I remember being 7 years old in Primary School and a girl told me I couldn’t play with my usual group of friends. I remember sitting on the steps of the playground and when I asked her why, she said it was because my skin was brown, which means it’s dirty. Another time, I vividly remember my friend’s dad marching us to the head teacher’s office and demanding the kids get punished for their racist remarks. I didn’t understand what was happening at that age, but I do know that growing up and gaining an education, where I could count on one hand how many brown or black children there were, did have an impact. I was different.
When you’re a POC (person of colour), your experiences are often very different in comparison to your average “white” person. I often find myself being the only brown person in the room. I remember my first day of uni and thinking “Great, I’m going to be the only brown person on this course, everyone will think it’s a joke me studying English”. Or another time, when I went on a training session and the topic changed to an arranged marriage. The group activity started and the people on my table looked straight to me for an answer. It took me everything not to scream “Arranged marriages happen in other cultures too, look at the Royal Family!” It was their misconceptions and stereotypes that annoyed me the most.
I’ve grown up and I’ve had to learn to accept dumb, condescending comments: “You speak posh like a white girl” (sorry am I meant to have a thick Indian accent, despite being born in the UK?); “You’re quite funny for an Indian girl” (since when did having a sense of humour derive from my genetics please?); “You’re so lucky you’re so white” (Do people not spend shit loads of money tanning their skin all year round? Do people not risk skin cancer to jump on a sunbed?). Am I missing something? It becomes more difficult when my friends and I are targeted on a night out by the bouncers on the door. Or when I’m booking holidays on a scale of “how racist” the place is to visit. If you know, you know.
I remember being on my way to Uni and experiencing the joys of St Pancras Station. A man was on his bike and just as I walked out of the ticket barrier, he nearly crashed into me. He shouted at me “Watch where you’re going you Paki!” And I was shaken. I responded, “Go and fucking educate yourself”, but it was nowhere near close enough to the conversation I wish I could have had.
Sometimes, I just feel like a statistic. I always wonder if I’ve been employed to diversify a team, to make it look good on their employee statistics. I remember I used to LOVE drama at school, but the chances of me going to a Performing Arts School and landing a role were so much slimmer because of the colour of my skin. Playing Snow White isn’t an option if you’re conveying anything other than, well, white skin.
The few weeks following the murder of George Floyd taught me that my experiences with racism have affected me, more deeply than I knew. That sometimes, I feel like the effects of hateful words have stayed etched on my skin. Yet, my experiences are so, so microscopic, in comparison to what black people still have to go through on a daily basis. I will never, ever understand. I will never have comparable experiences, but I do feel so strongly about the Black Lives movement, that I will educate myself, so that in turn, I can educate others. This is not about me or anyone other than the black lives that are directly at risk.
To the people around me who have benefitted from Black Culture and haven’t responded to the situation at hand:
Please understand that this movement is not something you can opt in and out of. If you are not supporting the cause, you are working against it. Saying nothing is the equivalent of accepting what is going on. The people with the mentality of, “What is posting a black box on my Insta and a link in my bio going to do?” are the same people contributing towards the issue. If we all come together to utilise our resources and use our voices, maybe the next generation will be more fortunate than ours.
To white people:
Please, please understand that white privilege really does exist. Please use your privilege for the better. Please educate each other to be kind and learn about the history. Watch 'When They See Us' and 'The Kalief Browder Story' at the very minimum, to gain an insight. It is never too late to address an issue head on and contribute towards the change.
To the racists and borderline racists:
If you ever find yourself in an unfortunate situation where you require a blood transfusion, a new liver, or god forbid a new heart, I hope that you learn to understand that we all bleed the same and are made up of the same anatomy. Being separated by our differences makes us weaker as a community. I hope that one day (soon), you are fortunate enough to gain an education and learn to understand beyond your tainted mindset. Do better and be a better version of yourself. You are the problem. You do not deserve a voice.
To parents and carers:
Racism and hate are learned traits. Please educate your children to be kind, but most importantly, please teach your children by being the role models they need to see. Let’s bring our children, siblings, nieces and nephews up in a kinder, more inclusive world, where it is normalised to see positions in power, filled with a more diverse range of people.
To the parents of black children:
I am so, so sorry for the losses and the hurt you are forced to experience. I am so sorry that the conversations you are having with your children, are the ones that involve addressing life and death situations. I am heartbroken that statistics and stereotypes try to determine the future of your loved ones. Please know that you are raising incredibly strong kings and queens that are paving the path to change.
To my 7 year old self:
You will advocate for Black Lives Matter. If you can inspire at least one person to initiate, challenge or change the narrative, you will be a part of something bigger.
And remember, they didn’t deserve to play with you anyway.
Key links and resources
This article was originally published on The Right Side of Twenty by Natasha Rani. You can view the original article here.