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Richard Herring: What we should learn from the racists

Friday 31 May 2013 6:00 am
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Richard Herring explains how racists just see two types of people (Picture: The Boy Fitz Hammond/ NB Illustration)Richard Herring explains how racists just see two types of people (Picture: The Boy Fitz Hammond/ NB Illustration)

I’ve always thought being racist was one of the worst things you could be. To hate someone because their skin, accent or foreskin is different to yours is ludicrous.

And lazy. If I want to hate someone, I have to find out what they’re like and how they behave. It takes a lot of time. Just randomly deciding to despise everyone from Holland would make life a lot easier.

But are racists really that bad? (Bear with me here, I might be about to make some kind of satirical point).

If a man told you he hated all black people, you’d probably condemn him. But if someone else told you that he hated all humanity, you’d prefer him to the guy who just hates the black people. Even though the second man still hates the black people, exactly the same as the first one, but worse, he hates everyone else as well. I mean, at least the racist likes someone.

But there’s no logic to hating someone based on their race. There is a certain logic to hating all humanity. I have to work with you on a daily basis and you’re scum.

I’m a woolly liberal. I believe all people are the same and should be treated the same, regardless of their race, sex or sexuality. However, I’ve got a friend whose dad is English but his mum is from Asia… somewhere.

I can never remember where she’s from: it’s either Malaysia, Indonesia or the Philippines. It’s a source of great embarrassment and liberal guilt. He’s one of my best friends; I should know his heritage.

But to a racist, my friend’s just Chinese. That’s that issue sorted. It doesn’t matter that his dad’s English. It doesn’t matter that his mum’s not Chinese. He’s Chinese.

Let’s move on with our lives. To a racist, pretty much anyone from Hawaii, right through Fiji, up through the Australasian islands, Vietnam, Thailand, Siberia even, China and Tibet are all Chinese. A quarter of the world’s population, immediately exactly the same.

I see the world as 195 countries, 195 distinct types of people. To a racist, there are just four types of people. They’re 191 closer than me to seeing everyone in the world as exactly the same.

To a racist you’re either Chinese, black, white or the fourth type of person. The fourth type is the most amazing of all. It encompasses anyone from the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, North Africa, southern Europe even, right through to Mexico and the Hispanic parts of South America.

Basically, anyone who could be played by the actor Nadim Sawalha. To a racist, or a casting director, there is no difference. You could be from El Salvador or Iraq, you’re the same. It’s beautiful.

Consider the people of India and Pakistan. They hate each other. They’re on the brink of a nuclear war that would destroy the world. If only the people of India and Pakistan could see themselves the way a racist sees them!

‘Why are we fighting? We’re exactly the same.’ Most of the world’s conflagrations happen between peoples that racists would see as identical. Israel/Palestine; Serbs and Croats; North Korea/South Korea; Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Take a step back guys and look at yourself like a racist would. There would be peace in our time. In fact, the most extreme racists see the world as just two types of people.

You’re either white or you’re black. They’re just one step away from seeing everyone in the world as equal. You’re 194 steps away from that utopia, yet you dare judge them? Hypocrite!

For details of Richard Herring’s live dates and his forthcoming new Edinburgh Festival show We’re All Going To Die! visit