Racism teaches me reconnection and forgiveness



My narrative has always been “racism has never been my problem” I always felt that I had never been held back by my colour. I remember when my mum used to tell me to open my eyes and wake up. That racism was everywhere. “That’s just what you want to see because you want to be a victim” I used to say. “I'm not a victim. I can do what I want”


My parents were born in Africa. They came to London in the 60s. London was not an accommodating city for brown or black people. They faced much discrimination. My father told me stories of being highly qualified and yet in interviews being asked why he knows so much when he has a flat nose and curley hair. He used to change his name on his CV sometimes, desperate to get a job. Time and time again, a white person was promoted above him. Eventually he started his own business, now he is his own boss. Many black and Asian people have had to take the route to entrepreneurship because of inherent descrimination.


Everything happening right now has made me reflect deeper on my own experiences of racism.


From “it’s never affected me” to suddenly getting flashes of all these moments where race was brought up and I didn’t even pay attention. I’m not sure what I did with these moments. I guess I just never allowed myself to process them. I was too busy telling myself they didn’t need to matter.

My earliest experience of knowing I was “not white” was in primary school. I had a friend called Stella. She always ate a bright green Granny Smith apple in the playground. Every day. One day her mum came to pick her up from school and she suddenly pretended she didn’t know me. I couldn’t understand it. We were about 7. I said hello to her mum because I didn’t realise what was going on and her mum barely looked at me and said “we don’t make friends like that” grabbed her hand and they walked away. I remember not understanding and wondering what is wrong with me? I look the same as her, we both wear the same uniform and we both eat green apples together in the playground. I did wonder- maybe it’s because I’m brown and she’s white? Can’t be, I thought. I dismissed it.


My first explicit experience of racism which I couldn’t deny or dismiss as a misunderstanding was when I was 15. Walking down the road I had lived on since I was born in a safe area of North London, a car sped past me and a girl yelled “PAKI” out of the window. I was confused. Paki? I thought. I’m not from Pakistan? I was even more confused because the girl was brown.


My first boyfriend was black. A gentle giant with eyes that twinkled and smiled at me wherever I was in a room. Kind and intelligent and did his maths A-level homework whilst joking about with me and watching tv at the same time. I was always in awe because I hated maths and he made it look easy. He made everything look easy. His grace and respect meant he refused to take my virginity because he knew I wasn’t ready, even though I said I was. He held his ground and refused to violate my silent unspeakable and sacred boundary. I almost couldn’t believe it - which 19 year old guy would do that? My grandad saw us once leaving the cinema together. He called up my mum and told her I was with a black man. She had the reaction you might expect an older Asian woman to have. Suspicion and reprimand. The truth was I never saw him as a black man; I didn’t choose him because he was black. I chose him because he was a gentleman.

Racial division was more explicit and uncomfortable for me uni. Predominantly an ethnic university, the black people all hanged out together and the Asians together and the white minority together. I remember being terrified on my first day, trying to find a group of people who looked open enough to approach and glaringly aware of my colour. I could see people gravitating towards the those of the same colour because they felt they would have more in common, it was safer, and that was their basis for friendship. I didn’t fit in with the asian team and I didn’t fit in with the black team. The white people didn’t want to know me. I felt like an alien. My response was to withdraw from it all. I didn’t want to be part of a clique based on colour and attitude and culture just to belong. I focused on myself and my work, accepted that I had no friends and built my career instead. In my first year I lived with a racist. A privileged rugby boy who would entertain himself by smashing eggs on his own head and shouting racist remarks out of the window. One night he was racist towards the student union bouncer who was black. The next night, I woke up at 2am in the morning to the front door of the flat being bashed in. My friend (who was black) was with me at the time because we had been studying late for a politics exam. I went out to look through the peep hole and saw about fifty black men and women outside the door with weapons. I thought I was hallucinating. What the fuck. The rugby racist was hiding under his bed and refused to confront what he had created. Instead, my friend, a slim black girl with the voice of an angel, said 'i'll deal with this.' She sent me back to my room, opened the door and went outside. I don't know what she said, but twenty minutes later there was silence.


In the final year I found myself in a flat share with a mixed group of girls, we were Asian, White, Chinese, Black - it was irrelevant because we connected. It was the first time I felt I had friends at uni. But it was the final year and time to move on.


Interning in the city I entered a programme for black and ethnic minorities who were talented but were black. The city wasn’t made for black people apparently. We would have to work harder and smarter to fit in. I remember they told us in the training how to eat properly with a fork and knife incase we were invited out to posh client dinners. I was pretty horrified. I remember cracking a joke and asking what if they served us a chappati, how would we eat that with a fork and knife. Behind the joke was my rebellion. Don’t tell me how to eat my food like I’m some sort of animal. There was a lot of support but there was also a lot of assumptions and programming. To fit in, we needed to talk and act like white people. Anyway, if you ask me rice tastes better when you eat it with your hands.

Working in the city was the standard wolf of Wall Street type environment. Superficial and competitive. I was in the “UK credit and derivative sales team” where everyone was white and from Oxbridge. Then there was me. I didn’t play golf. My dad didn’t work in a bank or for an asset manager. I didn’t live in Kensington. One day we were at a team dinner and a story came up about a client that had been arrested for a racist attack. The client was a well known fund manager and an important client for the team. I listened and then decided to speak up. “I wont work with a client that’s racist” I said “let alone a client that has committed a violent racial attack”. That’s when the response came as my boss turned to me, infront of the whole team, looked me in the eyes and said “oh yes you will” my immediate response was complete confusion. Was this some sort of joke? They just talked about a guy with a bleeding skull, they just talked about racism, but because there’s money to be made, we should maintain a relationship? My respect level dropped into negative territory, not just for my boss but for the whole team who refused to speak up. Who were complicit. I never forgot that. It disgusted me, how superficial these people were. How desperate and empty they were to make money, at all costs. Shortly after I left the bank. “Why are you leaving” my boss asked “because I don’t want to end up like you” I replied. “Keep your money, none of this matters to me”.


A few years later I got an English boyfriend. He hard dark features and looked kinda brown when he had a tan. Race wasn’t an issue for him and I always felt very accepted by his parents. It was his older brother, whose insistence about cracking racially fuelled jokes in my presence under the guise of “banter” that got my attention. Tiny remarks about someone doing something “because they’re black right” went on for years. I couldn’t fully process what it was because we got on well. We went on holidays together. Why would he be racist if he got on with me? If we laughed and played squash together? Eventually I had enough. A comment dropped in the room one day when we were all having lunch. It was out of context, not funny and irrelevant to what we were talking about. It was a comment about black people. I looked at my boyfriend and waited for him to intervene and he stayed silent, pretending to be oblivious. I can’t date a coward I thought. I told him that night, “the truth is you pretend not to hear but you do hear, your brother is a racist, and that’s a fact” it didn’t go down well. “No he’s not” came the feeble reply.

How do you call out the people who are closest to you, who say they love you and care for you, who are actually still entangled in their racist attitudes and beliefs? Who have not done enough inner reflection or do not have enough self awareness or connection to the world or humanity to understand that colour is irrelevant?


We must stand our ground and educate our people. We must speak our truth.


When you judge someone by colour, black white brown yellow pink whatever it is, you may as well take yourself back to the land of the dead, because you have forgotten what it means to be alive. Aliveness is knowing each person you meet reflects the whole. Until we accept this, we will remain fragmented and traumas will continue to be passed down, year after year.

I am committed to holding space for my clients that come in with whatever views they have, who want to entangle themselves from them. I have dealt with race and racism coming up as part of the healing process and journey back to wholeness for my clients. It is powerful and beautiful. It requires us to rest back in the field beyond right and wrong to allow someone to explore what needs are being met by their racist positions. Everything fulfils a need. When the need can be met in another way, more aligned and healthier; the client is given a new path of growth. Posting a picture of a black square on Instagram because the bandwagon is rolling doesn’t mean you’ve changed your views or you’re even revisiting your relationship with race and colour, with ethnicity with culture, with generational trauma, with what you’ve held and what you dish out. It just means you posted a picture. Do the work. Make it matter.

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