Stand firm

Anti-racism was part of my upbringing. My mother’s youngest sister married into the Jesudason clan when I was still in junior school. My eldest brother started going out with his Trinidadian wife-to-be while in the sixth form, when I was just starting out in the senior school.

In any case, we were raised in a practising Christian family, taught to treat all people with kindness, interacting with fairness and mercy. The sayings of Martin Luther King Jr would often be found on banners hanging from the walls of the church.

Not only that, but as children of Hull, we were raised to celebrate the life and deeds of the great campaigner for the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade, William Wilberforce — a man who in the early 1800s exposed ideas of racial inferiority as untenable.

The wealthy doctors of Pakistani and Indian origin who lived around the corner from us would always be referred to as “that lovely family”. When the police once arrested the Indian friend of our next-door neighbour — for, it seemed, being the victim of a racist altercation — their actions were roundly condemned in our household as unjust.

As children, I think we took it for granted that racial equality was the default standard. Racism, as far as we were concerned, was a strange aberration and the backward expression of ignorant fools.

This the backdrop to my mindset when I finally emerged from my cocoon — friendless loner of the affluent suburbs — to wander amongst strangers. Then would all of those assumptions be put to the test. How would my actual lived experiences shape me? Would I stand firm, or not?

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