Last week I chose to take some time off from pupillage to focus solely on a project that I hope to share with you all next week.
The project has been full-time and so I have not had the chance to stay engaged or contribute to the critical conversations that are being had all over social media. But that project will make a more significant statement than anything I could post on here or on social media.
This will be a very brief post, but I think it is essential for people to know that the stories that are currently being shared are not exceptional.
All black people have them. Sometimes we would just rather forget. Here are a couple of experiences that I wish I could forget…
From my first day at reception and for a significant period of my primary school experience, I was called “chocolate boy” by some of the other kids. I had to deal with that every single day on the playground from just four years old. This became my first real experience of being “other” and unfortunately, one which lasted years. I have done everything I can to block out those years from memory and forget them. But, you never really forget, you just don't talk about it.
When I was fourteen or so, I was invited to Number 10 Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister. At the time, it was kind of a big deal to my family and me, and so naturally, I was excited. For a moment, I felt inspired. Everyone from school was so pleased for me and all of my family were really proud that I had been given the invitation. For a moment, I felt like my voice mattered: I mean the Prime Minister cared about what I had to say.
On the day, I travelled to London by train with my local MP who treated me really well. She told me all about the Prime Minister and what it was like to visit Number 10 Downing Street, which she had done many times before. When our train arrived at Victoria Station, I began walking proudly towards our destination. I was just a stone throw away from Parliament, the epicentre of democracy. The anticipation was building for me and I couldn’t stop smiling.
Then, I saw the police.
At first, I didn't think anything of it and continued to walk alongside my local MP, taking in the energetic buzz of the city and the people around me. My painful wake-up call to the way in which the rest of the world viewed me came at such anti-climactic force, as I (and I alone) was “randomly” stopped and searched. By this age, I had some inclination as to why I had been selected for the random search, although I couldn't shake the feeling that somehow a mistake had been made. Surely, not today?
My local MP also knew why I had been selected. She said a few words to try and make me feel better. But, for the most part, we didn’t really speak about it that day and I never really talked about it afterwards.
At the time I felt embarrassed. I felt like I had done something wrong. I felt like a criminal. I felt like every single person at Victoria station was staring at me. That feeling remained with me all day. If you look closely enough at the photo above, you can see that feeling on my face. How could I have the same level of excitement?
The truth is, when I think back to that day, I remember the experience of being searched by the police, but I can’t remember much about the rest of the day or meeting the Prime Minister.
There are countless stories I could share, including more in which the police harassed me. There are also more obvious one's which almost all black people have experienced, like not being allowed into the venue “because you aren't wearing the right shoes”. Yet, you just watched a white person with the same shoes enter the same venue moments before. I could also share stories about being called the “N” word or stories when I have seen white people singing that lyric, with all of their chests. There is a lot that I could say, but I won’t do it all today.
Sometimes we would just rather forget. But no longer can we do that.
If you do want to learn about more stories or educate yourself further on this topic, here are some posts that I recommend that you read:
Saffie Jallow Aidara’s Article here titled: “Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis showcased the UK’s denial of its own systemic racism”
Isaac Eloi’s Article here titled “Britain: You can run from your racism but you cannot hide. The time to do better by and recompense Black people in Britain is now”