The recent events in the US have really saddened me. A friend posted a video on Facebook from the New York Times of what happened to George Floyd (1). I watched it because I don’t want to stick my head in the sand.
I’ve experienced racism just a few times in my life. When it happened, it was frustrating because I felt I was being singled out for the colour of my skin or my race.
One incident was when I was a teenager and a group of boys followed me and called me “Chink”. I felt really uncomfortable and I couldn’t wait to getaway. In my mind, I thought why do you have to say that but at the time, I was afraid to answer back.
Another time was when I was coming off a plane and I was called aside to check my passport. It wasn’t at passport control, it was literally right off the plane. I would have been ok with it but my husband who is white was not stopped. We were together and I was frustrated with how he could just walk straight through and I was stopped. I remember feeling quite angry about it.
I cannot imagine or compare to how it must feel for those that experience these types of incidents every day.
Years ago, my history teacher at school, wanted to show us how discrimination may feel by treating some kids in a different way. He never actually did it because he didn’t want to traumatize us, but he told us what it would have been like. It was only later in life that I read about Jane Elliot, a schoolteacher and how she conducted the “brown-eyed, blue-eyed exercise” where she told the brown-eyed kids that they were better than the blue-eyed kids. (2). Throughout the day, she was putting down the blue-eyed kids. It helped the children to understand what it felt like to be discriminated against. You can watch her speak about it here – “There’s only one race – the human race” (3)
A few years ago, I read the book Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (4). It was fascinating to get into the minds of others. What stuck with me from the book was one particular scene where the black nurse is near a white lady and the lady subtly shifts her handbag to the other side. It’s these small everyday, unconscious movements that we may or may not be aware that we are doing ourselves. It really got me thinking about my own beliefs and actions.
Growing up, I heard stories of my parents experiencing racism when they first moved to the UK. They were often called derogatory names or told to go home. They said it happened a lot. That was back in the 70s and whilst, I know from my own experience that I didn’t have to go through what they went through, it saddens me to see that this is still deep in our modern society.
I’ve witnessed racist remarks from people in the past and am ashamed I didn’t say more to help them understand what they were saying could have hurt people.
I see many people speak about wanting to help and understand more. It got me thinking about what I can do myself and I welcome more suggestions too. Jane Elliot in her recent video (3) encourages us to educate ourselves. Like I mentioned before, I am looking into my own thoughts and beliefs, trying to become more conscious about them, asking where they come from and how I can change them.
I also believe that by opening up more and understanding from each other’s point of view, we will come to realise that we are all the same. We all have mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, friends, family, good days, bad days, hopes, fears, dreams and more.
“There is only one race on the face on the earth, the human race. We are all members of the same race” – Jane Elliot