‘How am I going to tell my son there are people who won’t like him because he is black?’

The Black Lives Matter movement has gained huge momentum around the world since white police officer Derek Chauvin was filmed kneeling on the neck of unarmed black man George Floyd for 9 minutes before his death in America. And Ben Brennan, former deputy manager at Missoula in The Hub, has chosen now to open up about his own experiences of racism in a special guest column.

This might be a bit controversial but I’m going to go with it.

My biggest fear at the moment is how I’m going to explain to my son that there will be people he meets that won’t like him just because his skin is a different colour. I’m scared my son will go through the experiences I’ve been through, if not worse.

A lot of people are saying racism is getting worse. It’s not, it’s always been the same.

The difference now is that we have the technology to record it and social media to share it.

Some people don’t understand racism and think it’s blown out proportion at times, so here are some of my own personal experiences of it.

Growing up in Westwood in Peterborough in the 80s I heard n****r, c**n and black b*****d most days.

People targeted my mum, saying “look at her walking her two monkeys,” as she walked hand in hand with my brother and I.

I remember being in the bath scrubbing my skin because I thought I was dirty and couldn’t understand why
I was different.

I remember my sixth form teacher telling me that she saw me and a couple of friends in John Lewis at the weekend as she was at the till, and the lady serving her called security because she’d seen three black males in the store. The teacher stuck up for me and questioned why she would call security.

One summer, EVERY DAY for a week, I was stopped by an undercover police office as I biked through the Grange to my mate’s house. He said it was because there had been some burglaries in the area and wanted to search me for items.

It was summer so I was in shorts and T-shirt and on my bike, carrying no bag or anything. My dad took me to Thorpe Wood to complain about being stopped and the next time I saw him he just grinned at me.

I remember going to knock for a girl I was seeing at school, only for her to tell me she was grounded and wasn’t allowed out because I was black, and that black and white relationships don’t work.

I recall going to visit my best mate and his mum when they lived in Scarborough. My mate and I were walking back from the beach, I was in my Arsenal top, and a random guy walked past me and started screaming “Arsenal are sh** you f*****g black b*****d”. He just absolutely lost it, screaming racial abuse at me while his girlfriend pulled him away.

Over the years I’ve seen people staring at me, giving me dirty looks and talking amongst themselves about
me because I’m with a white girl – people still don’t like interracial relationships.

I’ve even seen people do this recently when I was shopping with my blonde haired step daughter. I’ve heard people say “f*****g black b*****d” to someone else then turn to me and say, “nah not you, you’re alright.”

While working for a company doing a show, a colleague and I were walking around talking. I mentioned that my mum is white – he laughed and thought I was joking.

I then explained it and showed him a picture of her, so he apologised and explained that he didn’t know any black people growing up so he didn’t really understand.

He wasn’t being racist at all, he just didn’t understand, so I educated him. I wasn’t offended by it – how could I be?

I’ve not written this for sympathy or for likes on social media, I’ve written it to show and educate people that it’s real.

It’s only a small minority of people but it happens and still does.

I’m proud of who I am and I’m proud of my skin colour.

For further information on the Black Lives Matter movement visit blacklivesmatter.com

This feature was published in the July 2020 issue of Celebrate:MK lifestyle magazine. Read the full magazine above or by clicking on this link.

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