Thursday, 12 February 2009
`.......And There's Ahmed, Our Little Brit Friend....Oops, I only mentioned the war once, but I think I got away with it`
I hear that Prince Harry has been sentenced..sorry.. ordered to attend another equalities course to ensure he doesn't cause any more offence to anyone (some hopes - well he is a Royal, so offending someone is always on the cards). I have attended 3 bouts of `Equalities Training` during my career and I must say that the quality of the training did improve, ever so slightly. My last course was in my final year of service and I did try to excuse myself on those grounds, figuring that if I was a sexist, racist bigot they'd have surely found out by now. We were all in civvies which was supposed to get us more touchy-feely-relaxy but no one wanted to let their guard down if indeed they had one up. What am I saying? we all had our bloody guard up in what was an atmosphere of mistrust, suspicion and a general feeling of doom and gloom and that we could be shopped to professional standards department if we so much as looked at someone in a funny way. Also, I was the only officer of `supervisory rank` in the class and everyone knew that. The instructor, an old colleague of mine, got over the usual intro/icebreaking session and then tried to open us up by getting us to talk about any experiences with `minorities`, `hard to reach groups`, Gypsies or travellers. The response from the floor was dire, so I decided to break the ice and elected to give my ten pence worth. I started off by stating that I had the upbringing of a WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant). I explained that I lived near a family originally from Jamaica, who came to Britain in the late 1940's on the SS Windrush, but apart from them, I'd never got to know a black person until I joined the Metropolitan Police and met black colleagues at the training school. I told the group that my youngest niece was married to a Sri Lankan and that my wifes oldest, closest friend is half French and her husband is British but of Indian origin and a Muslim and that we are the best of buddies. So far so good. The instructor asked me to continue. I stated that it wasn't until I commenced my police service that I encountered my first incidents of racial abuse. It was at an anti-apartheid demonstration in Downing Street. Amazingly, I found a photograph of it on Google images, and it sits at the head of this post. I was just out of shot on the opposite corner and later ended up in a right bundle when the crowd turned ugly. I knocked down a man (who happened to be black but who wasn't knocked down for that reason) with a rather effective right jab to the chin. The word `Home` on the banners refers to the then Foreign Secretary, Sir Alec Douglas Home, but I digress. The instructor then asked me about my experiences with Gypsies and travellers. After a good hard think I asked if I could speak freely and honestly. "Of course, that's what we're here to explore", came the reply. Taking a deep breath, I said, "It is my firm and honestly held belief that there are genuinely honest, hard working travellers out there who are just pursuing their chosen lifestyle, trying to earn an honest living and who wouldn't dream of stealing, robbing, causing physical harm to anyone or anything or playing confidence tricks on the vulnerable and elderly". I paused to draw more breath and then to a totally silent class said, "It's just that in 29 years I've never met any". That's when it all went horribly pear shaped. There was uproar* in the classroom for what seemed like an age and my old colleague gave me such a look and asked if we could have a quiet word outside, but by now the rest of the class were having none of it and insisted that anything said was done so in full hearing of the rest of them. My statement was debated uphill and down dale for the next 20 minutes before the instructor reluctantly accepted that I had not said anything wrong and we broke for tea and bikkies where the debate continued. In fact so animated was the conversation that the force training officer came over and said he'd not seen an equalities class looking so positive and animated in discussing the course. Naturally, the poor sod had no idea what had just happened. Of course I knew I'd not said anything wrong. I neither lied nor said anything of a prejudicial nature against travellers, my opening statement had surely made that clear, yet I was made to feel as though I had. Perhaps that was the organisation's intention, but it left me thinking `fuck `em` (the organisation, that is). *Addendum: Perhaps I ought to have made it clearer. The `uproar` was a mixture of hoots of laughter, a burst of spontaneous applause and a bit of cheering.