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Wednesday, 03 September 2014

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Racial hostility has no defence. It isn’t merely politically incorrect - it’s just plain dumb

Carlisle took a nasty slap across the face when the whole country heard our city described as a racist place, in which hateful, targeted abuse was tolerated widely as just another part of its famously quaint charm.

The stinging statement was made in court by a lawyer defending drunken hate-filled vitriol posted on Facebook by soldier Warren Butler.

His outburst had followed the death of three-year-old Mikaeel Kular, whose body was found in Scottish woodland a month ago.

Of the toddler, whose family is of Indian origin, Butler wrote: “One down – many more to go.”

Instant condemnation of his bitterly prejudiced cruelty raged across the country. But when it came to mitigating his actions, Butler said – through his lawyer – he had been raised by a racist family, living in a racist city, where such comments would be unlikely to shock.

His mother has since vehemently denied family racial hatred. She was hurt and astonished that her son had excused his crime as a simple matter of acting in the character of home.

In essence he had suggested that in his home city, response to racist bitterness would amount to: “So... what’s all the fuss?”

He’s wrong. At least, we must hope he is very, very wrong. Because if Warren Butler’s opinion of people of different ethnicity is shared throughout Carlisle and across Cumbria, we may as well turn off the lights and retreat into the dark ages.

Butler was guilty of two sickening slurs. One was obvious. His verbal attack on a poor, dead child was unforgivable – nauseating.

But then came the second. He stained his home city – tarring it and all its citizens with his own grubby brush. But did he unwittingly do us a favour? Painful though it may have been to see the city’s reputation dragged into a nationally scrutinised pit by the actions of a racist drunk, Butler did enable a question many of us have for too long felt it unnecessary or maybe too uncomfortable to address.

Is Carlisle racist?

A News & Star online poll gave an interesting result. Opinions on whether the city had racism built into its foundations were split pretty evenly and some of the hundreds of posted comments (many unpublishable) were illuminating... not all in an inclusively good way.

But at least a conversation had been started – one which has been determinedly avoided for far too long a time. It has been avoided either because the distasteful truth is too hard to swallow or it is accepted without a qualm. There has seemed to be little room for enlightenment anywhere in between.

The answer yes. Yes, much of Carlisle is racist. Yes, many attitudes are rooted in a distant, territorial suspicion, long ago rejected by so many other cities. It’s a curious position for a city – and indeed a county – with so little experience of ethnic and cultural diversity.

Or perhaps that’s actually a large part of the problem.

Like a child who pushes away his plate with the instant judgement “I don’t like it”, there are too many in this otherwise wonderfully welcoming, friendly, warm county who should be asked: “How do you know? You’ve never tried it.”

Racial hostility has no defence. It isn’t merely politically incorrect – it’s just plain dumb. Unless a community and its wider society has the intelligence to recognise that every human is an individual, entirely different to the next – and yet absolutely the same under the skin – it has no right to call itself a community.

And until Carlisle can demonstrate that it is wholly at odds with the pitifully ignorant rantings of a drunk online, it will never progress beyond the shameful limitations set by its lowest common denominator.

The more we keep talking about what we’re most fearful of discussing, the better we will be. It won’t happen in an instant but there will come a time – if we’re brave enough to examine our own hearts and minds – when we can ask the question again, with confidence. Is Carlisle racist? And answer with pride: No, it is not. Not any longer.

Have your say

With bigrons comment..... I rest my case.

Posted by ian on 26 March 2014 at 18:42

STICKS AND STONES MAY BREAK MY BONES BUT WORDS CANNOT HURT ME... happy childhood none of this PC rubbish.

Posted by bigron on 26 March 2014 at 17:01

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