Lee Davy shares his own private feelings that rose to the surface during Wales’s iconic victory over England during the Rugby World Cup this weekend.
“They called you a gook! What’s a gook?”
Of all the places I had to be, at the time my Aunt shouted out that phrase, it had to be a Vietnamese restaurant.
Such was the ignorance of the people I grew up with, they couldn’t even get the country right, when poking holes so large, I felt my shame fall through them like a carcass hitting the deck in a slaughterhouse.
It’s so wrong to call someone a nigger.
It’s a little bit wrong to call someone a gook.
It’s whatever to call someone an English c**t.
It’s interesting how society defines the rules around racism and xenophobic behavior. Having been subjected to them both I can tell you that the insides of my body can’t differentiate between them. Both are designed to oppress and exploit, both leave you in arid isolation, and both leave you curled up in a fetal position wanting to sky to pour in and drown you in little fluffy clouds.
I was 10-years old when I moved to Wales from England. I am 40. That means, on and off, I have lived in Wales for 30-years.
So am I Welsh or English?
Which team did I support during Wales iconic victory over England in the Rugby World Cup this weekend?
When I moved here I was picked on continually for being different. The Chinese name-calling I understood, but I never understood the hatred that I faced for being English. What reason does another 10-year old child have for hating a person from another country?
As I grew older I used to ask my attackers why they hated the English. To do this day I have never heard a single decent answer emerge from those born from the dinosaur egg.
In the end I realized that they hated me because their dad hated me, and their dad before him and on and on. It was a by-product of societal conditioning. It was bullshit.
It was an important lesson though.
Fuelled by this hatred of the English I dived into my Englishness. I reveled in the splendor of it. I radiated in the glow of it. I wore my England football shirt with pride. I was vocal about it. I spilled more blood in that schoolyard than anyone I know.
These bigots would not squash me. I killed it by embracing my Englishness. I became a hardcore English football fan. Then they stopped hating me. They started to like me. It had nothing to do with my national pride. It had everything to do with the fact that they just got used to me.
“I hate the English…but you and your family are different?”
I will always remember that bullshit line spewing forth from my friend’s mouth.
Everyone is different.
They hated me, and then when they got to know me, they couldn’t hate me anymore.
Wales v England was always a very important event in the valley. When I was 16 my Dad allowed me to go to the pub to watch the game. All the men would gather in a dingy room upstairs leaving the women at home to clean, cook and look after the children.
There would be a comedian, then a sex act, followed by the game. I learned very early on that you should sit as far back as you can. You do not want a target on your head in that environment.
I was sat with my friend who was also 16. The naked stripper was walking in between the chairs. She placed a hula-hoop potato crisp on each nipple and shoved her breast between the heads of my friend and I. I looked at my Dad. He gave me the nod of approval. I opened my mouth and prepared to suck my first nipple. She leaned back and smashed our two young heads together. Tongue met tongue. Red cheeks met red cheeks.
Although the xenophobia that I faced from the Welsh created this little English nationalistic monster, it was only really football that drove that pride. When it came to rugby I always preferred the Welsh team.
Last night during the game I was indifferent as to who would win. I interviewed poker player Steve Watts before the game and he told me that the Welsh had no chance. I told him that I was English through and through.
That was a lie.
When the lad went over for that final try I cried. It was more than a Rocky moment for me. I cried because I was genuinely happy that the Welsh had won.
Am I Welsh or English?
I am human, whatever that means.
I have lived here the majority of my life, and it’s time to forgive and forget. I don’t like the ancient xenophobia that still exists today, but I know it comes from a place of ignorance. The roots are not strong. They are not digging into anything solid.
But old scars come back to life when you insert them into a new tale. My son was born in England. He is 14. I stopped by his Facebook page this morning to send him a message. He was poking fun at the English. I laughed. He was born in England, but in no way does he feel like he is English.
It seems nothing has changed. He is ashamed of the association to his Englishness, so much so that I am ordered not to discuss it with his friends. That tells me that the same xenophobic vitriol that made me curl up and cry still exists today.
It’s a shame, it really is. It’s a false hatred borne out of a sport. A sport that creates magical moments like it did yesterday. We should celebrate sport, and embrace the conflicts that they create with pride, passion but most of all respect for our opponents.