Here's something about a place where we used to live. I don't apologise for the language in this writing. It does include the N word. Several times. It's a word I hate hearing. Were I not in the privileged position of being a white person in the UK I'd hate hearing it even more because unless I was very lucky I'd have heard it used against myself, my friends, my family, and on many occasions. "You ****ing N*****, get back to your own country." That kind of thing. I've heard it used to the faces of black people. I've heard similar language used to other ethnic minorities. I've seen Islamic women face verbal abuse from white scumbags and I've felt a mix of sorrow and shame. But I can tell you this. As a white person in England I've never been the victim of racial abuse. In Tunisia we weren't racially abused. In Korea we weren't racially abused either - though we did turn heads by virtue of our rarity in some of the places we walked. I felt out of my depth, out of my culture a few times. But I never felt unsafe. I mention head turning in what follows. It's not a product of racism, just of our brains' tendency to be attracted to whatever is out of the ordinary in our vision.
I have deliberately not named the town. Originally I'd included it in the final line but I've blocked it out. People who know my history well will know where I'm talking about. When we lived there I heard the first line of this writing. It was said to me by different people on quite a few occasions. Those exact words.
Each time I inwardly cringed. Each time I wanted to scream at the speaker of such offensive garbage. Both racist and inaccurate. I'm a gentle woman but I admit something in me wanted to throw the first punch. Although, it would be an ineffectual hit. To my shame I didn't argue. Socially I didn't know how.
I am glad to say that an organisation of which I was a part when we lived in that town is now led by a black man and the people in that organisation welcomed him with open arms and love having him as boss. When they were appointing him - a black outsider - people talked about how brave they and he were and how they didn't know if the town would ever really accept them for doing such a thing.
Perhaps in the years he has been there his presence, his visibility and his character may have done something to lessen the racism I saw too often. Perhaps he's turned some minds and hearts to truth. That black people - and people of any colour - are just people. Not creatures to be feared and insulted.
It's fifteen years since we left that town. I hope the racism of the past is dying. And I hope the town itself doesn't die. Economically it's suffered greatly. Wages are low. Unemployment is high. The population fell by more than three percent in ten years. A redevelopment plan was unveiled ten years ago but when visiting last year I didn't see any sign of the plan becoming reality. The football club is doing very well. Maybe the town will recover too and thrive again.
The picture below was taken a year ago in Newcastle. I'm the one holding the sign. I find hugs very hard usually but I hugged many strangers that day. It didn't matter who they were. Some Muslims were running a stall nearby and they loved what we were doing, the light and happiness we were bringing. They wouldn't hug us though because of a total respect for their own wives.
I include the photo because it was a contrasting day under Grey's Monument. Before we arrived - we passed them as they left - a bunch of neo-Nazis were having a rally there. Racists. Full of hate. Shouting lies to the people of Newcastle. The writing below moans about the racism I encountered where we used to live. This photo is here to stress that there is racism and there are racists everywhere in the United Kingdom. Even in Newcastle Upon Tyne, City of Sanctuary.
"The niggers are taking over."
That's what they said,
Yeah, taking over. Niggers everywhere.
Don't shoot me down for my language
I'm only reporting the facts.
Real truths, not the alternative facts those white folk believed.
Okay people, show me.
Show me these beautifully dark skinned human beings
You choose to damn with a word.
Take me out on the streets.
Point them out to me,
Show me how they have gained control of your town.
Or shut the hell up
And sod off with your racist talk that's so second nature
You don't even have to think about it.
Where are the black men on your streets?
Are there gangs of them in charge of the night?
In charge of the banks, the schools?
Do those you call niggers run the show here?
Demonstrate it to me if you can.
Or get real and never say such words to me again.
Look left, look right, up down main street.
It's as white as the snow field.
You might see a blackbird land briefly in the cold.
You might see a black person too,
Doing just the same as you.
In your town he might turn my head too.
Because he is rare. An out of the ordinary.
With your own eyes you can see it.
You're safe. They're not taking over here.
And if they were, so bloody what?
Why are you so damned afraid of them
When it's they who should be afraid of you,
White man, oppressor, part of the subjugating empires.
White man, whose casual racism is known by all
Who don't share your lack of melanin.
If anyone is scary it's you.
You don't believe your eyes? Well look at the numbers.
We looked up your town, your borough.
In statistics we tried to find the ones you call niggers.
Yeah, your borough is the domain of the white man.
Ninety-eight point eight percent white.
You're nearly a white utopia for frightened racists to run to.
And of the rest, where are your so-called niggers?
Where are the black people you give so much power to?
They're nowhere, almost.
Nought point one percent of your population is black.
In your town there are twenty-six black people.
Are you an idiot, a brainwashed fool to think
That twenty-six people are taking over your precious white land?
Enough of your crazy talk, white people.
Stop your hate, your language of abuse.
Why do you even use that word at all?
Is it a hatred, a sense of your white superiority?
Or it is a terrible misunderstanding, just a word to you?
Like the football fan who told me
"Yeah, we call 'em pakis and niggers but it's not racism."
Well comrade you'd better get it sorted out right now
Because you're twisting the knife they were stabbed with.Did you get your views Express delivery in the Mail?
Stop it with your fear.
Refuse to listen to those who created your terror.
Open your eyes, look around you and see.
Those twenty-six add beauty to your home
Because they are beautiful men and women of colour.
Embrace them, give them hugs and take them out for drinks.
The white men are leaving your town
Like rats from a sinking ship.
The numbers don't lie.
So grab the black people, the Asians.
Lift up anyone you see from a minority group and tell them
Bring your friends. Bring your family.
Otherwise your town will die, rotten from the inside.
And you, white men of @@@@,
You will die in your racial ghetto.