I was racially bullied as a child. It’s not something I talk about often, in fact, I don’t think it’s something I’ve ever discussed as an adult. I’m about as anti-victimhood and anti-identity politics as a person can be but bear with me on this one.
I had a very loving family, but growing up wasn’t always fun for me. I was yelled at for just walking down the street, ‘Paki’ being the most common insult, which always annoyed me as it was factually incorrect, I’m half White / half Black-Caribbean, but that just highlights the ignorance of my abusers.
We had live fireworks shoved through our letterbox; I was spat at by strangers. During my first week at middle school, a group of older boys tried to shove my head down the toilet.
Looking back, it was tough at times. But I always took some solace in the fact that I had it relatively easy compared to my father. You see my dad’s side of the family were the first Black family in town, so when my father was growing up, he had it a lot of worse than what I did.
I’m not sharing all this to play the victim card, far from it. I’m laying my cards on the table to show my credentials if you will. I understand what racism is; I lived it. It doesn’t define me, but it is, of course, a part of my makeup.
Racism, from the Oxford dictionary, is quite simply “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s race is superior.”
The people who were bullying me because of the colour of my skin were racists. Now that doesn’t mean that if people dislike me or call me names for any other reason, they automatically become racist. I have quite strong views; I imagine it’s easy to dislike me or to be offended by what I say sometimes, that’s fine. It shouldn’t matter if you’re White, Black, Asian or from any other ethnicity, to dislike or disagree with me does not make you racist unless the reason for that is my race/ethnicity.
However, there seems to have been a social movement that passed me by. In this world of social media and identity politics, we seem to have reached a point where it’s no longer socially acceptable to even criticise a person of colour without being branded a racist. When BBC’s Joe Lynam told Stormzy to ‘stay classy’ recently, after the rap artist tweeted ITV to “suck my **ck” for misquoting him, I assumed it was the fact that Mr Lynam was white that he received so much vile and abuse from so-called ‘Black Twitter’. Little did I know, criticising Black people isn’t a racist accusation reserved only for Whites. I, too, was branded a racist for endorsing Joe’s statement.
It’s the old ‘tone police’ argument. “Stop policing how black folks respond to harm!!!!!” tweeted Seyi Akiwowo, founder of Glitch and prominent activist, before blocking me. How dare I – or anyone else – criticise Stormzy? He’s black, don’t you know. Off-limits! Criticise those horrible white folks instead.