I am racist. I’m probably sexist too and maybe many other ‘ists, but, to begin with, let me qualify the first.
I grew up in an era of shows like Love Thy Neighbour, Rising Damp and Till Death Us Do Part. Shows that although could be argued they shone a spotlight on racism, also went a long way to ‘normalise’ terms that marginalise sectors of society. In my school days, too, it was quite usual for my peers to use terms that compartmentalised ethnic minorities with little fear of retribution.
With my current beliefs, I shudder at some of these terms which I probably used myself in anger. And this is my point. I do find these terms offensive and unacceptable but my brain has already been fused with this programming so I feel it’s far healthier to come from the standpoint of being a recovering racist than just outright denial.
One of the first roads to any recovery is admitting there is a problem and my pre-programming cannot be overlooked, no matter how offensive my older self finds it. Admitting we come from the standpoint of being a potential offender – in the mind, if not orally – allows us to constantly check ourselves. It gives us the chance to ask ourselves whether what we’re doing and thinking is truly what we want to do, say and believe.
This reprogramming can then become the new normal and with it, our behaviours. As any recovering alcoholic will tell you, it’s not the alcohol that’s the issue, but the mindset behind it. I think that embracing our faults is the first stage of recovery and that’s something I’m committed to addressing in myself, day by day.