Monday, August 26, 2019

Being a Person of Colour in the UK

This past weekend I was in London.  My husband N and I wanted to take our two children into London in order to see some theater on the West End.  It was something we were all looking forward to and was to be a weekend that was one of the highlights of our summer.  It was also a nice time for the four of us to spend some time together and see some sights.  Two things happened over the weekend that I wanted to share today.

The first thing happens so regularly that I cannot even count the number of times it's happened:  The four of us enter a restaurant in a group all at the same time, obviously a family of four.  The hostess takes one look at us and says 'Table for three?'

This photo is to help anybody who might not be familiar with what my absolutely beautiful family looks like.  N is of Indian descent and together with my half Native American heritage everyone else in my family has a darker shade of skin than me.  Because of this strangers all over the place take one look at my family and decide that one of these things is not like the others and I am it.

So, we stayed in a hotel equidistant from the two theaters we were planning to visit.  And we come out of a tube station and go to stand at a cross-walk and we're standing with a group of people who are already there. Within seconds of standing at this cross-walk this older white woman taps me on the arm and when I turn to look at her she says in this loud, exaggerated way, 'If you need to cross the street, you have to PUSH the BUTTON.' then nods her head to check if I've understood her.  She even pushes the button as a demonstration.

I give her two shocked blinks before I say 'I know that.' and she comes across all, 'Well, I was only trying to help' but somehow this time around she manages to speak to me in a normal tone of voice without the unnecessary pauses and emphasis on words. She even manages to look offended when I go to stand on the other side of N, and ask 'Did she just speak to me like I don't understand English?' because I really needed someone else to validate that that was a thing that had just happened. 

These things were just two little things that I happened to remember when I came to sitting down to write this.  Due to the regularity of these types of experiences it didn't affect the enjoyment of the musicals we saw or the time we spent together.  But it does make me a little sad.  That these are still things that I, or other POC, experience on a regular basis.

For these reasons, it's definitely necessary for this book, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge to be out there in the world.  She very intelligently puts into words a lot of the thoughts and experiences, things that make me angry about being a POC in this world (but specifically about living in the UK).  I've written a (very) little bit on this blog about some of the racism that I've dealt with in my life and every time I'm more vocal about my opinions or my experiences (especially online) I get (mostly white) people who are there to argue with me, have me explain to them who don't believe it is a thing why white privilege is an actual thing or similar.

This is my long-winded way of saying that I loved this book and that I'm recommending it if you haven't yet read it.

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