Why do we use this phrase when discussing issues of immigration, religion or nationality? Why do we believe it presents our argument as being more moderate or inclusive? Do we really believe this one phrase appended to the start of our position makes us seem more accepting and humane to those around us?
The national discussion has become increasingly racist in tone. There is open hostility towards immigrants, refugees, anyone who’s “not from round here.” Politicians can openly call for policies that a few years ago might have sounded more like a rant from a far-right fringe.
This racism is no longer constrained to the traditional front of skin colour. Now it is perfectly acceptable to call on Poles and Romainians to “go home”. Don’t worry, cry some, these attacks aren’t racist because the victims aren’t black.
It’s OK though because this debate is shielded by the assertion “I’m not racist but”. We’re not supporting this hostility because we’re not racist. You heard it at the start of the sentence. Right before we said we want immigrants deported so British people can have British jobs and the threat of Muslim terrorism is removed from our shores.
It’s a lie.
“I’m not racist but” is nothing more than a deception. It’s a verbal sleight of hand that’s designed to protect us from our more tolerant, liberal audience, while speaking directly to those who will agree with everything that follows “but”. It’s an intellectual deceit used by those who lack integrity.
Don’t hide behind this phrase. Don’t feel you have to pretend not to be racist. Show everyone who you really are and what you really think. At least have the integrity to stand up and be counted as someone who supports discrimination on the basis of a person’s origin, heritage, beliefs and anything else that makes them something other than what you think “British” should be.
Or are you afraid?
Are you afraid those of us who are more liberal and tolerant will call you to account? Are you afraid we’ll debate and argue with you and show you for what you are? Are you afraid those around you will stop calling you “friend” or your employer will decide they have to let you go?
Don’t hide behind “I’m not a racist but…”. Say what you mean so we can see you at least understand why your comments are so offensive.