From Ariane Sherine, The Guardian:
Looking a bit brown still means being asked where you're from. So here's a ready-made answer for the overly curious.
Last weekend, I had The Conversation for the 3,897th time – and this time, it took place in central London just two roads away from the hospital where I was born. As usual, it went like this:
Stranger: Where are you from? [Translation: You look a bit brown. Why are you brown?]
Stranger: No, where are you really from? [Translation: You are clearly telling me untruths. Brown people do not come from London.]
Puts in a less controversial manner the reality that Brits do have people pigeonholed (Yes, yes, I'm a Brit).
"Me, I'm not a racist. Nah, not me"
"So do you actually know any black or brown people?"
"Well, there's the guy I buy the paper and milk from".
"That doesn't count, really, does it? Do you have any black or brown friends?"
"Errm, are you accusing me of being racist?"
You see, multy culty Britain and the de rigueur political correctness means everyone has to say the right things to fit in, but their actions can tell a very different story?
Turn the argument on its head. The country is still firmly wedded to a class system where, at the top, they quiz you to establish whether you are "one of us". At the bottom, they quiz you to be sure you don't rise above your station. Can you really imagine such a social structure easily accommodates friends (no not colleagues or shopkeepers but friends) of a different colour.
Sure there are loads of people who love their friends, first of all for the person, and then for their otherness (colour blindness is as racist as colour sensitivity, the real test of a non-racist is someone who embraces difference, not someone who ignores it).
Ariane may find the person asking about her origins is very much interested and open, and not at all racist.
However, her point is that she does not see herself as an "other culture" and so gets more than a bit weary of people checkin' out the skin.
I write as a white boy who grew up in Nigeria, Brazil and Trinidad so unlike 99.99% of white Brits, I've experienced racism the other way. So I think about it another way.
Of course I'm not talking about stupid statistics telling us X per cent should be integrated.. (which seems to be the way the current social services/bureaucracy and wannabe social planners in the government see it).
Anyone is free to choose their own friends. But then, if, as one commenter wrote, "Given that the country is 94% white, it stands to reason many white people would not have any black friends" (and I agree, given the geographic distribution of minorities in the UK) then I'm correct in simply pointing out that for vast numbers of white Britons, the only black or brown person they're likely to come across is someone working in the service sector or, perhaps a colleague, and not someone they've chosen to meet.
Result: Nothing to blame people for but an unavoidable ignorance of other cultures.
I'm not saying it should be otherwise - or making any moral judgement. Just observing.
And what I see is a different nation to the Britain that the BBC and the government claim to reflect.