DON’T – A POEM ABOUT RACISM BY HELEN
Currently there is a lot of coverage in the news regarding BLM and I would like to express my thoughts and feelings via a poem otherwise I will rant on forever. I cannot imagine how it feels to lose a child or family member in such a horrendous way and my heart goes out to their family and friends. For those of you who don’t know me or my family, I am a white mum to a gorgeous mixed raced daughter who is about to turn 18. We have endured racism over the years and racist comments have been directed to us by white and black folk. I had a really interesting chat with Teanna very recently about how it feels to be ‘Brown’ a blend of black and white. I don’t want to dwell on negatives too much but I just wanted people to know that just because you live in a multi cultural city like Bristol, UK it does not mean you do not encounter racism. As a mother of a mixed race child I have always raised her to know her roots and her family from both mother and father’s side. Growing up, I bought her black dolls and picture books with a wide range of ethnicities when she was fixated on blonde haired barbies and I tried to raise her to the best of my ability embracing both cultures. When she got a bit older and wanted to straighten her hair I encouraged her to love her natural afro curls.
One thing I kind of beat myself up over mentally is: Did I fail her with her schooling? The dilemma of sending her to a great achieving school in an affluent area or to a school where there were a higher percentage of ethnic minority students with a not so great achievement level or reputation. I chose the high achieving school which was our nearest school to our home and although it was fantastic, there are not a lot of non white students, teachers or role models. I often wonder did I let her down? Should I have sent her to a different infant, primary and secondary school? Her cute little brown face stood out against the sea of white kids in almost every school photo year after year. Would it had been better for her social and emotional well being if I had of sent her somewhere else that was more diverse? I will obviously never know this and she did great academically at her school and I can’t fault the teaching or learning. Her small friendship group from school are all white girls who are amazing and I love them dearly but I am happy that she will head off to university soon and meet a wider culturally diverse range of friends.
I suppose we are the lucky ones as although we endured racism it was not to the level that we were physically harmed or hounded from our home and although we may have had the dog shit on our doorstep it was not put through our letterbox – thank god! I’m not trying to say it was not upsetting or wrong and I cried my eyes out when a teacher phoned me at work to tell me another little boy had called my daughter the N word at aged 7. I would never ever justify any form of racism no matter how minor, I just feel we were fortunate as we were not physically harmed or lost our lives so in that way we are lucky.
Don’t (A poem about racism, inspired by my daughter and my life)
Don’t touch her Afro hair she is not an animal to pet.
Don’t ask if she needs a pillow to sleep on at night, her afro might be big but it’s no substitute for a pillow.
Don’t ask her where she is from then when she says Bristol ask her where she’s REALLY from.
Don’t ask her to spell her long name.
Teachers – Don’t repeatedly call her another name because for some weird reason you can’t distinguish between the very few black and brown students you have. Also don’t ask her to change seats because her hair is too big and other students can’t see the white board and finally don’t tell her off when she turns around to tell a student to stop throwing stuff in her hair as they find it funny that stuff sticks to it, punish the culprit or both of them not just the non white kid.
Don’t celebrate black history month and feel like a hero, celebrate black history every day not just one month per year.
Don’t run a black achievement team to raise attainment of young black youths then refuse entry to a young male because he is not black when he clearly is mixed raced. That was hard for me to watch as an employee of that school. Watching a 15 year old argue that he is black!
Don’t call her name last as you are embarrassed to pronounce it wrong.
Don’t engage me in racist communication and say racist remarks to me, think before you speak, every white person you talk to may have a non white partner, have non white children or might just not be a racist like you. Just don’t be racist then you don’t have to worry about what you say and who you say it to.
Don’t target, victimise or innocently murder black people.
Don’t tell her to go back to where she came from meaning Africa when she was born in Basildon, Essex.
Don’t use the word ‘coloured’ my daughter is not pink, green or purple with yellow spots!
Don’t judge someone by their clothing (hoodie), low rising jeans etc.
Don’t say your not a racist because you have black friends or your postman is black – do you know how ridiculous this sounds?
Don’t say “We used to dance with the negroes back in the day” being old doesn’t mean you get a free pass to be a racist. Also don’t ever refer to someone as “having a touch of the tar brush”.
Don’t call her a zebra because she is black and white.
Don’t call her the N word when she is 7 and has no clue what it means.
Don’t judge and assume the worst of black people e.g. they are sat in a car so they must be about to commit a crime, lets call the police.
Don’t say experiencing racism is the same as being obese or having ginger hair and experiencing discrimination; it’s not you can loose weight or die your hair but you can’t choose or change the colour of the skin you are born with.
Don’t refuse entry at a concert when I have paid good money for tickets for my son and daughter to attend, son being the over 21 year old responsible adult to accompany my daughter as she is a youth. Don’t ask to see their ID then argue with her that her brother isn’t her brother and just a random person she has met in the queue because he has lighter skin, a different surname and clearly a different dad. My son is actually mixed race too!
Don’t separate us at airport security because you assume we are not a family. My daughter will pay you back by wearing 100 hair grips and set off every alarm going then you will need to spend 20 mins whilst she tries to locate and remove all those damn hair grips one by one, then you will ask her where her parents are and regret separating us – ha ha.
White folk – Don’t raise your small children to think that every elderly black man in a supermarket is Nelson Mandela then watch your child follow that man and call him Elson Mandela! Gotta love Asda, Bedminster.
Some white people – don’t hate her because she is half black
A few black people – don’t hate her because she is half white.
Don’t judge her before you have met her.
Don’t be intimidated by her because she is brown, she is not scary at all.
Don’t tell her she has her step dads eyes when he is white and we are standing beside her at the cash register as we both clearly can’t be her biological parents (although we joke about this now and Adrian step dad is her eyealogical dad and Carlos is her biological dad).
Don’t put racist hate mail through my letterbox if you have something to say, say it to my face.
Don’t call the police because you see a black man allegedly breaking into a house next door when it is actually my daughter’s dad fixing my broken lock.
Don’t let your dog shit in my front garden whilst shouting racist rants then run away like a coward when I open the door to confront you.
Don’t say you like her hat when she is not wearing a hat – WTF. Apparently an afro in 2 buns looks like a bobble hat!
Don’t ask me if I adopted her from Africa right in front of her – I didn’t, I’m not Madonna but thanks if you think I am, I will take that as a compliment as she is hot for her age.
Don’t refuse me entry into a clothes shop changing room with her when she is 11 and trying on clothes in a foreign country because you think I’m not her mum and I might abuse her. I don’t mind you being cautious but would you have done that to a white mother and a white daughter?
Don’t point at her as a young child in a supermarket trolley and tell me they are also available in white.
Don’t mutter under your breath ‘I bet her dad is in prison’ I can hear you and he is not!
Don’t call her half cast.
Don’t call her a monkey.
Don’t call me a N lover or that I must like black sausage! I don’t actually like black sausage but I’m partial to a full English breakfast with baked beans.
Don’t terrorise people who are non white, you are free to have your own feelings and no one is forcing you to change, just don’t make some ones life a living hell, I would love to live in a world free of racism with no hate but I know this will never happen, sad but true.
Don’t discriminate or hate anyone because of the colour of their skin, just DON’T.
Bollinger3 years ago
Very well put Helen. I’m white, as is my direct family. We haven’t experienced racism directly (although I’ve been taunted a few times in the past on nights out because of my Scottish accent and living in England. Cant help jealously… 🙂
The level of stupidity from people that you and your family have experienced is incredible. It’s unfathomable. I saw the GF video for the first time two days ago and I just couldn’t understand what I was seeing. You could clearly see that the police officer wasn’t struggling to restrain GF and he clearly didn’t want to back down when bystanders raised concerns about GF’s wellbeing. Police Officer training isn’t going to be enough for what they need to learn -something deeply structural needs to change.
Helen3 years ago
Always a pleasure to read your comments. My husband lived in Scotland with his ex wife and kids. He was an outsider (English) and regularly used to get pulled over by the local police in his small community, maybe they didn’t like his stroud/Essex accent (ha ha). They would inspect his car and check his documents all the time – ridiculous as most of his kids still live there and call it home now. I hope justice is served to all those that participated or turned a blind eye regarding GF. I agree an away day jolly (training) isn’t going to cut it! I have just realised that now we are 2 white adults living in Portugal I doubt I will be the receiver of any future racist abuse. The Portuguese have welcomed us here and are amazing. I am pretty sure we won’t have to deal with any dog shit left in our mailbox unless I upset the local farmer by disrespecting his herd of goats (ha ha).