My first experience of racism was in my home country. My first experience of class prejudice was in my home country.  I share this as a testimony that even when your race makes up 40% of the population, you can still be subject to racism. Why? It’s stepped in a history of colonialism, slavery and indentureship. Coming to England felt liberating; although, I was aware of the racism. Moving here was to be a fresh start, a possibility of not being judged on where I grew up. At least my qualifications and double barrelled European sounding name would allow to an interview. My life in England has been happy… mostly … enter 2020. The year started with the coronavirus followed by major protests against police brutality and institutional racism.  Allow me to share my expat opinion on why the #blacklivesmatter protests in the UK is not about copying America.

A Caribbean Education

I was born and bred in Laventille, Trinidad. It’s known for its history of gang violence and drugs, as well as, its contribution to Trinbago and Caribbean culture. The steelpan that rings out across continents has roots in Laventille. Early on I figured out to combat the stigma of my address, education was the key. Applying myself in the spirit of my national watchwords; Disciple Tolerance and Production, I made it to university. At university, I read Caribbean literature for the first time. Our literature began with the journals of slave owners, then came accounts of free slaves, moving on to histories of the region written by our island scholars and tales of the islands and stories of the West Indian expat experience. It’s safe to say, I learnt about England and the world through literature.

 

One Day In Canterbury

I was living in London for several months before I had my first overtly racist experience. Honestly, I can’t remember what was said but I do remember feeling impotent. I was an adult. How could I shout at kids in the street; even more unnerving, I was outnumbered. So, walked on. The moment was deeply buried into forgetfulness only to be unearthed last year. Hubby was jeered at by children in Canterbury town centre. You may have worked out I haven’t spent the past 19 years in the England fending off racist abuse. However, as I was reminded recently, ONCE IS ENOUGH. On occasion, it was heaped on my husband when we were out as a family or couple.

Discussing Racism In An Interracial Relationship

Hubby grew up in South East London. Being of Chinese-Italian decent, he’s had his fair share of run-ins. However, we don’t always agree on what are racial slights. To this day he still feels the name ninky nonk in Cbeebies’ In The Night Garden is racist. I beg to differ. If I’m constantly telling off the kids or him for drawing attention, he says ‘stop thinking that everyone is looking at the ethnics’. As people of colour, we can empathise, even though we don’t agree. He gets why I’m sensitive and feel vulnerable. No explanation required. I understand why he’s suspicious of certain words, phrases and actions. No explanation required. Expat parenting when you are in the minority has its challenges and as a mixed heritage family, 2020 hit us with a double whammy.

Black Lives Matter In a time of Coronavirus

When Coronavirus reached the British shores, we allowed the children to watch the news. We wanted them to know the details and be prepared if annoyed tried to tease them. Fortunately, they weren’t and before long the UK was in lockdown; schools were shut. Then, the murder of George Floyd happened in America. By this time the kids’ ears were saturated with news of Covid-19. They didn’t miss the headlines.  I had to pause my morning hoovering to explain. The clincher which made me cry and what everyone who is not black, or does not have a black friend, black partner, black workmate, black school mate; when it happens to one of us, it’s happened to all of us. The same way as a people we carry the weight of having to ‘represent’ our community wherever we are in the world. Generally speaking, if one is hurt, we all hurt.

family

Being A Part Of The Black community

 

No, we don’t all agree. Some Africans call West Indians decedents of slaves. Some West Indians say Africans as schemers. We each have our own nuances. Nonetheless, we a bound together by a shared history. If you lose a limb does the body not miss it? It’s irrelevant if the person was a saint or a sinner. We understand; no explanation required.

Of course all lives matter but no other race is tormented all over the globe as we are. We don’t have the luxury of booking a ticket and wandering wherever we fancy without concern for our personal safety. Just as white person can up sticks and move to Spain, Australia, Timbuktu, out of space or the deep blue sea without being asked suspiciously ‘why are you here?’ , ‘How long are you here for?’ OR accused of taking all the jobs from the national, we should be free to travel wherever want to if we meet the immigration requirements without further interrogation. Enough is enough.

We should all be treated with dignity and that is why what happened to George Floyd will resonate with black people globally. We are under attack and surveillance globally.

Over and out, here’s a Bob Marley tune…

IOW

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