Friday, March 03, 2006

Look out of the window sometime...

My old people were discussing Africa today. Good grief. When they were in school they used to put a penny in the box every week to give the Africans clean water, and now guess what? They still don't all have clean water! Must be their own faults then. The problem with the black man is that he's lazy. Cue interminable reminiscences about how hard it was to run your business and look after your property in South Africa in the early nineties.

When I delicately led the conversation away, they turned to the numbers of Them living around here these days. I said brightly 'Would anyone like another cup of tea?' At this an old man stood up and addressed us all; 'All I want to say is, when was the last time you climbed to the top of a bus and saw a white face?' He then left, slamming the door behind him. The problem is, these old people don't realise that the reason they 'never see a white face' is not because there's so few of them; it's due to poverty. My old people are poor. So are a vast number of immigrants to the borough. There are 196106 people in this borough; 100799* of them are white. Many of these white people are pretty well-off. However, these well-off white people don't ride on buses. They don't shop in the market. They don't go to the library or hang out in the street during the day. They don't wait until after 9.30 to use public transport. That's because they're at work, like all the other successful, professional, middle class people of all colour and origins in this borough. The people who aren't at work, or who work night shifts and other antisocial hours, who can't afford to drive or use the tube and so sit on the 25 or the 15 bus all the way in and out of town, who are queuing at the post office at the same time as my old people; they're the ones who are predominantly non-white. Is anyone surprised? No; it suits everyone else to have this underclass doing the jobs we don't want. Everybody except very poor old Eastenders living on a pathetic pension; they alone don't benefit from these cleaners, caterers, casual labourers at all. They just see their East End has changed and their lives have got worse in the process. Can you blame them for not looking further than their next-door neighbours for the cause? I suppose they must be pretty short-sighted to completely ignore the shadow of Canary Wharf looming over the whole borough, a symbol of what’s really making all these people live in poverty.

*2001 census

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