CW: Discussion of racism and racist language
I’m a Londoner,
I grew up on concrete blocks opposite the KFC And my parents’ off-licence around the corner.
We were dropped over a high brick wall to dodge detention.
We rode our scooters outside our dingy flat.
I played with your daughters at school.
Dressed in pigtails and light blue summer dresses.
We hopscotched our way through Maths and English lessons,
Ate free bangers and mash in the hall at lunchtime.
Sang at the top of our lungs each praising a different God in His stain-glassed house
At secondary school, we drifted in and out of our homes,
For sleepovers and indoor dance shows.
While you sang hymns and tales of water and wine
We lit lamps and made rangoli, feasted with our hands,
You didn’t understand. Did you care to?
Mum and dad told us we were like you,
You one of us.
But I knew.
How could we be the same when you already made us so different?
… Bloody foreigners, Nasty immigrants, The Other…
Not ‘normal’ enough, not white enough,
Never good enough, hardly British enough.
When you see it many times on TV, hear it on the radio, on the streets,
You start to believe it.
It’s a ticking time bomb, and in the middle of the night I dream
That sure enough I’m as good as gone.
No more breaths on British soil,
I’ll be out. Just like the others.
Thrown back to a ‘home country’ that I know like
The North Pole.
Isn’t that what pushed our Windrush victims,
To their early graves?
Thrown to the wolves.
Why do they hate me? Why do they hate us ‘darkies’?
Because my parents wanted a better life?
Why do they chew us up and spit us out once they’re done?
Once we’ve made their beds and cleaned their floors.
‘Get out!’, ‘Not one of us!’ ‘Go back to where you came from!’
We sweep your streets, we sell you food,
We care for your sick families and suffer ourselves in pandemics.
We serve you,
Behind cashiers and counters.
I hear you loudly in your echo chamber: ‘We’re in the most tolerant land of them all’
But the least racist is still racist.
And I’ve felt it:
Paki, Brownie, Curry Muncher.
Brown Bitch. Sensitive soul. Angry brown woman.
Would you still be laughing
At the thought of my ancestors picking cotton and tea leaves for peanuts?
I grew up on food, music, art
And the blood and tears of my great great grandparents.
When it suits you, I’m barely a half-Brit, really a no-Brit,
The daughter of filthy immigrants.
The scrub who can “go back home”.
But home is here.
For you, it’s anywhere but here.
Am I still a Londoner, who grew up on concrete blocks?
Image Credits to the Author.