WORDS: Nafisa Hussain
One of my reason for voting Remain at this referendum was the fear that the far right would mobilise and become stronger if we left the EU. This has yet to be seen however 3 days since voting to leave, the racism I have witnessed and read about spells a dark time ahead.
It's always been here. Racism isn't something that's just arrived yet I see the shock some people are expressing over social media. My whole life has been about hearing racist comments, being sworn at, spat at and attacked and that's just the aggressive form. Everyday racism doesn't look like this; it's the passive form that's the most upsetting.
When someone calls you a “Paki bitch” you know exactly where you stand with them. It's the passive racism consisting of dirty looks, avoiding sitting next to you on the bus and the rudeness from sales assistants that is gut-wrenchingly painful. People call you paranoid and laugh it off, often telling you to ignore it but when you've been brown your whole life you learn to distinguish between shit customer service and what racism looks like. There are subtle differences but the dead give away is when the person in front of you is white, they are met with a smile and good manners but when it's your turn, you're ignored and grunted at. That's not paranoia, that's an acute awareness of how that person feels towards people who look like me.
As I've matured and developed a better understanding of the world, I've learned that you must pick your battles carefully. So, now I can shrug off some abuse but I will stand up against racism if the situation calls for it. This would include; who I was with, my location and how much of a shit I give. It's unfortunate that I have to be careful, as I may put others in danger whilst doing so. But now, I feel tremendous sadness that this country is heading towards a place I no longer recognise. Everyday people are using racist terminology as if they were discussing what to have for dinner. This makes me feel sad because this is my home and I love that I have two cultural identities. I also love that I speak two languages fluently, that I can cook authentic curries and that I have two perspectives of the world. When someone tells me “to go home” all I ever want to say is “I am home” but sometimes it's so painful, I get a lump in my throat and walk away as it can be exhausting to constantly fight for your right to live freely.
However, in order for harmony to exist I've decide that I needn't fight anymore. The next time I'm met with racial abuse, I'm going to ask this person why they felt they had to abuse me. Then, I'm going to ask them where their anger has come from. My aim is to encourage dialogue between people who have never spoken to a brown person properly and let them know how it feels to be attacked merely for the colour of my skin. I want to challenge a persons perspective rather that fuel their anger by raising my voice. It has the potential to bring about positive change and I'm convinced once people start talking and listening to one another, great things can be achieved.
In the coming months ahead we must, as a collective, challenge any of racism, prejudice and xenophobia we witness. It helps to somewhat to share anti racists sentiments on social media but the real change will occur when we stop individuals and challenge them on their hate speech. It's vital we let racists know that this type of behaviour is unacceptable in our cities. Fists don't need to be raised to communicate our beliefs but to support our neighbours by standing by their sides will help send a message that racism will not be tolerated. The country is divided, fear has spread but we need to form an alliance against the hatred because it will consume us and I fear there's no coming back once that happens. Stay strong and keep up the good fight.
A special thanks to my friend Sarah Guilfoyle for inspiring me to write this article x