I seem to be coming up against a few recently from across the social scale. One minute my neighbour makes an incredibly racist statement against black people (she is in her thirties so should know better), the next my boss makes a very derogatory comment about where my family grew up and still reside.
It was at our team meeting today. To be honest he has mentioned it a few times in the past and I have bit my tongue and let him off. But this was one remark too many. We were talking about how targeted (or not) newspaper advertising is and he was arguing that people from a certain council estate in our area wold not be reading the Financial Times (i.e. people that would not be considered our target market). “OK I will tell my Uncle then who lives in that area to stop reading it as he is not the right demographic”. My boss looked very po faced but was still very joking about it as was I. However, on reflection, making sweeping statements about a group of people in society based upon purely where they live is no better than making a statement about a person just because of their ethnicity.
Why is it that in Britain it is OK to be derogatory about someone’s class, background or upbringing and to base assumptions purely on their social ‘breeding’. Quite rightly there would be public outrage and uproar if comments were linked to skin colour or race (like the case of the young woman who was suspended for racial tweets she sent in her teens that were still on the internet). But apparently to call someone a CHAV or to discredit them on no other basis than the area where they live is acceptable and even funny.
The situation seems to be getting worse rather than better and class rifts seem to be deepening. Those in the ‘working class’ category are getting even bigger chips on their shoulders and those in the ‘upper middle’ are becoming more and more ignorant. Youth doesn’t seem to make a difference either. I have come across teens with so many plums in their mouth I need subtitles to understand them and I have come across my contemporaries who have requested a level of social cleansing at their child’s pre-school insisting teachers refrain their children from playing with ‘those from the estate’ . The have’s only talk to other have’s and the have-nots cluster in defiance with other have-nots and n’er the two shall meet. It seems I am a rare breed of person who doesn’t fall in either camp and loves the stigma attached to local authority housing because you can pick up a good well-built house relatively cheap.
It is a social tension that seems to be building not lessening and might go some way into explaining the uprising 2 years ago in London. The anger that comes through the lyrics of Plan B has a root and that will only grow as the class divide intensifies.
OFSTED’s new head, Michael Wilshaw, quite rightly believes that private schools should play more of a role in the support of the state system. If he can make this happen this would be a step in the right direction as I strongly believe these prejudices start and develop at school and the private/ state system we have in this country is the UK equivalent to the Berlin Wall.
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Thanks for reading.