In a recent family chat, my brother began to tell us about being singled out at work because of his race.
A boss had accused him of being unprofessional, and launched into a tirade... because his hands were in his pockets. The manager’s actions, he said, were called out by other workers, who stood up for my brother and, in a peculiar show of support, put their hands in their pockets too.
Whether it was hearing about one of her children experiencing such racism or our casual approach to it, my mother was shocked. She could not believe this had happened, and even questioned how we could be sure the boss was being racist. Then, she asked why we had not told her at the time. If my brother did not tell her about the incident when it happened, then in her mind he could have been making it up.
Her reaction, of course, proved exactly why we didn’t tell her – and explained why we won’t tell her about future incidents either.
I know my parents are aware racism exists; they have experienced a lot themselves. Both born in Ethiopia, my parents met studying in Bulgaria in the 1980s. For many Bulgarians my parents met, they were often the first Black people they had ever seen, and my parents spoke of things I simply can’t imagine: people who literally thought that Black people were monkeys, who would go up to my parents asking where their tail was, and I’m sure much worse that they have chosen not to tell us.
They felt powerless, and so the racism they endured was something to ignore and move past. This, I believe, shaped their parenting.
Their experiences no doubt shaped their approach towards racism. They felt powerless, and so the racism they endured was something to ignore and move past. This, I believe, shaped their parenting. They never gave us the ‘talk’ on racism – I was at university when I heard my parents acknowledge the n-word’s existence. My parents would always say they wanted a better life for me and my brother than they had, in order to...