It was the beginning of the 1990’s in a small school in southern England, in a town that was once famed for making furniture, but now chain stores undercut the prices of local artisans. It was a place in decline. It was a town that had (maybe grudgingly at first) accepted West Indian immigrants from the crumbling empire from the 40s onwards, to replace the dead soldiers from the war.
Here I was born and here I was aged six, in a class full of curious white children, some were mean, I got a daily beating until one of the girls, Haley redeemed me, she thought I was cute, “Look at her pretty brown eyes they are so nice just like the little mermaids, but they are not blue!” She saved me and we have become lifelong friends.
Up my road lived a girl in my class let’s call her Coralie. Coralie was tall and had a long blonde plait that reached down to her bum, that was unusual in England, the only girls that plaited hair that long were the Indian and Pakistani girls. The white girls had their hair loose and blowing, but Coralie was already different. Her mother had divorced her dad as when you found your husband in bed with another man, it was considered shameful. Coralie and her mother were outsiders from the mainstream white community.
We became acquainted, one day in the toilets when it was just the two of us she became quizzical and her nose twitched, “Why aren’t your teeth brown like your skin? And why are you called black when you are really brown?” I turned from her, “Well why are you white and not called pink like you are?” I went into the toilet cubicle that she had just left and darted out, “Why aren’t your poo’s pink as well, YOU FORGOT TO FLUSH!!!”
That is the approach we should all take to race relations, the innocent route, the unbiased ways of children.