One of the things that initially inspired me to start writing my book, was the compelling urge to share the story of my journey to authenticity. I am not going to go into all the aspects of my story in this blog, you will have to read the book for the full story. However, In view of all the recent events, I wanted to share a tiny part of it. I believe it will not only resonate with many but will hopefully assist in raising awareness amongst those who have not had such experiences. And to further highlight that united we stand, divided we fall.
Born in the mid-'70s to Jamaican parents who migrated to the UK in the '60s, leaving their beautiful sunny Caribbean island, to start a life in the land of streets which were "paved with gold" good old Great Britain, or at least so they thought, only to be faced with the harsh reality of things like signage that said, "No blacks, no dogs, no Irish" on top of that they faced rejection after rejection for jobs they applied for, and even homes they wanted to live in. This could not have been easy.
My childhood, although quite normal by most standards was also quite a lonely and difficult one. You see, I was one of the very few black children in my school, especially during my primary school years. I was often taunted for the way I looked, the colour of my skin, or even the texture of my hair. There were even times I was teased as my parents had thick Jamaican accents and sounded very different from many of the other children's parents, not to mention the multiple times I was called names such as "golliwog" or "nig nog" and told to go back to where I came from. This certainly highlighted to me even at such a young age, I was so different from everybody else around me. Many of these experiences I encountered certainly left me feeling like an outcast. I never really felt like I quite belonged, or that I was ever good enough.
I am pleased to say though, as I became older and went on to secondary school, I formed friendships with people I could identify with more, this was not just from a race or cultural perspective, but from the mere fact that a lot of them were first-generation British citizens whose parents had also migrated from their respective countries. It was great to finally feel a true sense of belonging. It is now ever so clear to me that fostering solid connections with others is such an integral part of developing fundamentally who we are. Finding my tribe meant I finally felt heard and valued which inevitably boosted my self-confidence.
In 2000, I was fortunate enough to move abroad to the Middle East to begin life as an ex-pat. Although Initially, the experience of moving to a new country, learning to fit in with new social circles and ways of living that were not necessarily familiar to me, was quite hard. I made the best of what was not always a smooth situation, and I can say overall it has been an enriching experience that I am still fortunate enough to be embracing. I have raised my three children here, known as, Third culture kids, yes that is a thing! (TCK) "are individuals who are (or were raised as children) raised in a culture other than that of their parents or the culture of their country of nationality, and live in such an environment during a significant part of their early development years " (source: Wikipedia) so yes, my children are technically citizens of everywhere and nowhere it seems. I am so grateful my children were able to grow up in a country that is exceptionally tolerant and is a melting pot of cultures who live harmoniously.
Of course, It was not unheard of to have subtle instances of discrimination which may have been rationalised with explanations that seemed plausible at the time. I guess pretty much like anywhere else in the world, when you deal with human beings, unfortunately, such things can't be totally avoided. I suppose maybe people are bringing their subconscious beliefs into the equation. However, overall, I would say that my children's experiences growing up were thankfully not similar to mine. My job as a parent has always been to protect my children as much as possible. And for the most part, I feel I did that.
Some of the positive attributes that I have witnessed in my children are that they are extremely adaptive, able to understand cross cultures with ease, extremely open-minded, empathetic, and are excellent communicators. In more recent months it is fair to say things have been mentally and physically demanding and had understandably affected many of us differently. 2020 has undoubtedly been a year of enormous change, especially in regards to bringing an end to this ongoing plight of racial discrimination. Two of my children have now flown the nest, and so are no longer living in the safe haven they once knew as home.
The hardest part about that is not being able to make it all ok for them like before. More recently with yet another unfortunate and unnecessary killing of a black man, I have watched my children with pride take a stand to raise awareness, amongst their peers, shedding light about both overt racism and covert microaggression that is all too often swept under the carpet, as if it is nothing. It makes me so proud to know that even though my children may not have had some of these experiences first hand, they absolutely understand the time for change is now, and as a collective change can happen. Even though these were situations that I once endured when I was their age, the major difference is I would have remained silent about it. Firstly, because I was alone, and secondly, I never had the courage to be the voice of change.
As a child, I was always taught that silence is golden and children should be seen and not heard. I have always believed It is a fallacy that we cannot learn from our children, as I certainly learn from my children daily. I feel so proud to be their mother. They are the future, they want to be that change, and will not be silenced.