.
As I see it, race - and so racism - is all too often viewed as solely a matter of personal perspective. Many don't see race as an issue, because they - themselves - aren't racist; their thoughts and actions are genuinely unaffected by colour, nationality or culture. In such circumstances, It can be easy to miss the bigger picture and the potential for blindness to the wider issue of race is sadly all the greater.
This being a subject of considerable sensitivity, I hope to put across my thoughts by describing some of my own experiences. In appearance I'm white-skinned, dress fairly classically and I sound quite posh. Most would expect me to be a bit of a pearl clutcher if I encountered a group of hooded young men in the street, be they coloured or speaking a middle-European language. But I was born in Asia, to a mixed race mother and I spent my childhood in India and West Africa experiencing everything from civil unrest to civil war, so skin colour and a foreign language do not automtically equal threat in my world.
I have felt huge amounts of peeve when I am judged solely on my appearance, rather than on the sum of my life experiences. Until you personally - and repeatedly - encounter that type of prejudgement, you probably wouldn't give a moment's thought to how it must feel to be subject to generations of day-to-day intolerance, presumption of guilt or downright hatred as that experienced by those of a different colour or culture to the majority.
I took part in an academic discussion with a group from a varying mix of races and cultures. I felt upset, angry even, with the over-riding view that I held group responsibility for past Imperialist behaviour due to my skin colour and nationality. Now, I agree absolutely with the guilt of Imperialists, but I really struggled when I was lumped in with them like that. I was arguing that it wasn't fair; I wasn't being treated as an individual. Bells ringing anyone?
I'd also like to think my manner in arguing my case was only defensive in tone but, in all honesty, my frustration was showing and probably taking on a tone of agitation, possibly even anger. Ah yes, more of those bells were a-ringing ...
Yet, this was just a tiny bit of what prejudice feels like. I'm positively ashamed at how long it took for the penny to drop ... for I still didn't totally "get" it, even that day.
What pulled it all together for me? Reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche's "Americanah" - a brilliant piece of writing on the nature of blackness, but from a unusual voice - that of the African black, observing and commenting on the American black. Oh ... and this post on That Voice within Me.
I now hold the view that us 'non-racists' are not as innocent as we'd like to believe. We add nothing positive if we simply hold fast to our view that race isn't an issue, so long as racism is absent. By not seeing that there needs to be more: not just a deeper understanding and greater acceptance of what is felt by those of the minority culture, race or colour, but that by not demonstrating an active validation of their experience, we can be seen as the silent part of the negative majority.
Is it enough to just not participate in negative behaviour? Or will there be no change without active participation in positive action?