Once upon a time there was a town called Wellingtown…
In one part of the town lived the relatively well off and well-healed. The people were overwhelming white, had cars and travelled mostly by car. If they are not retired on good (salary related or private) pensions they are employed in good jobs with high salaries. They might even find time to play golf during their working hours or have a relaxing lunch at a nearby garden centre. Their houses are spacious, well maintained, of good quality, with gardens – some quite large. The houses, because they have quite a lot of space, can easily accommodate the three rubbish bins that are provided by the council. The general area is relaxed, quiet, and tree-lined, with no on-street car parking – you rarely see anyone around. Although the area has relatively low crime levels the people worry a lot about this – even though they shouldn’t really. They tend to vote Conservative, because they are happy with their lot in general (but this doesn’t stop them moaning about things – particularly about their deepest anxieties around those people who live elsewhere in the town!), they resent paying taxes (if they are not avoiding them) and they certainly don’t want taxes to rise or more money spent on public services (other than the ones they use and then they want them exclusively for themselves – but paid for by the taxpayer, of course). If they have children they either take them in the car to the best state school or they drive them to the exclusive “public” school on the opposite side of the town, where their children only meet other children like them.
In another part of the town the community is very diverse, with people from all over the world and of varying religions. Housing is relatively cheap, but some of it is not of good quality – particularly housing that is rented. People care about their small terraced housing, but they struggle with on-going maintenance and repairs. The houses have very small gardens (more like back yards), but there are some local parks nearby for the children to play in – but parents worry if they are safe. In general crime is higher that in the other part of Wellingborough. The people are generally much poorer: if they are not unemployed or disabled or retired on a meagre state pension or income support, they work quite often in low paid jobs for long hours. They might even have to ask for permission to go to the toilet. Although quite a lot of people have cars in this area, people often walk to the local shop or community centre or park or religious centre – or just to visit friends who live nearby. But the cars are a bit of a problem as they clog up the streets – alongside the dustbins that are left on the pavements because people don’t have the room in their houses or “gardens” to store them. The people in this area of town, if they vote at all, tend to vote Labour or socialist. Children generally walk to their local schools nearby – and sometimes they struggle to get into the best schools (even if they not so far from where they live) because the children who live in the other part of town are seen as more desirable and “clever”.
This is the tale of two Wellingtowns. Citizens of the same town - but living almost separate and unequal lives. It is doubtful that many people who live in these areas actual visit the other area – so they are mostly unaware of the differences that exist – or even care.
These two Wellingtowns, you would have thought, might enjoy at least one or two things in common (afterall both areas have roads and pavements for example), paid for by the council and, we are told, council services are provided “equitably and fairly” to all. But is this really true? If you follow this web-link you might see some imaginary (its a fictional story right!) photographs of roads and pavements in these two areas.
A Tale of Two Wellingtowns
I dare you to guess which photos apply to which of the two areas.
And the moral of this story is…
Wellingtown does not exist, of course, and there may well be more than two areas that could be compared. But I invite you, dear reader, to see this story as a metaphor of how my own town (and indeed many other towns and cities across Britian) is divided – between the “haves” and the “have nots”, between the “deserving” and the “undeserving”, between “us” and “them”, between the relatively poor and the relatively wealthy. Even when it comes to walking down the road, or driving down the street, the experiences are very different and unequal. This, I suppose, is what discrimination looks like – it may not be deliberate, it may be rather banal (in the case of roads and pavements), but it’s insidious, it’s cumulative, it’s unfair, its immoral and it should not be happening in the 21st century.
The local Council and civic leaders in Wellingtown may well ask its citizens to take “PRIDE” in their town(paricularly when things are not looking too good). But this may be easier for some than others because, as we have seen, there is not just one Wellingtown but.....at least two and may be more! Which one should they be proud of?