Written by Mary Carter, 26.
As a young black girl who emigrated from Nigeria to the UK aged just 16, I was intrigued by the level of multiculturalism in this country. In Nigeria I never really thought of myself as a coloured girl, people are identified by religion or tribes. I had to learn very quickly that I was BAME, I asked myself - why and when did I become a minority. I remember someone said this to me: “with your accent and the fact you’re black; the best you can achieve in this country is to become a cleaner or care worker or a black hairdresser or tailor”.
Systemic racism damages lives, kills dreams, restricts access and capacity for contribution to society
To clarify, this comment came from a black person. I enrolled to learn tailoring and hairdressing, at the same time I was going to college. I stopped the hairdressing and tailoring because I wasn’t making money and bills had to be paid, so I started working as a cleaner. I couldn’t really understand why they said that, but over time I realised this comment came from the systemic racism they had experienced.
Since hearing this, I have also faced racial comments because of the way I look and the way I speak, from white individuals. As Martin Luther King Jr, said, “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important”. It is important that this systemic racism is addressed and we see tangible changes.
Policies have to be made to eradicate this in all aspects of life and people need to be educated on the key issues. Systemic racism damages lives, kills dreams, restricts access and capacity for contribution to society.
Today, I work in HR and aspire to achieve more in life. It is great that we identify and speak about inequality, but changes need to be made and more work needs to be done. BAME people need to support each other and encourage each other, to harness that positive mindset, think big and go for our dreams. We are all human beings and need to be treated equally.
I have met very intelligent individuals who have made comments that could be interpreted as racist
Educating everyone on black and Asian culture would help improve the views and ways by which people interact with black and Asian ethnicities. Sometimes people say things that come across as being racist but actually they are not racist. This is the result of their lack of knowledge and understanding of one’s culture. I have met very intelligent individuals who have made comments that could be interpreted as racist. For example people tend to make offensive sweeping statements about Africans and Africa, Africa is always spoken about as if it is a country rather than a continent with over 50 countries and a thousand cultures. In my opinion the way to deal with this is to ensure everyone has a balanced understanding of what can be considered rude or ignorant and therefore racist. It is important to have an open mind when meeting someone from a different ethnic group and learning about their culture - and of course speak about your own culture too.
Everyone should speak up if they are faced with racism. It is vital that we understand that there are white privileges in our society. When you see a non-white person who’s been racially discriminated against or mistreated, please speak up for them.
For my fellow BAME people, I want to say don't be intimidated, don't lose your voice, and always speak up.