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Perspective: Injustices aren't always so black and white.

Byline: Jo Ind

When a black woman is told she can only have a white artificial limb, we can all agree it is not on.

Ingrid Nicholls from Berkshire who is due to have her foot amputated was offered a white artificial replacement, even though she is half West Indian.

When the 46-year-old was shown a selection of prosthetic feet in the hospital, she said: 'Obviously I will have one to match my leg colour,' but was told: 'I'm afraid not. They only come in pink shades and if you want anything else you have to pay for it yourself.'

She protested in great distress and in the end the Royal Berkshire and Battle Hospitals NHS Trust admitted it was wrong and found the money for a foot of her own skin colour.

It's an interesting story because having one black foot and one white foot is such a graphic image that anybody can understand this woman was being treated in a disgusting way.

And yet things of this kind happen every single day and we literally and metaphorically can not see it.

When a West Indian man is going for a job and he changes the way he speaks so he sounds more like the all-white interview panel, it is like a black woman wearing a white limb because that is all she has been offered.

When a woman props herself up in a bar and starts bragging and braying with her all-male colleagues because that is the only way she can get on in her work, her situation is analogous to that of Ms Nicholls.

The difference in these two examples is that the woman and the West Indian man have the opportunity to modify their behaviour, whereas Ms Nicholls cannot change the colour of her skin.

But that does not mean they should have to adapt. It does not mean it costs them nothing.

A gay friend was telling me how he walks in a different way whenever he goes to a builder's yard -he chews gum, grunts and gets surly.

He says he has only recently become aware of doing this and wonders how many other ways he has adapted in an attempt to conform.

In many ways it is the unconscious changes in behaviour that are the most costly and insidious. At least when a woman has one black and one white foot everyone, including herself, can see there's something wrong.

That is a better situation in many ways than those where the injustice goes on but is blithely unnoticed.

A survey by the Alliance and Leicester building society has shown that those planning to move house spend an average of pounds 2,155 on home improvements before putting the For Sale sign up.

The theory is that re-decorating, installing a new kitchen and improving the garden adds more value to the home than it costs to do. I have no doubt that it works, as that is the principle behind programmes like House Doctor, where Ann Maurice tarts up a house that won't sell and gets buyers as a result of the improvements.

But it does go to show how very unimaginative some people are when buying a home.

In one programme a house only sold when a room that was being used as a bedroom was turned into a lounge.

Are buyers so dull they are incapable of imagining what a room with a bed in would be like with a sofa?

I always thought the fun of house-hunting was in spotting the potential.

Research has shown that having a siesta significantly increases the age at which you die. I'm delighted to hear that.

The problem is that however much I see the sense in siestas, however much I know they are a way of life in other countries, however much I think there are no moral or ethical issues around the time of day when people get their sleep, I still feel like a good-for-nothing slob whenever I take a nap in the afternoon.

Couples with undiagnosed fertility problems will only be offered NHS treatment if they have been trying for a baby for three years.

How is the doctor to know how long a couple have been trying for? He only has their word for it and there is every reason to fib.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 28, 2003
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