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Looking back at my childhood, I can pinpoint countless moments when I experienced racial discrimination.
From as young as two years old, I was made to feel different and deeply isolated. School friends couldn’t contain their confusion as to why I was a “nigga” when my mother was white. Neighbours presumed that because I had an afro, I was the cause for their child having headlice. When people called me ‘brownie’ at school, teachers would say that it wasn’t in reference to my skin tone, but rather, the Girl Guiding group. And my own mother plastered our staircase with posters from Save the Children with African kids who looked like me but lived beyond my reach. Even looking back at the last few weeks, my life has been a polaroid of racial discrimination.
To start, I was searched at a pharmacy because I looked ‘suspicious’ when reading the ingredients on the back of a Bio-Oil bottle. Then a security guard at an Art Gallery received instruction on his walkie talkie to direct me to wear a face mask, whilst my three white friends beside me grinned and wore nothing. Finally, for the umpteenth time, I wasn’t consulted at work for a matter that only I hold a relating degree in, rather, hesitant white opinions were crowned. It is an exhausting question, but when will racial discrimination end?
From my lifelong experience of racial discrimination, I have come to the sad conclusion that it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Yes, we can educate, express, and elevate our voices on a domestic and international level, but we must remember that we live in an unequal society where white people are riding a first-class train with no intention of giving up their seats to help those they deem as ‘different’. So, the question becomes how do we on an individual and collective level overcome the feeling of hopelessness in these heavy times?
First, we need to accept that the feeling of hopelessness is completely normal.
Every day, we encounter micro and macro levels of racial discrimination. If we don’t see a news bulletin of yet another police brutality or racially motivated attack, we are reminded that our racial differences are a negative experience through the umbrage of our expressions of it. I am learning to accept my feelings of hopelessness and reflect on their root because nine times out of ten they have a justifiable reason.
Second, we need to focus on solving problems and not people.
People are biased by nature, so trying to get people on an individual level to see past their bias is a long process of de-programming. Thus, if we strive to change the constructs that initiate and frame racially charged discriminatory views, then we are more likely to reach the masses and fuel sustained change. I am also learning to direct my energy into purposeful pursuits such as writing this article, as opposed to a constant series of micro-educating people who frankly don’t care, as it serves my needs as well as the collective good.
Third, we must remember the foundation that our ancestors have given us.
If we look back at history and the resilience of our ancestors during genocides, apartheids, and slavery, how can we not feel hopeful? The very fact that other races that aren’t white remain to exist is surely a testament to the courage, determination, and overcoming our ancestors went through and a torch we must carry on.
The reality is that racial discrimination exists, but we don’t need to live in the hopeless feeling that this will be the norm forever. It will be a long journey, but I am optimistic that there will be a time, beyond our lifetime, when the words racial discrimination rests only in history books and no longer exists as a lived experience.
BAME Wellness and Support Officer
- OU Students Association Anti-Bullying
- The Black, Asian, & Minority Ethnic Students Group
- How to talk about race at work
- Union Black: Britian's Black-cultures and steps to anti-racism
- How to be an anti-racist ally
- No more white saviours, thanks: how to be a true anti-racist ally