The two groups of people I have problems with are Jews and South Africans.
I went to secondary school – well, OK, grammar school – in East London, near Gants Hill which, at that time, was a very Jewish area. So there were a lot of Jews in my school.
We all had to (allegedly) learn French and one other foreign language. We could choose either Latin or German. Almost all (perhaps actually all) the Jews took Latin. Well, think about it: anything ‘German’ was often associated with family problems… ie relatives and/or friends’ relatives slaughtered in the Holocaust.
Normally, we had three rows of people in Latin lessons. When there was a Jewish holiday, we had half a row. This was not uncommon in other lessons. When there was a Jewish holiday, teachers sometimes gave up any attempt to teach their subject to drastically depleted classes and we had general knowledge quizzes.
We had big classes and four graded streams – A, B, C and D. The Jews were almost entirely in the A stream, with a few stragglers in the B stream.
I have had a prejudice against the Jews ever since.
If I am going to meet someone called John Smith, I have no preconceptions about what he will be like.
If I am going to meet someone called David Goldstein, I automatically assume he will be highly intelligent, well-educated, sophisticated, civilised and interesting to talk to.
There’s very little I can do to shake this pre-judging of someone on purely ethnic, totally baseless grounds.
That may not seem too bad, although it is. It is pure ethnic racism.
But what is worse is that I really do have a blind prejudice against white South Africans. I have met quite a lot and, to quote the 1986 chart-topping Spitting Image song, I’ve never met a nice South African. Not one. Never have. In my experience, the song is entirely true in saying “They’re all a bunch of arrogant bastards.”
I suspect it must be something to do with the past education system or something… They were taught to be self-confident in a world that mostly disliked them and in a society where they used to live a life of self-confident superiority over the majority of their fellow South Africans. The Afrikaans white South Africans are a bit worse than the British-origined ones, but only slightly.
I once interviewed Donald Woods, the liberal, highly-respected and lauded ex-editor of South Africa’s Daily Dispatch newspaper who bravely stood up against the Apartheid regime. He was played in the movie Cry Freedom by Kevin Kline.
The real Donald Woods came across to me as a man with a very strong superiority complex. To me – rightly or wrongly – he too seemed to be an arrogant bastard.
Assuming all white South Africans will be arrogant bastards is pure ethnic racism on my part. It is indefensible; it is a knee-jerk reaction because, in my limited experience, I have met a fair number and they have all been appalling without exception.
On the other hand, almost all the black Nigerians I have met have impressed me by being very highly educated and very sophisticated. We are talking about almost Jewish levels of prejudice within me here.
But on yet another hand, I have a friend – a very caring, middle class, liberal white Englishwoman. She genuinely has several good black friends but she has had major problems with black Nigerian neighbours and, as a result, she has a tendency to be wary of and/or initially dislike black Nigerians. She is aware of the problem, but finds herself unable to do anything about it.
And I have yet another friend – again a very caring, middle class, liberal white Englishwoman – who had a holiday in Israel and came back disliking Israelis (Israelis differentiated from Jews). Her opinion of them is much like my opinion of white South Africans, not helped by the fact they insisted on an internal body search before she boarded the plane on the way OUT of Israel.
Where this gets us all, I have no idea.
Except that anyone who tries to justify their own prejudice is clearly a mental retard.
It seems I am a racist and, to be honest, there seems to be not a lot I can do about it.