Danielle, who is a Support Co-Ordinator with Victim Support Scotland in Glasgow, details her experience of growing up black in Scotland.
Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance. Growing up in Scotland as a black girl, I learned this at an early age. The argument I hear time and time again is, ‘but Scotland is a very diverse country, we welcome everyone!’ Yes, that may be true, but welcoming someone is simply not enough. We must take the time know the people we are welcoming; their beliefs, their history and their heritage – and we must celebrate them.
I can count on one hand the amount of time I have experienced direct racism, by this I mean people calling me the ‘N word’ or telling me to ‘go back to my country’.
However, the same cannot be said about the amount of times I have experienced indirect racism. Such as the refusal to engage, benign ignorance, the jokes, banter and the mockery.
There has been countless of times I have felt offended at a comment a friend or work colleague has said, and when I go to challenge them, I have been shut down and told to take a joke. What people don’t understand is these indirect comments can be just as painful and damaging as calling me the ‘N word’.
Getting made fun of for mis-pronouncing Scottish words, getting told you don’t look Scottish, getting told by a hairdressers that they cannot style my ‘type’ of hair. It is the touching of my hair without asking first. It’s getting told you look pretty ‘for a black person’. It’s getting told your name ‘doesn’t sound black’. Finally, it is getting called ‘black Danielle’ all through high school.
Imagine hearing and experiencing all these things on a regularly basis, and how this might affect your self-worth. You might even try and change who you are, over something you can’t change and should be proud of.
It has taken me years, but I am so proud to say that I am black. I encourage everyone reading this to listen when a friend, family member or colleague tells you they are offended by something you have said. Take on board what they say and continue to try and learn more about why these words and actions may be offensive.
Working at VSS I am proud to support other people who experience racism and crime and help them get to a place where they feel they can report to the police. I encourage everyone who may have experienced racism to seek support and report. Racism is a priority for Police Scotland, and it is important to help eradicate this throughout Scotland.