I posted the following on my Facebook page this morning.
I used to be racist. I used to be homophobic. I used to be sexist and misogynistic. I made jokes about slavery and the Holocaust.
I have apologised for my previous attitudes and have been able to progress and evolve into the person I am now.
If you believe I should, however, be forever judged by my past thoughts and actions, unfriend/unfollow/block/whatever me.
Otherwise, if you are willing to forgive me for my past transgressions and accept and judge me for who I am now, I urge you to do the same for all.
I was inspired to write it after reading the hatred being directed towards Toby Young. He is the recently appointed member of the board for the Office of Students; “the government-approved regulatory and competition authority for the higher education sector in England from 1 April 2018” (according to Wikipedia). The suitability of Mr Young for this role has been brought into question due to some historic tweets and comments he made. By historic, I mean tweets from 2009 and 2010. The content of his tweets and other comments was certainly in very bad taste. If you are particularly interested it’s easy to find, but I won’t go into details here.
So, as has happened recently with so many people, words and actions from many years ago have been brought back to public attention. And I’m talking about racist, homophobic, sexist, misogynistic or otherwise offensive, though not strictly illegal, words and actions. Words and actions that had been apologised for, forgotten by most, and in some cases atoned for.
I am not defending Toby Young. I am not claiming he is the ideal choice to be on a board that regulates higher education, after he had previously made grotesque and unacceptable remarks about children with learning difficulties, and the presence of lower class students at top universities. I am not saying that all his past transgressions be forgotten.
But in this society we have now, where social media is so prevalent, and anything and everything you have ever said and done can be made public, is rehabilitation and the idea of second chances now lost? Must we all be forever judged for who we once were, and not who we are now?
Having turned my back on my old ways, having left the prejudiced and hateful version of myself behind, where would I be if I had then been spurned by black, Asian and homosexual people I now have as friends? I’d be right back where I started; racist, sexist, homophobic.
So I put it to you who read my poems and ramblings, as I did to my (albeit few) Facebook friends. If you believe I should be forever judged by my past thoughts and actions, so be it. Otherwise, if you are willing to forgive me for my past transgressions and accept and judge me for who I am now, I urge you to do the same for all.
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