When I first met my husband, I was naïve. I had been brought up to be colour-blind. It didn’t matter where you came from, what you looked like; it was how you treated people and carried yourself; that’s what was important. I had never considered my race except for ticking a box on a form to say I was white. I wasn’t aware I was privileged because I had a British passport. I was unaware, and I was naïve.
When people realised my partner was black, they would ask, “What did your parents say the first time you took him home?” My usual response was, “Hi, nice to meet you.”
When I became pregnant with my first child, I was naïve to racism. I thought to myself ‘I’ve grown up in my town, I’m well liked, I have great friends and family no one will say anything to him or my husband, that kind of thing doesn’t happen’.
I was confident. But I was wrong!
Every incident is etched on my brain like it was yesterday and there are too many incidents to share with you today, but I’d like to try to share how deeply racism has impacted my whole family.
I’m a white woman with four black children.
I’d like to ask the mothers reading this if anyone ever questioned if you were your child’s mother because they don’t look like you!
Also, I’d like you to think about when you were asked if you foster children! I have had this several times and my last response was, “no, I grew this one from scratch.”
Lack of support from police and the local authority has effectively shaped my children’s childhood. Lack of support has made me be a different parent. It has made me be, some would say, overprotective and strict. In some ways, this lack of support, this attitude that if it wasn’t my children’s skin colour that people would negatively comment on, it would be something else and that we should get on with it, has ruined my children’s childhood. But, in other ways, I am thankful it has made my family stronger. Some days I wish I was a different person, that I had dealt with the racism differently and had not involved the police.
I am a white mother. I have four black children. What is it like? It is hard. I have a lot of hidden grief.
Imagine explaining to your 4-year-old child why he’s been called a ‘blackie’. I asked him why he thought they called him that. He thought it was because of the colour of his hair. I explained as best as I could it was because of the colour of his skin that he was a little bit like mummy and a little bit like daddy. I will never forget the confusion on his face as he turned his hands over and over and replied, “well, they’re idiot’s because I’m brown.”
How would you feel if your 3-year-old froze when he saw a particular group of people and would physically shake as they got closer?
How would you feel if people made comments that it stinks of shit around here as you walk past with your children?
How would you feel if your child had terrible dreams and eventually tells you he’s worried about being set on fire or his mummy and daddy will be hurt?
How would you feel if your child would say he didn’t like white people, but mummy and her family weren’t included?
How would you feel if someone nudged their friend and said, look at that monkey as you walked past?
If someone stopped their car in the middle of the road to wind their window down and shout black c**** as you and your children walk home?
How would you feel if you were in too much shock to react?
How would you feel if your child was physically attacked?
How would you feel if you were the minority?
I have been that. I know how that feels. I know how it feels to have people stare at you and want to touch your children’s hair and skin because you look different. I know how it feels for my race to ignore my existence because I have children of colour. After all, where my husband was born, white folk are superior and don’t mix with the locals.
Imagine your child telling you that brown kids get shot in the head and die because another child has said that to him at school.
Imagine witnessing your child self-harming at the age of 8.
Imagine having to remove your children from school for their well-being and having three children in three different schools in three different towns.
Imagine if you were that child and you were unable to attend school with your siblings.
Imagine being that child.
Imagine being that parent.
Would you feel isolated?
Would you feel angry or helpless?
I’m that mum.
I have lost faith in humanity and the British justice system. I am the mum who cries and sometimes can’t stop. I’m the one who has psoriasis because my body can’t cope with the stress. The mum who is barely making it through the day, the one who is unable to sleep, who sweats excessively when her children aren’t with her. I’m the mum who struggles to breathe when her phone rings and she sees it’s the school’s number.
Right now, I’m the mum who doesn’t know if she’s a volcano that’s about to erupt or the erosion of a cliff edge that’s crumbled away over time.
I’m that mum and that’s my child.
By Amy Masvaure, 2021, All rights reserved.