Reading time: 4 minutes
When I was just 8 years old in Primary School, I remember feeling like the world was such a wonderful place. Everything seemed so fresh and so new and every person was so warm & friendly.
I grew up in the outskirts of East London. The late 80’s saw a massive wave of immigration in the area with people from all around the world. I was friends with kids from all around the globe: From Nigeria to France – but we were innocent, never judging someone on the race or skin colour but their football skills and who had the coolest sneakers.
One day while I was playing football in the playground with my white friend Paul, Danny the school bully, who was also white, decided to ‘join in’. Danny pushed Paul to the ground, cutting open his shin. Seeing my friend hurt, I charged at Danny and with fists balled up, screamed at Danny, “C’mon then if you think you’re hard!”. The next words that came out of his mouth have been tattooed on my mind ever since.
“Shut up you nigger! Paul shouldn’t be playing with you anyway.”
Whoa. Seeing red, I charged into Danny & although I tried my best, he absolutely destroyed me. Paul although injured himself, managed to get help me up & take me to the Welfare Room, thanking me for sticking up for him. But 2 things forever stuck into my mind that day:
1) That was first time someone called me ‘nigger’
2) That was first time that I felt different to other people and for things I had no power over…
If my world was a balloon, it was someone let the air out and for next 25 years, I’ve been desperately trying to fill it up again.
‘The American Dream’
Back in 2008, when Barack Obama was elected the President of the United States, I like many people around the world thought that we were living a new era – Martin Luther King’s Dream had finally been achieved – where ‘a man would not be judged by the colour of his skin but the content of his character’. Some commentators said that we live in a ‘Post-Racial Society’ saying that because Obama became President, there would be no barriers for People of Colour & other minorities and discrimination had finally been pushed out of our civilization – and we all believed it too.
But with the Brexit decision and the coverage of the 2016 US Elections, I saw that racism, discrimination and hate did not ‘die’ but crept off silently into the shadows, hiding and waiting in the fringes. Like a good horror flick, just when we thought it was safe, the monster was came back, grabbing & taking us into the darkness.
I’m not going to write about the reasons why I think that racism & discrimination are still with us and offer up solutions: Many great women/men, a million times smarter than me have been doing this for centuries & have been crusading for change. I’m just an ordinary joe. I don’t want to point fingers at white people, black people, Arab people or any other race because frankly from what I have seen in human history, one thing that our species are experts in, is finding new & inventive ways to suppress & kill each other – over something as dumb as the type of pigment in our skin.
So why am I writing this at all?
Because I’m tired.
All I can talk about is what I have seen in my world and on my journey.
I’m tired of working of walking into the workplace and being the only Person of Colour, feeling like I have to the expert & ambassador of my entire race.
I’m tired of seeing politicians and other leaders openly discriminate and bully other groups to get votes or increase their poll ratings.
I’m tired of arguing about slavery/colonialism and who’s fault it is.
I’m tired of seeing people who look like me get brutalised/murdered just because.
I’m tired of people who blame society and the system for everything that has gone wrong in their lives, but refuse to do anything to change it or at least change themselves.
I’m tired of feeling that if I talk a certain way to one race, I’m not ‘good enough’ and if I talk a certain way to another race I’m not ‘smart enough’.
I’m tired of when walking behind someone in the street, when they person sees me, they walk faster or clutch their bag tighter.
I’m tired of people telling me not to trust a ______ person because of ‘the way they are’.
I’m tired of being told my ‘face don’t fit.’
I’m tired of people forcing me to justify the harmful acts of a misguided person that may look like me and blame the ‘system’ when it was their own stupid actions that got them there.
I’m tired of people who take religions which are built on love & respect and use them to spread hatred and oppression – really?
I’m tired of struggling with my own internal prejudices & the daily battle to choose love & understanding.
I’m tired of being tired.
As a teacher, I feel like I have one of the best jobs in the world. I get to teach kids before society/culture/life starts putting these poisonous ideas in their head. The fact that 90% of these kids can look past their differences & work/play together never ceases to amaze me. But my heart also breaks for them – outside the soft bubble of school, the ‘real world’ has a habit smashing the hopes of the most idealistic of us.
I Still Have A Dream
Dr King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech is commonly voted as one of the greatest speeches of all time. It’s so beautiful, inspiring and heavenly and full of hope… But sometimes I do wonder, in the darkest and most lonely times of Dr King’s life, did he still believe that his dream could become a reality?
Talking to people & looking at things at home and abroad, all I know is:
Many people are angry.
Many people are hurting.
Many people are afraid.
Many people around the world feel like how we all feel when we have a beautiful dream in the night only to wake up – desperately trying to get back to sleep to run back to our dreamland but knowing that we will never enjoy it again.
But… because a dream is not real doesn’t mean that they are any less beautiful. Down the ages, it has been those who dreamed of a better world that have led to greatest changes to human kind.
As the world seems to be pulling apart rather than coming together, it’s the beauty of that dream, no matter how far away it seems that gives me hope. Hope that we may never kill the monster, we can imprison it & go forward together.
It’s good to dream. It keeps the hope alive. I will keep dreaming… And I hope that you can too.
Thank you for reading guys! These are the most raw & honest thoughts on everything that has happened over the last couple of weeks! Please let me know what you think in the comments below or tweet at me @karlwebdev.
As always thank you for reading and see you next Thursday!