Racially attacked and stereotyped; two generations give their views and experiences of growing up in Britain as an ethnic minority.
But recent incidences, such as EDL riots and attacks on Mosques, seem to indicate a step backwards for the acceptance of multiculturalism within society.
Mum-of-two Monica Woko, 43, is an upper school English teacher in Suffolk. Monica talks about the prominence of racism while growing up and dealing with adversity, she says: “During the late 70s, the National Front would drive around my neighbourhood, declaring on loud speakers – ‘send foreigners back!’
“My father is Jamaican and my mother is Dutch, which left me in fear of being orphaned if they were deported, and thought ‘where will I go?’
“Members of the public would shout, ‘go back to your own country!’, so I preferred walking with my mother when I was younger, as she is white and suffered less verbal abuse.
“I also wished I had a sign saying, ‘This is my mum’, as we did not look alike.”
Talking about the shape of society today, Monica says: “I think it has improved, but you cannot be sure whether people behave themselves due to their own moral code, or through fear of getting into trouble, now that the law has changed.
“Even though I no longer get abused on the street, people may still hold the same opinions, but do not voice it publicly.
“I still feel black children have the pressure to work harder in order to prove themselves, which is also the reason why is send my children to private school.”
“To help remove prejudice, people should be taught about social and cultural awareness, in order to create understanding about immigration, asylum seekers and so on.’
Lifeguard, Siobhan Van Brown, 18, had a quite different childhood experience, she says: “Despite my mother’s side of the family being white, I never felt any different.
“I would often forget we were different ethnicities until friends asked questions, because we did not look very similar.”
However racism is still prominent today, she says: “Although interracial conflict is less documented now, some people assume that I’m not British just because of my skin colour.
“There is still the issue of police discrimination, for example me and my friends were once stopped and searched; the police asked me if I was in possession of cannabis, but none of my white friends.
“I’ve also experienced racism in the work-place, where employers will often only hire black people to make the company look more diverse.”
Siobhan also highlights how the media can influence opinions of the masses, she says: “Black people are still stereotyped as thugs and the media plays a huge role in that.
“This was proven during the London riots, where tabloids used ‘black culture’ and ‘thug culture’ in the same context.
“Some media outlets are now also creating stereotypes of religious extremists, associating terrorism with Muslims.
“The media should be fair and balanced, but you rarely hear about the positive contributions that Islamic culture has on society, such as generous charity donations and volunteering.”
When asked about her view for the future, and whether racism and prejudice will improve, Siobhan stated: “The media will always have their ‘villain’, whether it be black people, thugs, youth or Muslims – the root of the problem is simply fear and ignorance.”
- After English Defence League leader quits – is racism in retreat? (socialistworker.co.uk)
- Racism Caught on Tape at Dillinger’s Celtic Pub and Eatery (thebinghamtonblog.com)
- Racism is not limited to one race (iol.co.za)
- Celebrating Exeter’s diversity – resisting racism and fascism (exetertogether.wordpress.com)