Essay About England

Essay About England-49
I was sure that he was a nice man and that if those people on the bus could just get to know him then they would like him. How and why did Britain forge those links in the first place? But my parents had come to this country from Jamaica. My dad had been a passenger on the Empire Windrush ship when it famously sailed into Tilbury in June 1948 and, according to many, changed the face of Britain for ever. They came to Britain on British Empire passports in order to find more opportunities for work and advancement. Eventually they were housed in the council flat in Highbury where I was born, and where I grew up. They believed that in order to get on in this country they should live quietly and not make a fuss. Keep their children well dressed and scrubbed behind the ears.

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They didn't know where it was, or who lived there, or why.

And they had no curiosity about it beyond asking why black people were in this country.

White people of course never had to think about it. Light-skinned or not, still we were asked, 'When are you going back to your own country? In my efforts to be as British as I could be, I was completely indifferent to Jamaica.

But if you were not white, well then, how black were you? None of my friends knew anything about the Caribbean.

It was too foreign and therefore not worth knowing.

As I got older my feeling of outsiderness became more marked, as did the feeling that nothing in my background – my class or my ethnicity – was really worth having.

After that I worked for a brief while as a shop assistant, a dresser at the BBC and the Royal Opera House, and a receptionist at a family-planning clinic. I was working part-time for a sex-education project for young people in Islington. Fortunately I had recently enrolled on an afternoon-a-week writing course at the City Lit in London, just as a hobby. The course had an emphasis on writing about what you know. In fact I came to see that every black person's life, no matter what it is, is part of the black experience. I discovered a family I had never really known I had.

One day the staff had to take part in a racism awareness course. By this time I was scared to call myself a black person. Didn't you have to have grown up in a 'black community'? Didn't your parents need to be proud of being black? My upbringing was so far removed from all of that, I felt sure I would be found out as an imposter. So, nervously I began to explore what I knew – my family upbringing and background, and my complicated relationship with colour. Because being black in a majority white country comes with a myriad of complications and contradictions. A few months into the course I had the urge to visit Jamaica for the very first time and stay with the family I had never met. I realised that I meant something to people who lived on the other side of the world.

My parents believed that, with no real entitlement to anything, they must accept what this country was willing to give. As long as they didn't do anything too unusual that might upset the people of England, then they could get on.

My mum was desperate for my dad to lose his accent and stop saying ‘nah man' and ‘cha' in every sentence. My mum would get embarrassed if she saw a black person drawing attention to themselves.


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