Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I (heart) people of colour

Man, do I miss coloured folks. Particularly Black people. Far East Asians -- I'm okay. And there are plenty of Indians and others from that part of the continent. (Who, by the by, are confusingly called Asians -- my questions is whadya call Japanese and Chinese and Korean folksisees?)

I'm not sure how the hell this works, but the British recruits native people from the UK's former colonies and commonwealth states to be in their army. It's well-known that there are many Nepalese serving. They also have a fair number from Fiji. The second school I work at is very near an British army base and there are some Fijian kids at the school.

Today there were a few brahs out playing rugby and I just loved it. I never get to see any Pacific Islanders and so, to be all the way over here and see folks, it's a cool thing. They must be buggin' out over the weather though. 68°F (20°C) and peeps actin' like it's a heatwave. Folks gonna be fallin' out on Friday -- 73° (23°).

Here are a few more stories about race and British folks. Be amused.


My boss at school has got some serious frizzy hair. She puts me to shame with her nappiness and she ain't even black. Or she's not admitting to it.

My school is in the process of packing up and moving out of their building so that we can build a brand new school on site. As a result, they are cleaning out all the cupboards that get filled with crap in a school and they have pulled out all these pictures from the past. My boss has been at my school for years, so there is nearly a thousand pictures with various heights of afro. Sometimes it's JJ Walker, in other pictures, Diana Ross.

So she tells us a story of when she was dating her husband. She was, as many of us are when we are younger, a bit tanner. They were walking hand in hand when, I'll let her words continue the story:

    When two big NEGROES jumped up and toward me. They said, "What island are you from sista?"
    I mean, two NEGROES!
And I wasn't even watching Driving Miss Daisy. Did you think there were people in the world that used that word? Here's another story of inappropriate terms for people.


A young girl I worked with was telling me a story. At one point she said,

    "And these two coloured people..."
    Skeeeeert. (Sound of car braking to halt) "What did you say?" I said.
    "Coloured people."
    "Uh, dear. You really shouldn't call people coloured people. It's offensive."
    "Really? I'm sorry... I just... that's just... that's what... "
    "You can say Black, if you like. Who told you to say coloured people?"
    "My coloured friend."
I wish I were lying.


When I first arrived, I decided to get my hair cut. Why, I don't know. Well, I was lured to one particular hair salon (one of the 17,000 in the city), Ebony and Ivory. Hey, this can't be so bad. Plus, I was missing seeing some Black folks.

In the shop was the proprietor, an older Afro-Caribbean woman, and a younger African girl. The young woman was particularly fascinated with me. It was like my sister's reaction when meeting Boy: "Wow, a real-life English person." I was the Black American on display. I was asked loads of questions about my American life, which was making me slightly homesick.

    "Wow," she said, "I can't believe you're from American. Can you tell me... is it true that all Black people like fried chicken and watermelon?"
What, you don't? I guess I would have been less shocked with the comment if she hadn't been Black as well.


Anonymous Amah said...

I tried commenting yesterday but something happened and I wasn't allowed to publish my comment.

I understand your need for seeing your familiar surroundings--I myself started watching Hawaii 5-0 when I moved to California. I just had to watch the background to see if I knew the areas being used in the shot. When I lived in Hawaii, I wouldn't dare watch 5-0 cause it wasn't "real" life. Also, Elvis' movie "Blue Hawaii" became my favorite, despite my not liking Elvis, because of the scenery and the hula.

How short did you cut your hair and are you going back to them? I had 3 inches trimmed off to get the splitends. It's still midway down my back.

If they are building a new school on site, when will the new building be ready to occupy? What will happen next school year--is there another location you're occupying until the new building is ready?

Friday, 9 June 2006 at 16:58:00 BST  
Anonymous Blakely said...

I think sometimes that the US is a little over-sensitive about issues of race and ethnicity. I'm often amazed by the casual attitude folks in other countries have toward making references to people of different backgrounds.

Sometimes, though, I can't help wondering if the rest of the world is onto something. Take me for instance -- I'm a Jew. I'm loud and I talk with my hands and my people control the banks and not-so-secretly run Hollywood. I'm basically okay with that. LOL. So, okay, I'm halfway joking. But the point is, I don't see the sense in denying that stereotypes do exist. And while it's true that they can be damaging, they can also be comforting for those who identify as part of the group.

I guess I might have been tempted, for example, to tell the girl at the salon "Fried chicken is good, but I like chittlins better. And I LUVS me some watermelon!"

Gotta have a sense of humor to make it thru this life (says the girl who grew up with a huge chip on her shoulder about being raised Jewish in a southern baptist town, and finally figured out how to shrug it off)

Friday, 9 June 2006 at 19:44:00 BST  
Blogger Autumn said...

To amah: my hair was cut to about shoulder length, maybe a bit longer. But that was 2+ years ago. My school is split onto two campuses. I'm on the campus with the younger kids (kindergarten to second grade) and we aren't moving. The older kids are and when the school is finished, we should all be able to be on one campus.

To blakely: when you're in a place with people who speak another language (like in Scotland :)) you begin to realise how much you miss people you didn't think you would. I agree that America has a heightened awareness of race, sometimes overly so, but I don't think I would want the alternative. I have heard some of my colleagues say some things that were prejudiced (racist, homophobic) and it is completely normal. What I like about the States, even with all of its problems with race (a hyper- and, hypo-sensitivity), is that we have a lot more awareness of the feelings of other cultures. It's out there more. So you're more of a bastard if you step on them. I don't think I'm saying this well. Maybe I'll blog on it later...

Saturday, 10 June 2006 at 10:37:00 BST  

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