Discrimination Red(ux)

By Frisco Rosso

Discrimination comes in all shapes and unpleasant forms, but I’ve never quite managed to get my head around the concept of “Gingerphobia” that seems to be sweeping through the UK with increasing momentum.

In my formative years, I remember there being a handful of kids at school with red hair.

One or two formed part of the “hard crowd” (in other words, making eye contact could result in a fat lip or worse), while the rest were subdivided into the usual school cliques.

Perhaps the rundown school I attended was unique in that I never saw or heard of redheads being singled out, ostracised or bullied on account of their natural hair colour.

In fact, it was not until I began studying for a degree in dithering and procrastination at university that I became aware that there are one or two people out there who positively hate red hair for whatever reason and there are others only too keen to join the witch hunt.

I recall being out one night years ago with a couple of friends, spending our meager student wages at some dingy tavern that should have served drinks with a health and hygiene warning.

I’ll be damned if I’ll cast the first stone, seeing as how we’d sunk enough booze to be wobbling a bit, but an archetypal piss artist with all the discretion of a dog’s testicles shambled up to the bar where we were standing.

Accosting the redhead of our group, he said something along the lines of, “Giiiiiinger are ye? Bit f***ing weird but I’ll allow it. So, do de collar and cuffs match? I’ve always wan’ed to know wiv you lot!

What the hell is the obsession with redheads’ pubic hair, or anyone’s pubic hair for that matter? What do you think fuckstick, jet black??? What’s it got to do with you anyway?

Being three sheets to the wind, sadly this retort didn’t spring to mind until the next morning, but my friend who was a little more lucid than I at that point could say little more than, “none of your business actually”, before making for the door and promptly bursting into tears outside.

The aforementioned piss artist’s parting comments, “Aw, don’t be like that luv, gingers are people too, sort of,” obviously didn’t help, and I was in a state of massive confusion as to what had just happened.

As the three of us stood outside, swaying majestically in the breeze on account of our drunkenness, our friend told us how she had grown up absorbing taunts and insults because of her hair colour and that this had been the second time that week that a grown man had insulted her on the subject.

I remember trying to be sympathetic but it was one of the most bizarre things I’d ever heard. Sure I knew of discrimination aplenty in other forms and had experienced it, but red hair, really? Since when was hair colour ever an issue? Apparently it has been for centuries.

Negative stereotypes stemming from the Bible, English disagreements with the Celts and superstition from the middle-ages seem to have reemerged in the last fifty years in the UK and further afield with some alarming consequences.

Reports of redheaded families being forced from their homes and redheaded children being stabbed on account of their hair colour and complexion read like excerpts from Mein Kampf, and based on this one might assume the issue is spiraling out of control.

Journalists and talking heads in the UK have played down “Gingerphobia”, saying it is nothing but a harmless joke and that those offended by ‘ginger’ comments should lighten up and stop being so sensitive. But still, discrimination is discrimination and social redlining (no pun intended) of individuals with red hair is becoming a worrying reality.

I confronted a work colleague once and asked what his issue with redheaded people was. He said quite openly, “I hate them because of what they look like. How could anyone want to be friends with them? I don’t like them and I’ve got nothing good to say about them. I’m not afraid to tell them so either”.

Okaaaay…. so maybe it’s down to personal preference as to what you find attractive, or with whom you interact, however shallow the rationale may be. But at least keep it in perspective. I don’t like cats, but it doesn’t mean that I’m going to walk past one bawling “you pointless furry wanker”, or make snide remarks behind it’s back in the hope it will run home and weep into a bowl of milk.

If I’m not into something that has absolutely no bearing on my life, interests or wellbeing, then why would I bother wasting energy on it or jump on a superficial bandwagon with a handful of simpletons intent on dragging down or beating up on someone for the sake of a cheap laugh.

Judging people based on their physical attributes (excluding those who may have fascistic insignia inked onto their skin, Nazi swastikas and the like), is pretty low but I know full I’ve done it in the past.

But I’m not so much of a prick that I don’t know that calling someone a sneaky bastard is fine but calling someone a sneaky – insert race, creed, religion, nationality, gender, sexuality, disability, hair colour, age, waist size etc – bastard just isn’t going to cut it.

Yup, to some this probably reads like the rant of another bleeding heart leftist, liberal, greenie, save the whales, slacker, always looks for the best in people, hurray for every tosser who has an issue with seeing others put down. But I couldn’t give a toad in the hole.

I just hope that humanity will eventually pull itself together and judge people according to shades of the mind rather than the pigment that insulates it.

Just keep it mind, the next time you feel the urge to point out the obvious to a redhead you can congratulate yourself on knowing your colours. Maybe the day after you can learn your numbers too.




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