“The Staring Game”

Growing up in a place that embraced multiculturalism meant that it was a normal thing to see people of all colours interacting with each other. Since leaving this area and moving to what a friend described as ‘a local town for local people’, I have been confronted with unexpectedly high levels of racial hostility, both overt and subtle but by far, the most disturbing thing to me has been the realisation that in this place at least, I cannot even walk down the street without being stared at.

As a Black person in Britain, you get used to racism. For obvious reasons, it is never an enjoyable experience – nor a welcome one but it is simply one which reoccurs periodically throughout your life. What is different about the area I live in now is that a trip to the local shop or walking down the road with a white partner can provoke waves of unwelcoming looks from white locals. The first time I noticed it, I actually thought a bird had crapped on me or there was something on my face. It was not until several people around me flagged this, in addition to some explicitly unpleasant racist comments that I realised I was simply the ‘other’.

This ongoing experience over the past year has made me feel really unwelcome. I can confidently point to a standalone racist and denounce them as a bigot but it becomes an overwhelming feeling when it is so widely accepted, and worse, normalised. For this whole period I have not felt safe, constantly worried about the next look or comment and obsessing about race. The only clear resolution is getting out. As sad as it is to have your life shaped by your race, it has really made me think about my life choices. Where to live? Where to work? And how much abuse will I get? Have become key deciding points. Here everyday is a battle and unfortunately, I think this experience will have a lasting impact.

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