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  • Writer's pictureSara Morgan-Beckett

Let's talk about Racism

Updated: Jun 2, 2020


Over this past week I’ve felt so enraged, I felt it was finally time for me to write about racism.


If the murder of George Floyd hasn't left you outraged, disgusted and ready to add your voice to fight against racism, you need to take a look at yourself. George was murdered by four white US police officers. George didn’t resist arrest, he hadn’t committed any violent act, it was over an alleged bad cheque. He was handcuffed, held down by three cops, one had his knee on George’s neck for NINE minutes. Literally until he died. They have been sacked, with one, Derek Chauvin, in custody on a charge of murder, but they all must be charged with murder. Then rubber bullets were used on the protesting crowds in Minnesota where children were present. Everything you need to know about the Minnesota police’s initial attitude to the murder can be summed up in the scene of 75 officers guarding Chauvin’s house before his arrest, protecting it from outraged protesters. And now President Trump has threatened the looters with real bullets showing little understanding that the rampage is their rage at how the black community has been targeted and another black man murdered, yet again. I’m angry. So I can only imagine how the black community is feeling. Hearing from friends in America, they are ready for a revolution. Members of the white community have spoken out to say smashing up insured stores and looting is the wrong way to express outrage, now I don't condone violence and destruction but it's worth pointing out that Colin Kaepernick peacefully taking a knee was widely condemned by white Americans too. Are we not witnessing a community who has reached their limit?


Things are far from perfect here in the UK believe me, but there are so many issues in America that go against the very core of my being. I have many, many good friends and loved ones in America but living there opened my eyes to the reality of what America is and the falsehood of the American dream. I have friends who know the very real fear of being pulled over by police as people of colour and this is something they have to live with every day in 2020. It sickens me and it brings me to tears. Especially on hearing of this murder. Especially learning more about what kind of person, a peacemaker and father, George Floyd was. While obviously there are those who wear the badge wanting to do their job correctly, the police murder black people in America. Unarmed black people are 5 times more likely to be killed by police in America than unarmed white people. The entire system is flawed; judicial, penal, legislative, political, taxation, housing, healthcare, education. It’s all stacked one way. And then there are guns. And while I know there are people overcoming barriers and so many fighting for what’s right, things are very much not right over there and I worry about how they ever will be. I lived in New York for 5 years and over that time I felt the segregation of the city loom larger the longer I lived there. As a visitor you think of it as melting pot but once you live in America the stark reality of the deeply corrupt ethos of the country becomes very apparent. Racism has been legislated for generations, it’s stitched into the very fabric. Yet from the outside it looks like everyone’s welcome with equal opportunity for all. That’s the dream they try to sell you. We may live in a different society in the UK but it’s important to empathize and understand the systemic racism in America and why Black Lives Matter. If you haven’t already, watch 13th, understand the history of slavery by watching Roots, 12 Years a Slave or Selma (there’s an extensive list to look up), follow Shaun King on all social media. And find out more here: theactionpac.com and www.justiceforbigfloyd.com


It is time to stand up and add our voices, to say; “I see you and this has to be stopped.”

I’m mixed race. I’m half Indian, half Welsh. I love the diversity of my heritage and I’m extremely proud of my Asian and Celtic roots. In April I was a victim of a hate crime. The neighbours, probably in their 60s, living next door to my parents have harassed Mum and Dad over a fallen fence since December (which incidentally my parents have no legal obligation to fix). My parents have had little to no contact with them, I have to spoken to the woman once when she knocked on the door and started lecturing my parents and making demands, it was a very unpleasant experience. So unhinged were her rantings and ravings - remember she came round on the pretense of discussing the boundary - that out of nowhere she escalated things by shouting about what she’d been through with “the murder” that had happened at my parents’ property before they were even the owners. Since her rant we’ve looked into this, there is no evidence that what she said has any validity. There was no calming her down so I told her to leave. Prior to this encounter in December, they ignored my parents for an entire year. They would speak to people working on the property but never to us. They'd walk off. It had crossed our minds that they may be racists as Mum is a Sikh, but we didn't pay much attention to it. We wanted nothing to do with them so we tried to ignore them but they began engaging in anti-social behaviour and harassment so I spoke to the police to get their advice a few months ago.


During lockdown I had to check on the property as my parents have been stuck in Spain in lockdown for months now, and I noticed a sinister mask hanging in the neighbours' window, facing my parents’ home. In fact the only people who would be able to see this mask would be my parents, it couldn’t be seen from the road. I took a photo.

As I did so, the man came out and saw me and started telling me I couldn't take photos of his house. He was then joined by his wife who started abusing me, calling me “revolting”. I said nothing, my children were in the car. My husband came to stand with me and I said to him to not say a word as she continued to insult us about the “disgusting” state of the garden. Then unable to contain herself any longer, she revealed herself to be the racist she really is. She spat, “Foreigners!” and “Weirdos!”. All of a sudden, everything they’d been doing came into clear focus, reframed with clarity, all ambiguity surrounding their actions gone. There’s a darkness to racial insults that cuts through to your core, it hits you on a cellular level. It’s not like name calling you can dismiss and brush off. Let me tell you how my body reacted in that moment, my heart started pounding, I felt under attack. Bare in mind I had not spoken a word to them, I’d simply taken a photo of the intimidating mask. But then racists need no provocation to launch into a tirade. I carried on collecting bluebells from the lawn for my daughter and managed to maintain my composure. I looked up and calmly said, “Did you just call us ‘foreigners and weirdos’?” She didn't reply, so I repeated the question, “Did you just call us ‘foreigners and weirdos’?” She said with haughty delight, “I said you were REVOLTING and not even your solicitor wants to work with you, they’re embarrassed of you.” (After several harassing emails, our solicitor already having told them the point of law, asked them to stop emailing) I responded, “We’ve worked with that solicitor for 40 years and you don't have a solicitor.” I got back into the car and gave my daughter the flowers. She’s 6, she was whimpering and said, “Mummy, I’m scared.” I said, “There’s nothing to worry about, sweetheart.” And then I turned to my husband and said, “I’m calling the police when we get home.”


The police reacted immediately and said this would be treated as a hate crime. Two days later they were spoken to and they were made to take the mask down. My parents have not even been there, they're in their 70s and this mask was facing their home. Again I’ll emphasise, racists do not need any provocation to behave the way they do which is why there is no reasoning with them. I can’t fault the police on their handling of the situation, they reassured me throughout that they took this very seriously as they do not tolerate racism. I felt heard and supported. I was so affected by what happened I had to speak to victim support twice, and that helped me immensely. Firstly, in understanding why I was so deeply affected by what was said and secondly, in reassuring me that my world view would heal and I would feel secure again. When I told my mum what had happened, which I did the next day, we both cried. I cried for her, she's 75 and has lived in the UK for 57 years, she was born in Nairobi, Kenya a British citizen to Indian parents, and has contributed to this society greatly, in no way is she a foreigner. And she cried for me, her daughter having to go through what happened. I told Mum I was strong enough to deal with it and to put a stop to it. The police offered me mediation as one course of action, I replied, “Absolutely not, I don't want to give them a chance to say anything else to me, and you can’t deprogram old racists.” They said they completely understood.


Racism has only been directed at me once my heritage has been made known. My skin tone is fair so I don't know being victimized as soon as someone sees the colour of my skin. I’ve witnessed it happen to my mum as I’ve stood right next to her and it has deeply affected me every time. Although I don't remember this, when I was 6, a doctor who was preparing me for an operation where I was to go under anesthetic to remove a cyst from my gums, spoke to my mother in such a way in front of me that my father wrote a letter of complaint which was followed up. When I was asked about what happened, Mum tells me I cried and said to them, “He wasn’t nice to my mummy, I thought I was going to die.” I’ve often felt enraged, like the time an old man kicked Mum’s trolley in Tesco’s as we were shopping and told her to get back to her own country and called her an “Arabian bitch.” I let him have it both barrels and his daughter couldn't look at me she was so embarrassed, I was 17.


When I lived in Australia in my 30s, I was at a lunch meeting and when the waitress asked what I wanted before I could answer an older broadcaster, who I had just met and had discovered I was half Indian, replied in a “bud, bud” accent that I wanted chapatis. He did this repeatedly as I tried to order, until I made my excuses and left the meeting. Afterwards he was made to apologise, he also made sure he added, “...but I don't know what I’m apologising for.” I lived in Australia during Kevin Rudd’s national apology to the Stolen Generations on 13th February 2008, it was a watershed moment. It was the first time a Prime Minster publicly apologized to the Indigenous people of Australia for the horrific policy of stealing children - a policy that went on from 1905 until the 1970s. If you don't know about this abhorrent history, look it up and watch Rabbit Proof Fence. Indigenous Australians are 15 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-indigenous, and more than 420 Aboriginal people have died in police custody since 1992. David Dungay was one of them.


Over the years people have let things slip because they hadn't realized my background. In my 20s, I pulled up a superior at the BBC for saying, “What, did they come in off the last boat?” in a meeting when it was mentioned that cleaners had entered the studio when the red On Air light was on. That person thought they had a sea of white faces in front of them and felt comfortable to make their “joke”. They fell over themselves to apologise when I said that my mother had come to this country in the 1960s and how offensive it was. I knew the apology was to prevent any further action, not because they’d seen the error of their ways. But waking them up to the fact they were not safe to make those comments hopefully made them think twice next time.


Don’t believe that racism exists in the UK? Well, you only have to look at how Brexit directly emboldened racists resulting in race and religious hate crimes doubling after 2016. The football pitch continues to be a place for racism, where over 50% of fans say they have witnessed racist abuse. Look at the 72 lives lost in a fully preventable fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017 and the handling of the fallout and rehousing since. The unresolved Windrush scandal, where many also still await compensation from the Conservative government for what they put them through just two short years ago. Watch Sitting in Limbo on BBC One on Monday 8th June, 830pm. It’s the dramatized telling of the true life immigration hell that 62 year old Anthony Bryan went through in 2018 after moving to Britain, completely legally, as an 8 year old in 1965.


Stormzy had the 250,000-strong crowd at Glastonbury 2019 chant F*ck the government, f*ck Boris and Dave, who won Best Album at the Brits in February 2020, made a powerful and emotive statement in his performance of Black that night, calling the Prime Minister a racist. In September 2019 in the House of Commons, Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi demanded Boris Johnson apologize for his comments in his column about muslim women looking like bank robbers and letterboxes. The PM has neither apologised nor acknowledged that his words contributed to the spike in racist attacks in Brexit Britain.


We’re in 2020, it’s no longer adequate to sit on the sidelines and be silently non-racist. Those days are over. It’s time to be actively anti-racist. That means adding your voice, calling out racist comments, no matter how “casual” or “harmless” they may seem, because I don't believe there is any such thing. All racism is dangerous. All racism is demeaning, threatening and comes from a place of fear, of otherness, of hatred. Tolerating it gives racists permission and when that happens, racism escalates. I’m done with the racism deniers, those who sit in their white privilege and deem to comment and deny someone else’s experience. An experience of which they have no knowledge because their whiteness blinds them. Or those who think staying quiet is a way to not get drawn into a debate that makes them uncomfortable. Whether you like it or not, you still reveal yourself because your silence speaks volumes.

We all have a voice and there is much work to be done to eliminate racism. We must vote out the racist figureheads, report racism, speak out in solidarity and educate ourselves in the experience of others and the long standing history of racism.

Ignorance is not an option, and it’s not an opinion either.


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