"I used to be a racist," caller tells James O'Brien

4 June 2020, 13:50

By Fiona Jones

This caller opened up to James O'Brien that he used to be racist and nearly joined the BNP simply because he was from a small town and had never integrated.

"This is difficult for me to talk about because it's something I'm ashamed about," the caller Charlie said, "I'm a white guy from a rural area and when I was between the ages of 13 to 15 I was quite a racist person."

James reminded him there was no shame in admitting that on the basis that he no longer is.

Charlie said he felt compelled to ring in: "The lack of education that I received on it and the influx of media influence...even though I had parents who spoke of love and compassion and talked very strongly against it.

"I was a paper boy and I would read the papers as I was going around and every single day you'd hear negative things in thee newspapers about young black kids specifically and Muslims and it turned me into this horrible, horrible person."

Charlie told James that what is not highlighted enough is the fact that in these rural communities, people only see what they know: "There was one black person in my entire school and he was a teacher."

"I used to be a racist," caller tells James O'Brien
"I used to be a racist," caller tells James O'Brien. Picture: LBC

Only through going to sixth form and university did Charlie have conversations with people of colour and learn more.

"I actually have empathy for some of the individuals back in my home town who haven't had the opportunity," he said.

James observed that those who are the easiest to persuade to believe in racist stereotypes are those who have no experience of people from other ethnicities.

Charlie opened up that he almost got involved in the BNP movement; he went to an underfunded school, did not attain good grades, had "zero self-worth", and was drawn to the racist message that he was "inherently better" than others due to his nationality and skin colour.

Charlie said: "If you can suddenly find this self-worth where you are not only better than every other person of a different skin colour, but you're better than every other white person in the world because you're English and you're better than every other Englishman because you're standing up for this cause that you adamantly believe in..."

James observed that at a time when Charlie felt, in his words, worthless, that mentality would have made him feel special.

Charlie said he was actually glad for the experience: "What people need to understand is that if you haven't been given the opportunity to integrate, if you haven't been given this education that a lot of my London friends had, how are you to know?

"I really implore people, rather than shout racist, rather than shout idiot, rather than shout stupid...to try and realise if you have that privilege of being educated, I feel you have the duty to educate other people."

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