I just downloaded The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird, a little protest against Virginia’s banning of these two books. It is stupid and makes the task of people like me, who has been fighting all kinds of discrimination since in my early years, all the more difficult.

Nevertheless, thank you Virginia as you brought to mind two books I should definitely read again.

I read Huckleberry Finn as a child – I would guess at 7 years old but perhaps earlier. To Kill a Mockingbird was one of the few books I wanted to read as a result of seeing the film, with Gregory Peck, in my early 20s. The only other film which I think prompted me to read the book was The English Patient. Of course the two books were better than the films, The English Patient much, much better.

I’ve only read the first couple of chapters of ‘Huck’ but it’s already given me a few laughs. Delightful!

My anti-discrimination journey

The first discrimination I remember was at primary school age. We had a playing field close to home with swings and a roundabout. Some other children were told not to play with us as we were not Roman Catholic but Anglican. I just couldn’t understand it. Religious discrimination is a terrible thing, as we learned later from, eg, Ireland and Bosnia.

My realisation that women were somehow disadvantaged began when I was working in the research laboratory in the late ‘50s/early 60s. I could not help but notice that all the lab technicians were female but all the researchers, including all section leaders, were men. This was despite the fact that many of the technicians seemed to me brighter than their bosses. Add to that all the new graduates joining the team were male but seemed to know nothing relevant.

When I was a child I never saw a black person nor an ‘Asian’, though there were some in the UK of course. The only thing I knew about black people was that in the aftermath of WWII we received at school oranges sent by children in Africa, black children!

The recent disturbances were not a surprise; if a section of the population feel alienated and know little if anything is being done about it they will eventually revolt.

Most of the black people I have known were Afro Caribbean. I spent a wonderful fortnight in Jamaica way back in the ‘70s. Suffice it to say that, in the days when I could go to Leeds, if I was feeling a bit down I would take a bus from the city centre to Chapeltown, where the majority of of Afro Caribbeans live, as I inevitably found someone to talk to on the bus who, with their infectious jollity, always cheered me up.

Finally LGBT. I worked for a time with a LGBT support organisation and was surprised that, as  the only ‘straight’ person in the organisation, I met some what you might call reverse discrimination; some of them didn’t like to have a ‘straight’ working there and made it obvious.

A ‘gay’ man played an important role in my marriage to Petronela twenty years ago.

 Vocabulary

The only objection I have to the LGBT community is, as a one-time teacher of English loving the nuances of the rich English vocabulary, I dislike the fact I can no long use ‘gay’ in it’s true meaning. Worse is although I have not any objection to LGBT people having a wedding, I object strongly to the corruption of the word ‘marriage’. I know there will be objections to this; I’ve heard all the arguments but will not change my mind.