My driving instructor is a racist – By @isabellelj1

By Isabelle Johnson


My driving instructor is a racist

I found out last week that my driving instructor is a racist.

It was my fifth driving lesson. Driving through the grey outskirts of Raynes Park, dusk gradually turned into darkness. Out of nowhere, a silver Mercedes pulled out ahead of us from a garage way, cutting us up, causing me to break suddenly.

“What a nob” I muttered. 

“It’s not surprising.” He said to me. “Do you know why he did that?”

“Why?” I replied.

“Did you see the colour of his skin?”

Uncomfortable and silent, I finished the rest of my lesson, got out of the car and said goodbye.

I came inside and sat down, feeling shaken and disturbed by what I had just heard. His hateful racist statements were not only damaging and destructive stereotypes, but they had zero basis behind them. I felt shocked that people still withheld such ignorant and simplistic viewpoints. 

In the world we live in, particularly in a city as diverse as London, we are increasingly exposed to and accepting of different viewpoints and cultures. So how can people still hold such bigoted viewpoints?

Even mulling over whether to put this into a scab, I was concerned not to oversimplify the issue.

I wondered whether people still continue to uphold racist viewpoints because they simply don’t want to think of an alternative. Could it be easier to uphold extremely one-sided values? As racist hate-monger Harry Anslinger once said: “I have made up my mind: Don’t try to confuse me with the facts.”

How does this relate to advertising? 

As creative communicators, we have the power to shape people’s opinions on the world. We have great responsibility and power in what we put out for people to see. There has been a huge trend in campaigns help to promote the eradication of issues such as social and gender inequality.

But are people really listening? 

And if so, who? Is it just left wing smoothie-drinking yogi London hipsters?

What about middle-aged Polish driving instructors?

Something that comes to mind on the subject is the Brexit Leave campaign. I wondered whether my driving had voted Brexit on the basis of its hatred-stirring one-sided narrative. I am not trying to analyse the who, what or whys, but to me, the campaign was very interesting in how it provoked such an extreme emotional reaction from people. I do not wish to oversimplify the complex issue, however one cannot deny that the campaign strategy was disturbingly brilliant in the way it targeted people and in the language it used. The campaign’s extreme stance promoted an ‘us vs. them’ mentality, with its powerful and stirring call to action ‘Take Back Control’.

The Remain campaign, by contrast, was so neutral and balanced, it lacked any real emotion or call to action. If we call for harmony and unity, perhaps we risk coming across as boring and easily dismissed.

Does this mean that campaigns favour a one-sided extreme viewpoint? We seem to respond to shock factor. But campaigns can capture people’s emotions and make them empathise if done in non-patronising and cool ways. Take The Great Schlep, for example. A campaign that encouraged older Jews in Florida to listen to their grandchildren and change their racist perceptions around Barack Obama. This campaign was extremely effective and eradicated prejudice.

So while in the car I thought to myself, if you are inept enough to have this viewpoint, why should I try and tell you otherwise? 

But I was wrong.

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