‘I just always thought they hated us’: Lincoln student on her experiences of racism

‘I remember it so well and just how scared I was as a child’

The Black Lives Matter movement sweeping throughout the UK has heard the volume of BAME voices with their own experiences of racial injustice. We spoke to a student at The University of Lincoln who shared racism she has encountered as a black woman in today’s society. Of course one black student’s experiences of racism is not representative of all black students’ experience, but for a look into what it was like for one Lincoln student growing up to going out here it is.

‘White kids said my hair looked like I had been electrocuted’

“I must’ve been 8/9 years old and I lived in a predominantly white area, my family were one of the only few black families to live in our village. One day in primary school I was playing with my friends and  I untied my hair and then a white kid passed me and said my hair looked like it had been electrocuted. After this It was rare for me to wear it down.

“Another situation happened when these white boys in my village would knick knock (knock doors and run) houses in my neighbourhood.  They seemed to target our door more frequently, it got so bad that they even broke our doorbell. The situation got even worse when they broke into our garden by breaking our garden gate and they swapped their older bike for my brothers much newer one. At this point we called the police.

“At the time when I was young, I always just thought they hated us and it frustrated me because I never knew why but after years, I came to the conclusion that they were racists. It’s a situation I struggle to let go of, I remember it so well and just how scared I was as a child.”

‘I still get the odd look or stare’

“I’ve been to predominantly white schools all my life so I was mentally prepared when moving to Lincoln to go to university, I was still anxious but I feel like I’m so used to encountering some form of racism it didn’t bother me too much where I moved because racism is everywhere so it doesn’t matter where I go. To this day I still get the odd look or stare but I think I’ve mastered ignoring it better.

“I have people who question why I don’t look like the stereotypical black female i.e big butt and breasts or their idea of a stereotypical balcony female, which is funny as these features used to be looked down on. I don’t think my body shape equates to my blackness. People often question my music taste; you know I have to like grime or rap music and if I don’t that’s weird. Because I’m black I must know every Stormzy song.”

‘Boys on nights out treat getting with a black girl like ticking something off their list’

“Boys feel the need to somehow mention my skin colour when giving me a chat up line, this can be irritating, creepy and dehumanising because it shows they just get with black girls to tell people they have, to tick it off their bucket list. I remember it myself when a guy approached me asking if I’d be interested in his friend because getting with a black girl is one of the things in life he wishes tick it off his bucket list.

“Men objectify women already but its disturbing how they’re objectifying based on race as well, for their own pleasure and I struggle to interact with men on nights out because in the back of my head I do always feel like they are chatting me up or approaching me based on my skin colour. Sometimes someone will approach me telling me they know a guy who is into black girls and its annoying because it makes me feel like nobody wants you because you are deemed as unattractive due to your race but my friend is willing to settle for you!”

‘I cried for two days straight’

“Before George Floyd I remember Ahmaud the jogger as well and I didn’t really react, I just remember it is not the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last. I didn’t want to get myself upset about and I saw the social media posts but at the time chose not to watch the George Floyd video. But then I started researching and reading about other black people killed by the police and just started reading into all the racist incidents in America, even going back to the early 1980s.

A protest in Lincoln

“Then I decided to watch the George Floyd video and I remember crying for two days straight, I cried I couldn’t sleep. It brought on all the experiences I’ve had and how traumatising they were for me. It made me question when is it all going to stop. I remember feeling exhausted, sad, angry, even numb. It was uplifting seeing people reacting to his death but sad that another life has to be taken in order for people to wake up and see what the world is like.”

“I think all our lives black people have been fighting for equality either silently, individually or collectively. I think as time went on people started recording or sharing their experiences of racism which gave a kind of proof to the toxic nature of it. Unfortunately, then people used the ‘black people are playing the race card’ comment. The BLM movement helps to aid black voices and showcases pain that we have and continue to suffer from. I remember the movement starting in 2013/2014 with the injustice of Trayvon Martins, this movement has been happening for years. Its tiring that its 2020 and we’re still fighting, it does seem to be working- a work in progress.”

‘They haven’t lived through these experiences’

“I appreciate the SU trying to do something about it instead of sugar coating it as they could do. It’s hard to know what to do in situations like this as an organisation such as the Students’ Union. It’s a hard one because a lot of them won’t have lived through these experiences, it’s hard to know what to say when you don’t know what it feels like.”

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‘Silence is not an option’

“I believe people are sheltered from the concept of racism because they don’t often hear about these kinds of experiences, especially because they are so different from their own. The school system does not teach it well enough, there is so much information on black history that’s hardly taught or has been completely deleted.

“I think people should try and do what they can because even the little things can make a difference. Silence is definitely not an option, I don’t care how uncomfortable the person feels- it is not an option. Silence in some ways is what has worsened racism its escalated so badly from people saying anything at all. The quieter the people are the worse the issue will get. People now need to use their voices especially if they are watching someone being discriminated against even if they feel uncomfortable about it, they need to say something because imagine how uncomfortable the person experiencing it is. Speak up!

“Quite often people feel the need to remind me that I am black, as if I wake up thinking I’m someone else. I’m just a woman trying to live my life, I don’t think my race, gender or even my sexuality should be a problem for people.”