If They’re Black

As I trot up the thirty concrete steps from the platform at Bank Hall I feel it looming toward me. The sun is beating down on the railroad and the heat rises up in waves to the road above as the giants roll under the bridge, the day is absolutely beautiful, but I know its there.

I pass over the bridge to look out on Kirkdale station, I dont know why but I’m walking towards it on purpose. Its grotesque, and I hate seeing it, it ruins my day – but I have to look. Articulated lorries cough and stutter at the lights, the air is suffocating and the fires from the dockland could make you believe the world was ending. Who wants to build a fire in this heat?

Ive looked away as long as I can. I look at the pavement, willing myself to look up, and eventually snap my head bacl at the last second. And there it is. Its on the other side of the drop, over the bridge on the opposite wall. The wall is coal black, as if the air round here had once had chance to settle and that was the result. Six rough patches of sickly magnolia paint, on which is daubed

“IF THEIR BLACK SEND THEM BACK”

I stare at it, as I always do, and feel the now familiar prickle up my spine. First of all that fucking spelling mistake. The irritation that anybody thought for a single second that this was ok to do, and worst of all the absolute shame.

At least with the summer leaves on the trees its partly obscured, but it doesnt matter. I know what it says. Every groundsman on the railway that lifts his hand to wipe his brow has seen that scar on the landscape, the endless stream of lorries that pass cant miss it. The dog walkers hang their heads and pretend not to see it, and the kids who pedal bikes from corner to corner have known it all their lives.

Its not in an easy place to cover up, its hundreds of feet up on the railway bridge, and unless I had the hulk dangle me over the side id have no chance of removing it myself, and the council dont seem to think its a priority – that graffiti looks older than me. 

Its been there all that time. Decades of people walking and working above and around it, and nobody bats an eye. It makes me ashamed, that I live on this street, that people will judge my area based on things like this, that kids in these streets are so accustomed to hate in the world around them, that it is allowed to exist in the midst of this city of migrants and industry.

Racism in America is the biggest scourge on that country, it is the one tool used most effectively to divide and conquer the people. People who have been conditioned for generations to ignore and excuse racism in order to preserve the exploitative system it aids.

I walk down my street and I cannot understand how such a disturbing image is absorbed into the every day. This city is famous for the historic slave trade that built it, there are streets named after slavers all over it from corner to corner. This city was ripped apart by race riots in toxteth and has seen some of the most awful hate crimes paint its streets.

And for all of our progression, our industry, our solidarity through tragedies such as Hillsborough and James Bulger, our famous working class actions, trade unionists and even cries for independence – for all the good in Liverpool, this evil still lurks. In the heart of each of us in kirkdale who walk past that monstrosity and say nothing, do nothing, we perpetuate this culture, this idea that it is ok. 

We show the world each and every day that we dont mind it here, and I am utterly ashamed.

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