Eddie went in first. “I’ll be about five minutes Brum and then I’ll come and get you”. He said to me. I stood outside in the damp of a cold Plymouth winters night. I couldn’t tell the difference between the smoke I was exhaling from my Embassy king size and my breath.
Eddie said the club was open until two thirty in the morning and we were bound to be allowed in. Easy for him to say!
The nondescript door opened. “Psst, psst. Brum. Come on mate, we’re in.”
“Thank Jesus for that!” I replied, shivering. Eddie held the door for me and I entered the building. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting. We were at one end of a long, dark corridor. The only illumination coming from lamps high up on both sides of the wall and shielded with red diffusers.
“It’s just down here Brum. Stick close to me and let me do the talking. OK?”
“Whatever you say mate.” I replied.
As we walked along the corridor I could hear music, which was getting louder and louder. Eddie stopped. The music was now really loud and, I reasoned, coming from the other side of the wall on my right.
“Through here.” Said Eddie, pointing to a set of double doors to his right. “Remember, stay close and let me do the talking.”
I followed him through the double doors which sprang closed behind us. My nostrils were immediately assaulted by the sweet but heady aroma of marijuana and my eardrums pulsed to the hypnotic beat of Reggae music.
Suddenly we were surrounded by at least seven young men.
“Hey, Eddie man. Why you bring a Whitey to my party?” This from a tall but thin guy who I could tell was Services by the way he dressed.
“Easy there man.” Said Eddie. “This ain’t no Whitey, he my mate!”
“Him can stay but only cos I knows you Eddie man.”
“Sure thing, Raz.” Says Eddie.
“Come on Brum, let’s get a drink.” He added, pulling me after him.
“What the fuck have you got me into Eddie?” I asked. I couldn’t hide the anger I felt or, was it fear?
“Cool it man. They is all Navy. They just pretends to be Rastas. No worries just stick close.”
Eddie was twenty years old, three years older than me and all muscle, too bloody right I was going to stick close to him especially in that hostile environment.
Our peace didn’t last for long. Several guys took it in turns to barge into me and though I tried to ignore it I was finding it more and more difficult.
“Don’t let em get to you man.” Eddie kept saying to me. Then it happened! Some guy, high on Marijuana and booze pushed into Eddie, knocking his drink from his hand as he did so. Several guys surrounded me and that left Eddie isolated with Mr Angry.
Eddie looked at the man and said, in that glorious sonorous tone of his.
“Look man, you got beer all over the dance floor and somebody got to clean it all up. You the volunteer, eh man?”
“Mr Big! Bringing a Whitey into our club! I think I use you to mop up the booze.” Said Mr Angry.
Two seconds later the guy was unconscious.
Eddie walked across to me and put an arm around my shoulder. “Brum is my friend.” He shouted. “Anybody else got a problem with that?” No one had.
We stayed for a couple more drinks, as Eddie said later when we were outside, just to make a point.
That is a true story, it happened back in the sixties. I had been in the Royal Navy for all of four months and Eddie was my best mate or, “oppo”, as they say in the Navy. He came from Guyana and he confided in me that the Forces was his way out, his way of making it in the World. Yes, we were the ‘odd couple’ of the barracks. The sixties might have been “swinging” but racial integration was very much frowned upon, especially in the Forces. I know the hierarchy will tell it differently but believe me prejudice was everywhere.
For some reason, Eddie and I just hit it off. I was no different from the rest in my prejudice before I met Eddie. If I’m honest, I hadn’t really given it much thought nor had I had any contact with black people prior to joining the Navy. Therefore my prejudice was purely stereotypical, there was no real basis for it.
I found it really easy to be around Eddie. We had a similar sense of humour. If I did slip up, it usually happened when we were in the company of our mates from the Intake and after several beers, I’d tell an inappropriate racist joke and he would look at me in disgust before beckoning me over.
He wouldn’t bollock me or get rough, he used to take me aside and just say something sage such as.
“Don’t bring yourself down to their level man. Your seventeen and you gotta grow up quick in this mans Navy. If you was black like me, you’d have to grow a lot quicker.”
“Come on Eddie, It was only a joke.” I used to feebly reply.
“I know man and I know I’m in your country but you is my mate yeah?”
The answer, obviously, was ‘Yeah’.
Three months later Eddie was posted to another training base and we lost touch. I haven’t heard from him since and, to my shame, I have to admit that I have never tried to get in touch. I did hear through the grapevine that he became a PT instructor, something which didn’t surprise me because Eddie was never happier than when he was in the gym.
Why am I relating this part of my life? Easy really. I have never forgotten Eddie and I have never forgotten the bond that we had. He was a true gentleman and a fantastic mentor. In the short time that we were together he taught me a lot. The most important thing being that racism is a waste of energy. The old adage that ‘its what’s underneath that counts’, is oh so true.
UKIP is a diverse Party and I get fed up with being referred to as a racist because I am a paid up member and fully support the Party. I haven’t a clue what Eddie’s politics were or, if he is still in this country but I do know that he would be the last one to class me as racist and, further, he would be out with me campaigning just to help me out.
My point is, don’t let the opposition stereotype you. Be honest with yourself and you can be honest with the electorate. There is no room for racism in this country, from either side, black, brown, yellow or white. I don’t go in for the ‘diversity or integration at all costs’ mantra pumped out by LibLabConDem. I believe that good relationships and good friendships are built on understanding and knowledge. Understanding of a persons needs. be they religious, social or otherwise and knowledge of a person’s ethnic background, family and friends. Its not rocket science and it doesn’t mean that we all have to go out and make friends with complete strangers.
I am happy in my own skin and I give Eddie some credit for that. Like it or not; and I hate the word because it is so often used in the wrong context, we are a diverse nation and the United Kingdom Independence Party is a diverse Party. We are a tolerant Party and we stand by the Christian values upon which this country was founded, we are a Party of the people of Great Britain and this is what scares the pants of those who oppose us. All we have ever demanded and still do, is that this country take complete control of its borders. That is not racist, that is common sense. Take Eddie’s homeland of Guyana, that country has been in dispute with its neighbours on its borders to the west and the east for decades. No one in Guyana calls the government there racist. They back them fully because they (the government), not only protect their borders but ensure that free travel into Guyana is is available to all who are legally entitled. Is that such a bad thing?
I’m not a racist, I’m a realist and I think that this is the key. Britain has always been multicultural, wasn’t that how we were forged into a nation? We are who we are and we had better get used to it. This Party can do such a lot of good in this country but we have to stop being angry at the slurs that come our way, we have got to embrace our history, our heritage and, above all, we have got to instil some pride back into the people whom we meet and talk to.
This year and next are going to be tough, UKIP will be accused of all sorts of things and we as Party members have got to rise above it. We have to concentrate on the things which really matter, pensions, unemployment, the economy, jobs, housing, immigration, energy, transport. In other words, we have to concentrate on what matters to the people of this country, we have to concentrate on the fact that they have been ignored for the past twenty years or more. We have to concentrate on putting the electorate first because if we do that then there is a good chance that they, in return, will put us first.