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Hello, my name is Aaron Parke. I am a white man born to white working-class parents. My Father was born and raised in Glasgow’s shipbuilding area and my Mother in a coal mining village in Nottingham. Both areas of the UK with very low diversity.
My Father left Glasgow at an early age, choosing to join the armed forces as a means to escape the inevitable apprenticeship in one of the ship building yards. This is where he met my mother who had, herself, escaped the inevitable job in retail to join the forces too. Inevitably, soon after they were married, I was born.
I experienced growing up in the armed forces with very few influences of a culturally diverse nature. I wasn’t protected from racist rhetoric throughout my upbringing. It was common for me to overhear conversations about non-white people that were obviously racist and memories of these conversations, ‘sound bites’ continue to have a negative effect on me now. I don’t know why or how I developed my filter for injustice that differed so greatly from that of my parents, but I did nonetheless.
I have spent most of my adult life trying to develop greater cultural competence and undo some of the harm done. I have got things wrong; I will get things wrong again, I have sometimes not picked my battles wisely, but I have always maintained that I will not be complicit by my silence should I see something happening that is wrong. I am equally keen to learn about my own ‘blindspots’, to do all I can to accept feedback of my own conduct in order to grow and be an ally who is trustworthy and reliable.
I have never personally experienced racism. Never will in this country. I do know, however, a good deal about how to identify it, call it and speak about it when I see it. I am far from fearless, but I move through the discomfort gaining strength as I do so. We have so much to do and I feel that the time is right for us all to transition.
“There is a kind of tension that is both healthy and necessary for growth. Society needs nonviolent gadflies to bring its tensions into the open and force its citizens to confront the ugliness of their prejudices and the tragedy of their racism.” MLK
Aaron Parke, Team Leader, HMP Dovegate Mental health Team