"Not my business, is it?" (Diary of an engineering apprentice)

Submitted by AWL on 24 June, 2020 - 7:21 Author: Emma Rickman
Engineering plant

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

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