THEY’VE not yet learned the power of their words.

They don’t realise how “lucky” they are to live a society that was built by people like them, for people like them. They haven’t ever been the only person who looks like them in a room full of people. They haven’t been silenced by someone else’s privilege.

Before Christmas my friend wrote a thank you note to Glasgow that was published in a national newspaper. Sharing stories of welcome, of gratitude and of how safe the city made them feel. A story we hear regularly and are proud to share. However more often than not the sequel to these stories are very different.

The initial welcome is kind, the tailored support is comforting and encouraging and then when people head out into the mainstream, to college or to work the reception is different. They are no longer cushioned by the diversity and shared understanding that you find in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes.

The only mature student in the class, the only student without white skin, the only student without a Scottish accent, one of only a few females in the class and the only person who learned two other languages before learning English. And for far too many, the only one being subjected to daily abuse from their classmates or workmates.

Classic “you’re not like us” bullying that displays itself through behaviours like mocking voices, exclusion from group work, snide comments and faces being pulled when they do find the confidence to actually speak.

These aren’t isolated incidences. They are not our dark Scottish humour, our banter that we are world renowned for. It comes from a darker place than simply spotting the difference and shouting about it.

These words are born out of xenophobia and racism and whilst we are continually told that our workplaces, our education establishments and our public spaces have zero-tolerance policies on these types of behaviours, it is tolerated.

It is still so prevalent and often so subtle, that we select to ignore it rather than to call it out for what it is. We look away, we silence ourselves and we encourage others to do the same, “just keep your head down” because it’s easier.

We are not taught from a young age to challenge and to discuss the details because of fear. We are preventing our young people from properly engaging with others throughout their adult life because we are silencing and covering-up the discussions that need to take place.

It begins at the white-washing of our history. Do our young people know that over a million Indian soldiers fought for us during World War One? Do they know that this figure included soldiers as young as 10 years old and that almost 75,000 men and children lost their lives during that time? Do people here fully understand why 15,000 Caribbean men came here to fight and why those million Indian men also fought? It was for their freedom and we didn’t deliver. They helped us defend our freedom and we didn’t give them theirs.

But while our history goes some way to explaining the present, it does not excuse it. We all have the capacity to learn and to educate ourselves, and we should not be dependent on those who have experienced oppression to deliver that lesson.

We are kidding ourselves and those that we supposedly care about by staying quiet. In our silence we are complicit.

We are allowing our shared spaces to continue to exclude and silence the very people that we need to improve them.

This means we once again abandon people who are already exhausted from the emotional labour of explaining and evidencing what is wrong with the situation. The privileged are required to speak out because unfortunately they are still heard far louder than anyone else.

So if you are the teacher of the person who you know is being excluded by their classmates; if you are the quiet person within the group of friends excluding that individual; if you are the parent listening to their child share a story that hints at the exclusion of a person because of their differences, speak up. Use your voice. Share your experience of being the excluded person because we all have that story.