We were talking about the sound of Chinese with a white english friend who I haven't seen in ages because she has been spending lots of time in China and now speaks some Cantonese. I commented that Chinese is so hard to learn because the sounds are so different from English. I just can't get my head around the sounds of the language. It's just so wierd to my ear. B started to say something and I cut her off. Whenever she opens her mouth I expect - and usually get - some kind of racist comment.

She is a young ex-student of mine. I taught a short course around anti-racism, "race"-awareness and museology and even at the end of the course, she made decisions and said things that were so unthinking and overtly racist I couldn't believe I had failed so badly to teach her.

I have based much of my work on the idea that liberals, and other people who don't want to be racist, who believe in equality, will, when faced with their own prejudices, assumptions and stereotypes, want to change. That the issue is around liberal guilt and denial. That for the vast majority of liberals, issues around "race" lurk in the unconscious and fester and so the only way to change things is to bring these issues to light and talk about them openly.

B is proof that my assumption is wrong. Some people are quite happy to be both liberal and feel superior, laugh at others, and yet believe they believe in equality.

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