Memories of the Attitude Towards Minorities in Laindon
My initial reaction to the question “what were the attitudes and opinions toward minority peoples in the Laindon that I knew as a child and as I grew to be an adult” is that there were very few attitudes of any kind and no thought out opinions toward minority peoples. It was simply not a thought that occupied people’s minds.
The demographics were such that the great majority of the population were white Anglo-Saxon protestant and almost every one else was Caucasian of some origin and belief.
The fact that, on our school maps, a quarter of the world’s surface was pink thus designating some form of British government or control was simply accepted as the natural order of things. There was no xenophobic gloating or jingoism.
Of course cowboys were always the good guys and Red Indians the bad guys whether it was at play or watching the Saturday morning flicks at the Radion.
The political correctness and super sensitivity that today mandates using exactly the correct term and going to extreme lengths to avoid any word which might give offence to any constituency was lacking.
Robertson’s jam and marmalade were free to use their little trademark of a ———- on their product. No one thought it pejorative or associated it with anything racial. That mind set simply was not present. In the west end Agatha Christie’s murder mystery, “Ten Little ——- Boys” enjoyed a successful run with no protests or accusations of pejorative overtones in the title. The title was descriptive. No more no less. Interestingly in the US, where it enjoyed similar success, the title was changed to “Ten Little Indians.”
The only non-Caucasian resident that I can remember was Dr Chowdhary. He was eminently respected. No one took any notice that he was not Caucasian. He was simply accepted for what he was- — a caring, hard working, skilled physician. My father always referred to him affectionately as “good old Chowdhary.” Quite why the “old” I do not know. He was a little younger than my father.
When I was about thirteen, walking along the High Road, I encountered a strange sight Walking toward me but on the opposite side of the road was a dark skinned man, with what appeared to be a white sheet wrapped around him, open toed sandals, bald or shaven head, and a staff. He was the first Indian I had ever seen. He looked remarkably like Gandhi. Enthralled at such a strange sight; I crossed the road behind him and followed him. I could hardly believe my own eyes. Such a strange person in such strange garb. In Laindon. I must have followed him for a hundred yards. At a respectable distance of course.
Attending Laindon High Road School, part of the curriculum was religion classes. What an imposition on personal freedoms that must sound like to present day young scholars if they are anything like young American scholars where religion of any form or expression is banned I do not think it did us any lasting harm! There were always two girls absent from religion classes. The same two girls. I learnt they were catholic and therefore excused from class. I wondered what Catholics believed and then promptly forgot about it No one else was interested
Finishing school at Chelmsford Tech I started work in the city. Saturday night was dance night with a few friends. More often than not it was the Archer Hall in Billericay. I met this charming girl, Ann Wiseman, who lived somewhere behind St Andrews hospital It took me a while to realize Ann was Jewish. In due course I took Ann home to Sunday tea to meet my parents. My father immediately took a liking to Ann. He couldn’t care less that she was Jewish. He thought she was the cat’s whiskers.
Some time later I was dating an Irish nurse who I met at a dance in Ealing, west London. Same scenario. I took Teresa home to Sunday tea to meet my parents. My father barely said a word to Teresa and it was plain that he only tolerated her. It was only later that I understood he was not opposed to her catholic religion. He disliked the Irish for a different reason. They were competition for the little work that was available and would often work for lower wages than their English counterparts.
The Laindon I knew contained a homogenous population. The great majority of us were white Anglo-Saxon protestant (at least on paper but I suspect fewer than 50% were practicing), exclusively English speaking, assumed everything English was better than any alternative, accepted this superiority as natural and God given and not to be bragged about, accepted the white man’s burden as a duty toward those less fortunate, while we lived in varying degrees of near poverty. Perhaps it was this homogeneity that, without the conflicts that seem to arise when there are substantial minorities of any description in a population, enabled the Laindon that I knew to be a tolerant and non-judgmental community. At least that is how I remember it.