It all began probably when I was 10 or 11, it could have been before, but I don’t have any recollection if it was. It’s ok I didn’t know what it was either or what it meant. Probably not until I was 13 or 14 did, I understand what ‘it’ was.
I was born into a mixed-race family, mother white, father North African descent in 1957.my knowledge or experience of racism was minimal. I don’t think in retrospect, not that we ever spoke about it either, I ever knew of my parent’s exposure to racist behaviour themselves.
For me, the experience was a bit more real and lived. Racist remarks, bullying and degrading behaviour towards me were a daily constant. I didn’t know what to do, I had no help or support from anyone, however I did have five close friends who liked me and who I was not what I was, and thankfully they are still there today 50 years on.
Because I didn’t know what to do, I had to find a way, I found it in books. I found knowledge, I became a sponge, literature, geography, science. The bigger the book the easier I could hide behind it, no one could see me.
Time passed and so did the behaviour, the racism seemed to stop, I remained on high alert though, people moved on and we went off to the real world of work. Hard to believe that perfectly human adults still were able to resort to some form of bigoted behaviour towards me in later years.
Recently, a rather traumatic court case lasting three years resulting in the closure of my business, my livelihood, my pension and a suspended sentence threw my families lives into chaos .In court I was back in school, I wasn’t allowed to actually defend myself, someone else was speaking for me, the people prosecuting sat in all their finery, medals and silver were judge and jury. Here was a different type of bullying, of the official kind. I was looking at a big book that I couldn’t hide in this time at no time in all the years it took, nothing was said about the good I did just what I didn’t do was the total focus .The day before the final trial and sentencing I actually had a physical breakdown, it all came out. I had no more fight left in me. I couldn’t do it anymore.
These comments here are my view and feelings of it and not necessarily the view held by those who brought the prosecution in the first place.
"Today, I realise that it was from that dark place that I began
to find the light once more….."
Just over a year ago a business colleague took his own life, in all honesty I didn’t know him all that well, but when we were together, we shared so many valuable insights. We’d had breakfast together I think a week or so before he took his life. He was a very positive person, he put into perspective my own ordeal for me, we talked about books, what we were reading and recommending to each other regularly. He was on the cusp of getting the biggest contract of his working life, he’d spent three years also actually working on it. The success of this would launch him globally, he was so excited. I received the phone call as I was walking into a concert, the floor opened and I fell into it, absolutely stunned.
At the funeral he wrote a letter to be read out to the congregation, to us all. Explaining why, what led to it and for us to forgive him not judge him,His final letter described a dark place. I realised that I’d come to know that dark place all too well. I felt as if I was standing at a cliff edge.
I was introduced to his wife later and she said’ He talked about you all the time’…. I was floored yet again.
I came away and sat and reflected on my own, I thought about everything that has gone on and what I’ve been through. What was the state of my own mental health, how could I have gone through all this stuff unaffected, the discrimination of being mixed race caused me untold distress, we weren’t supposed to be depressed, it didn’t exist, well not from where I was from? The stigma from the industry I was well respected in for a long time soon turned on me after the court case, they believe they are right in their opinion, but they’ve never asked me mine or how its affected me.
Eventually I spoke to someone - it was a lifeline. I have learned mindfulness practices that have really helped alongside better self care. It’s meant letting go of the brave face and learning to say ‘no’. I didnt realise that I was suffering, physical health was fine but my mental health was in pieces, alcohol became my crutch, not heavily, but more regularly and dependent on it than I should have, using it as it being socially acceptable, kidding myself everything was fine.
Today, I realise that it was from that dark place that I began to find the light once more…..
I’ve turned a corner, life is good now, I’ve come out the other side a better person by acknowledging who I am, and I am happy. I love to talk to anyone who feels they are or think they are being discriminated or receiving stigma about their feelings, lack of confidence, self esteem and through Time to Change Wales I’ve found that forum.
….and that the view from a cliff edge can be utterly life affirming.