Written by Bibian Chinenye Pius-Urum.
On racism in the UK…
I’ve always said that the good thing about racism (there’s nothing good about racism) in the UK is that it is so subtle and polite that if you’re not paying attention, you’ll mistake racist comments and actions for compliments. Sometimes, if you’re not smart enough, you’ll miss it. Racism exists here, but not in the I-will-blow-your-head-off-because-you’re-black-kinda way. If you’re a black person planning to move abroad, you have to check the neighbourhood you’re moving to, know the typical population that live there and if it’s a very white neighbourhood, brace yourself mentally and emotionally. The more diverse your neighbourhood is, the more at home you’ll feel.
It’s near impossible to live abroad without experiencing racism, subtly or overtly. You may not get called nîggâ, bûggêr or mônkêy all the time or get shôt, but people may choose to stand in a bus if the only seat left is the one close to you. You will be the only person sitting on a 4-seater train seat and they may not want to join you. You may take a seat in a waiting area and before you say Jack, you’re the only one left on the entire pew. You may have your train tickets checked several times and other people waved on. You may have service users refuse care from you while at work because of your skin colour.
One of the things with living in Bradford is that it has made me unconscious of my skin colour, I rarely think of myself as a ‘person of colour’ because most people here are either brown or black, but visiting all white neighbourhoods is a not-so-gentle reminder of my skin colour.
I was at the train station yesterday and while everyone was walking past some dude in a café, he was so relaxed until I got close to him, he quickly picked his bag from beside him and clutched it tightly like I was about to rob him. It was almost like a reflex action. He probably expected me to walk past him, but I took a seat close to him and I sat there until my train arrived.
All through my mini European tour, the only places I felt like I was treated differently was at the airports and at the train station in Amsterdam. The nooks and crannies of my passport and British BRP were always checked, wouldn’t have been a problem if everyone else’s passport was checked the same way. There are no border controls in Schengen states, but I still got asked questions by airport security and airline staff. I was called aside and frisked by the security while leaving Berlin. Again, it’d not have been a problem if everyone else was frisked. The passport check guys in Amsterdam took forever with me before I even got to British Border Control.
The advantages of moving abroad, especially from Nigeria are too numerous to mention, but you must be aware that just the same way we have people who consider themselves higher than others because of their gender, there are still people who consider themselves higher/better than you because of the difference in the amount of melanin in your skin.