12 year old told to F*** Off Back To Africa – the reality of racism in Cumbria today

This is not an easy read. The following is a harrowing and personal piece by a mother, inspired by a social media post she wrote earlier in 2020. It outlines her experiences as a mother and of her son in Cumbria now. The mother is white and her son is of dual heritage and identifies as black. Names and places have been removed to prevent further discrimination. This is the reality of being black and young in Cumbria today, not thirty years ago. Today. Now.

Trigger warning: racial slurs

A mother’s words:

This is the last time I will write about racism. I am done explaining and I am sick of reading the hate when I do, but hear this before I stop. I too have laughed at Little Britain and other shows which now I am embarrassed about…what I didn’t laugh at was when my son came home from primary school and asked me what a n***** was. That was before he wanted to bath in bleach as a child told him to scrub his dirt off.

I too have thought racism didn’t exist until some white kids told my son he couldn’t have a seat on the school coach that I pay for. They told him the Rosa Parks days were over. They broke him to the point that when they said get off the bus, he actually did.

I tried to laugh it off when he said in a class some one told him to F*** off back to Africa as his clan had brought Ebola over. But then when I sat in the nice white person’s office they told me that it wasn’t offensive as the white child didn’t understand. I questioned whether at 12 should they not be a little more understanding.

I said to myself that these kind of people are a minority….. ignore it. But the incidents keep coming. I saw the look in his eyes last summer when he came in with his two white friends, they told me that my son had been accused by the police of stealing a bike…it was his bike.  He was only 5 minutes away from my house riding his own bike. When I spoke to the police, apparently it wasn’t racist, he just fitted a profile. He was just 13. That was the first time the police accused him. I looked at his innocence as he explained how the police had said to him they were just making sure no one stole bikes. Strange that they didn’t just say “is that your bike?” Strange that their first thought was he stole it. Strange they didn’t ask the white boys he was with. Guess what though, that was nothing to do with race…just coincidence.

The second time the police stopped him they accused him of assault. He didn’t even know what assault was. I was 500m away from him. When I asked why they had stopped him…strangely enough he fitted a profile but it was nothing to do with his skin colour it was to do with fitting a profile – this time the profile was a youth in dark clothes. Yet they didn’t stop the group of ten that walked in front of him who were were also in dark clothes. They didn’t fit the profile but it was nothing to do with skin colour. 

When I am told he looks intimidating it isn’t racist apparently, just, you know…

I don’t know. 

I don’t know because when I look at him I just see my son. In fact I am often told he looks “well, you know” and no, I never know. What I do know is when I hear him cry or get angry about it. What I do know is that now at 14 he knows what racism is. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry. 

People think he is Indian, or Asian, they can’t even get his heritage right! I know when he was small, before school and the name calling began that he didn’t think he was different to me. I now know that  he knows he is different as so many people have pointed it out all his life. I know he has given up trying to fit in. He spent years wanting to change his skin colour, now he knows he can’t, he has an acceptance. I have had him shout at me that I don’t know what it’s liked to constantly be judged, to be picked on, to be singled out…the truth is, I don’t. 

A teacher once told me that if my son is with a group of boys being silly he will always get the blame as he is the first one you see, because he stands out.  It’s not racist it’s just a fact apparently.

I’m told I can’t call it racism because it’s not. Maybe it’s just ignorance then? Who knows  what it is if I can’t call it anything. If he is with a group of friends they are labelled a gang, “you know because Black people are from gangs”. Yet if his friends are out with out him it’s a group! So I am watching all of you shouting All lives Matter and hating the Black Lives Matter slogan. Yet in a world where you believe all lives matter why does my son’s life matter less?  Why as a society do you allow him to be treated differently from his peers?

You see that’s the thing about racism as long as you’re not living with it you don’t have a clue about the damage it does. You’re lucky. Maybe you will never experience it. I live with the cause and effect of it every day. So don’t rubbish me with your all lives matter because by that very statement you are saying my son’s doesn’t: So to quote a very famous book…I am done talking racism with white people because you will never ever be able to understand it as in reality you never want to. 

There you have it. Cumbria. Today. It’s why Anti Racist Cumbria exists. We hope one day we won’t have to.

We believe education is the key which is why we want all school leaders to attend an event on 22 Oct to discuss Race & Education in Cumbria. Sign the letter to show your support for this event and stop racism in Cumbria.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this post or need support with dealing with any of the issues raised please contact us on hello@antiracistcumbria.org