One Woman’s Week: My Struggle Against Racism

BY KAREN FENESSEY 

There are some things in life which make me feel sick to my stomach. I don't know if you've ever seen the film The Colour Purple, but if you have, then you will understand what I am talking about.

I have always considered myself a fair and honest person – naturally, I became a teacher: someone who stands up and fights the hard fight for the rights of those less fortunate than me. That is why I oppose racism.

I think everyone in life should be allowed to live together in peace and harmony. It doesn't matter if you are black, or white, or Chinese or Muslim. If you are a decent person with a job, who doesn't commit crime or beg in the street like a dog, then you're okay with me.

When I was at the University of Strathclyde, studying to become a professional teacher, there was one coloured girl in my class. In fact, she was half coloured, half Scottish. Her name was Elizabeth Okpara.

I always went out of my way to make Elizabeth feel welcome: saying hello, offering a helping hand in a time of need or assisting her when she had trouble with her work. One day, I saw her in the canteen alone and I was sickened at how my class mates had alienated her, just because of her colour. So I sat with her because as a teacher, I am a kind and inclusive person.

She said that she didn't mind sitting by herself and that she often did it, but I sensed something dark beneath the smile. We ended up having a really friendly chat: she let me hear some of the 'RnB' she was listening to on her minidisc player. To be honest, I have never been a huge fan of MOBO, but that doesn't mean that I am a racist. To me, it is repetitive, shallow and dull. But hey, I am allowed to have an opinion and if people don't like it, then they can just remove themselves from my hemisphere because, to be honest, I don't give a fuck. In return I let her listen to my iPod, which I think that day was playing Run by Snow Patrol.

I found out that day that it would be Elizabeth's birthday in a month, so I decided to organise a party for her in the university. I told all my classmates about it and I was HORRIFIED by their insensitive reaction. NONE of them wanted to come.

About two weeks later, Elizabeth dropped out of the course and I believe it was my classmate's abject racism that caused her downfall. If they had only been inclusive as I had shown them, Elizabeth would perhaps be as qualified and happy and successful as me today.

I believe people like this should be locked up. No, not just locked up, but killed by gassing too. If I saw just one of my class mates again, I wouldn't hesitate to stick my boot heel into his eye. That is the only punishment fit for racist scum.