This week's "Diary of an Engineer" tells a disturbing story about the racism which still needs to be dealt with in sections of our class, the working class.
A conversation from the fitter's office on my first week back on normal shifts. There are five people in the small cabin.
J: So he (S) texted me — "J, do you know this kid up your way? The really dark one?" I say "Well you have to give me a bit more to go on there pal, like what does his face look like? Have you got a photo?" He sent me this photo of this kid, laid out on the ground
J shows D the picture on his phone, who whistles and laughs
D: What's that about, then?
J: Went at him with a baseball bat, didn't he?
D: Fucking hell, he looks a bit out of it -
J: Well you'd know wouldn't you —
D: (Laughs) Yeah, yeah I've taken a few baseball bats in my life, J...
J: Apparently S woke up, heard this kid, said he wasn't really with it, slurring, and S grabbed a cricket bat — or baseball, I dunno — and "clock!"
(J drinks some tea)
So the neighbours called the cops — they're the ones who called the cops on S once or twice — cos they're hearing all this…
I: What, so S has clocked him on the front doorstep?
J: Yeah so they tell S they've called the cops and he goes and has a go at them, for not cleaning the blood off their front gate before the cops arrive!
D: It's amazing what you can get done for today, innit
J: Well actually S texted me — you should see the texts — I deleted them right away cos if anyone saw them, on his phone, on mine, he'd definitely get done. "J I've just clobbered this..." He's got to be careful with that, I deleted the texts right away.
Me: What was he doing? This guy S hit?
D: He was bothering the house, shouting at the kid's windows, bothering his kids.
L: If anyone was bothering my house he'd get more than a bat, I'm telling you now…
I: They'll send you on all kinds of courses for it now — training where you get "told off for being bad".
Later I talk with one of the apprentices:
Me: First day back, and someone's beaten up a black guy on their doorstep
J: I don't think it's racism though — the guy was attacking his house, he's entitled to defend himself
Me: He could've killed him, it's not right. And why was he at S's house? A stranger, nothing to do with S, middle of the night, sounded drunk –
J: Yeah but S didn't hit him because he's black, he hit him because he was bothering him, that's not racism –
Me: J said he sent him a text he had to delete or the police would "have him". I don't know what was in the text but it must have been racist or J wouldn't have deleted it.
J: I didn't see that part. We don't know for certain
Me: You sound pretty casual about this
J: It's not my business, is it?
Me: I thought S was a nice guy, one of my favourites
J: S's alright, he is a good guy.
• Emma Rickman is an engineering apprentice in a Combined Heat and Power plant