In your newspaper dated 12th August 2020 an article was published on page 38 entitled “Stop denying that racism exists here”, giving numerous examples of the racism experienced by Nicki Nathan. In response I would not, for a moment, attempt to deny that racism exists. As well as the very sad examples of overt racism of which the press and various media so frequently and rightly makes us aware, I would suggest that covert racism not only exists but is indeed a significantly greater problem, particularly in some areas, than is openly recognised.

That said, I am very disturbed by Nicki’s perception of racism here in the village of Box. In her article, Nicki states that she lived in Box during which time “…apart from my neighbours who lived opposite us, no one else in the village spoke to us, they would walk past our cottage with their noses in the air”.

I am not, for a moment, suggesting that Nicki is deliberately lying in describing her perception of racism, but I have lived in Box for 44 years. I know and have known almost every resident in Box over that 44 year period and I cannot, for the life in me, imagine that any of the people I know and have known would “..walk past her cottage with their noses in the air”, and I’m afraid I take great exception to being included in this massive generalisation and insult aimed at all Box residents.

Despite being a resident who has always been very closely associated over the years with almost every single member of the village’s whole community (I am Parish Councillor for Box, a member of Box Village Society, Chairman of Box Community Wood and Vice Chairman of Box Village Hall) I have no recollection of Nicki Nathan’s residence in Box, which leads me to question how somebody could live in such an inclusive community and yet remain unknown to me. Numerous residents, old and new, have come and gone in Box over the many years I’ve been here, and almost all of them enjoyed and joined in with the exceptional community spirit and large choice of activities that take place, but of course they all had to make a little effort to turn up and introduce themselves at one or more of the very widely advertised social events, after which I don’t know any who reported having been “racially excluded” (or, for that matter, excluded for any other reason). Of course neighbours cannot be expected to throw themselves at new residents in some sort of immediate welcoming ceremony (though some do, and we do have a “Newcomers Party” every year for the very purpose of welcoming new residents) but frequent local publications, including our own “Box News”, is distributed to every household and invites all new residents to join the community events. Most take advantage of the invitation to join in.

So yes; I would not disagree that some degree of racism exists almost everywhere and I support rational attempts to highlight and conquer it, but please be careful in your perceptions as to whether communities such as Box are really as overwhelmingly racist as you seemed to perceive and your article suggests, or whether perhaps your perception of racism is sometimes oversensitive. I do not remember your living in Box, but when you did I can categorically assure you that, had we met you, I and the majority (I’m tempted to say all) of Box residents would most certainly NOT have “…walked past with our noses in the air”. In fact, walking through Box is quite difficult if you’re in a hurry, as almost everybody wants to stop and talk to you, and long may it continue.

Steve Hemmings