Today is a bit of a different post for me, I want to talk a bit about racism.
Let me introduce myself
My name is Sam Cleasby and I am a British woman and my heritage on my mother’s side is Mizo.
Mizoram is an eastern state of India. “Mizoram is one of the states of Northeast India, with Aizawl as its capital city. The name is derived from Mi (people), Zo (lofty place, such as a hill) and Ram (land), and thus Mizoram implies “land of the hill people”. Like several other northeastern states of India, Mizoram was previously part of Assam until 1972, when it was carved out as a Union Territory. It became the 23rd state of India, a step above Union Territory, on 20 February 1987, with Fifty-Third Amendment of Indian Constitution,1986.”
I visited India a couple of years ago and blogged about it, you can read about India with an ostomy bag here!
My family history is long, varied and something I am proud of. Yet because my skin is lighter than some, and I look less like my mum and nan than my dad I live in a weird societal time where people unaware of my heritage voice inappropriate and racist comments in my presence and where I feel a responsibility to counteract those thoughts.
Yet so often I have been told when voicing these opinions that I have ‘a chip on my shoulder’.
There are the overt, hate filled, angry red faced racists in this world. Generally you can see them a mile off and we all tend to avoid them. Most people arent blatant in their racism.
But it’s the quiet ones that concern me. The “I’m not racist buts”, the inappropriate racially motivated jokes ones, the “so WHERE are you from” ones, the slipping the odd word into conversation ones. It’s the everyday racism, the micro aggressions, the daily reminders that you aren’t white.
These are the people who distress me the most as sometimes it’s really hard to recognise them, and sometimes you get totally surprised that it is someone you wouldn’t expect.
A while back, someone was chatting to my husband Timm and he used the word ‘p*ki’ . He was totally taken aback and shocked and walked away from the conversation, he was upset and asked “what should I have said to him?”
A friend had a similar situation where someone used a racist term in front of them. They were upset and uncomfortable but didnt know what to say.
People have said to my husband “ohhh what’s it like having an Indian wife? I bet you get some great curries!” These arent hate filled bigots, they aren’t trying to offend, but honestly being othered like this is very wearing.
What do you say?
And I think this is a problem. It often can feel like you’re making a big deal, causing a fuss if you call people out on inappropriate language. It can feel embarrassing and upsetting.
But try being the brown person on the receiving end of racism constantly. At least once a week, someone comments on my “tan”.
So often I’m asked “where are you from?”
“Sheffield” I respond. “No but where are you FROM?”
“Ermmm I grew up on Norfolk Park”
“Ok, where’s your mum and dad from?”
“Ohhhh sorry I get it, you’re asking me why I’m not white!”
It feels very devisive and othering. And I know I have much more privilege than other BAME people who face far, far worse than I do.
As someone who can “pass” for white (and I do hate that term”, I’m privy to conversations that people whose skin is darker than mine probably dont hear. And its depressing.
For years, I felt embarrassed in these situations. Like I would be the one to ruin the dinner party by questioning the guy pushing me on where exactly I’m from. Or spoiling the social event by calling out someone dropping a P-bomb.
I felt like I was causing a scene to explain to the woman at work that telling me she was having a “chinky” that night was offensive.
I felt like I was embarrassing someone who assumed I would like a spicy meal because of ‘you know’ and waving a hand over me, presumably referring to my skin colour and background.
But I’m done with feeling embarrassed by this. It’s time I voiced my feelings. The person using these words should be the one to be embarrassed not me.
There is so much more I could write about on this topic, especially in the political climate of the world at the moment. But for now I’d just like to say that we all need to feel less intimidated in calling out the bullshit around us.
It’s ok to say “I find that term inappropriate, upsetting and offensive.”
It is ok to walk away from a conversation that you find wrong.
It’s ok to be upset by racism and it’s ok to talk about it.
And this is something I need to remind myself of.
✌🏽 & ❤