When I was little, I wanted to be white.
That’s the colour the sweet, popular girl at school was. That’s the colour the beautiful, breath-taking supermodels on the billboards. And that was the colour all the characters in my favourite tv series were. Which role models looked like me? Beyoncé is now the third woman (behind Naomi Campbell & Halle Berry) to grace the cover of Vogue in the magazine’s 123 years of publication, and people are raving as if this is iconic. That’s not iconic. That’s ridiculous. The third in 123 years. But you say there is equality.
My mother moved from France to England because she didn’t believe she, a young black woman, could get a respectable teaching job where we were. My mum forced me to read English story books, meant for an age much younger than I was yet it was still extremely difficult. She made me read every single day and I hated every minute of it. I see know that she did this so I could speak English perfectly by the time it mattered, by the time people started to assume I was illiterate, uneducated and ignorant from the colour of my skin. And even though my mum spent hours teaching me the English I am able to speak so fluently now, due to her patience and encouragement, you can still tell English is her second language. She asks me how to say certain British expressions to fit in, She asks me to proofread emails for her, out of embarrassment that she feels her English isn’t sufficient enough to be taken seriously, it sickens me that while their mastery of the English language is more than proficient, it doesn’t matter, because the rest of the world doesn’t care. But you say there is equality.
I grew up, watching the world’s understanding of my cultural heritage being reduced to the “black best friend”, being portrayed as domestic help, sassy and thugs. I grew up being asked “but, where are you really from?” as a reply to when I told them I was born in France. I grew up, being told I had to be the servant when I played families with my white friends, when I held in me the fact that when slavery was finally abolished, slaves received no apology and the slave-owners often received a minimum of £50 per slave in compensation. The slave-owners received paid compensation. But you say there is equality.
I live in a country that when a well-known television presenter says the racist n-slur, on air, he keeps his job .I live in the 21st century, where the only understanding I can get about the story behind my heritage comes from my own parents, where the only times I can see people who look like me on screen and aren’t portrayed in a degrading, racially comic, stereotypical way is on YouTube. The caricatures on television teaches us that we are brash, aggressive deficient at English and poor. But you say there is equality.
Who would want to black? In the few instances coloured people made an appearance on my television, they were always the criminals, the delinquents, the poor or had a funny accent everyone could laugh at. Obviously no way someone who wasn’t white could be educated, wealthy or even just a generally good person.
But still, you love your jazz music, your fried chicken. Please, enjoy your holidays to the Caribbean, your corn rows and Morgan Freeman.