What made me write the Ginger Ninja? well, the 1960’s was not the best time to be growing up with red hair. Britain was a pretty homogenous society. It was full of white people who pretty much looked the same, so anyone with red hair stood out. Immigrants of all shades and colours were pouring into the country at the time, but they kept to small areas of large towns and cities.
Some people do so love to hate – and there was no reason not to hate back then. We didn’t have political correctness or the media enlightening us to the dark goings on in society. (They were certainly going on at my country prep school – there were one or two great teachers, but we had to put up with psychopaths and pedophiles who were allowed to get on with their business in those days. (They were quietly moved on when caught in flagrante.)
Two or three times a term, when there was nothing else to do, the name calling would begin. I hated it and I hated the way the mob would smell blood and surge around me, pushing me to lose my temper – because that’s what red-heads do, right? A saint would lose their temper under such provocation. That was the generally understood law of red hair in those days. Red heads have red hot tempers. I’m now convinced it’s a race hatred of the Vikings. Oh! Did I mention I’m a Viking too? My Mother is Norwegian – I got it from both sides. I was different.
Eventually, I managed to control what had become a very violent temper and the bullying ceased – I wasn’t fun anymore. Maybe I’ll tell that story another day.
My son was born a terrifying shade of blue after a traumatic birth – I thought we’d lost him, but then he finally screamed – the midwife took in a deep breath and said, “Oh Dear! He’s ginger – you’re going to have trouble with this one!”
I wasn’t pleased. I thought that had all gone away. I’m lucky – my hair has gone very dark brown, so I’m not really thought of as Ginger anymore, so that remark brought it all to the surface again.
Also, in the intervening years there had been other people to hate. The Irish, the Pakistanis and the Carribeans got it the worst. My blood runs cold when I think of the stuff that would be put out on on primetime TV – remember Jim Davidson? Repeated casual jokes have a drip-drip effect. I’m sure I was just as bad as anyone – there was one Irish joke I was very fond of telling…
But that drip-drip-drip is poison. it desensitises us.
All babies are lovely until they get to the age of two and then they start to fight for their rights – It’s called The Terrible Twos. Most children are stood up to and put in there place by their parents, so they grow up fitting in. Red haired children are excused their behaviour – after all that’s what red heads do, right? They are given permission to have a temper which can only get worse. Each time they lose it, the trigger threshold for a temper tantrum is reduced until the parents and everyone else give in, after all, it’s in the blood – bad blood.
So, redheads are permitted to have a terrible temper and become prey to those who enjoy making others lose their temper. And school is where they find each other. It becomes a vicious circle, one that is very hard to break.
Now we have race relation laws to protect everyone but Gingers. I know blondes have a hard time of it too, but they don’t get the same, visceral hatred. I’m amazed at how often gingers are portrayed on the media as figures of fun – replace the ginger character with a black face and the name Ginga with the “N” word and what’s the difference? The race relations business doesn’t recognise red-haired people as being worthy of the same protection as other racial minorities. Ginger’s are fair-game. Can you believe 5,000 people signed up to “Kick a Ginger Day” on FaceBook before it was taken down. Again, can you imagine it ever getting that far if you replaced The “G” word with the “N” word? Oh my God! I just realised it’s an anagram!!!!!
That comment from the Midwife set me thinking long and hard about red hair and how it had affected my life. Perhaps the hardest lesson was to realise how desensitised I became to others feelings. Why should I care about anyone else?
Writing the Ginger Ninja was the beginning of a sort of therapy for me – a catharsis, the beginning of sorting out a very confused young man. I’ll tell you more about how all the ideas came together another day.
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