I reported a racist to the police yesterday

His words were nasty, small minded and destructive. I’d like to say that they burned his soul but I’m not sure he has one. He has been warned that further outbursts will land him in court. I reported him not just because I was offended or indignant at his open racism but for this:

When I was 12 years old I was walking in a local park in Middlesbrough with my friend who was 13. She was just enough older than me to make me feel like a child. I thought she was sophisticated and stylish. I still do. As we walked across the grass some teenage boys started to shout racist comments and taunting me for being with someone with the darkest and most beautiful skin I’d ever seen. It was the time of Alex Haley and the Roots series on television so the taunts were not just racist, they felt sexual and doubly frightening. If you’ve ever heard “Down at The Tube Station at Midnight” then you’ll understand why we were so scared. Later I sat on her dad’s knee and cried because I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t even like a family I loved so much.

As we walked quickly away on to a busy path I asked my friend how often that sort of thing happened and still remember the shock of hearing that it was at least once a day. I come from a background where we embrace other cultures and love meeting new people from places we’ve never heard of. During the war my grandmother was almost lynched as, when my mum went missing one night during an air raid, she saw a German pilot shot down. She cried and when admonished by the other women she said quite simply that a mother had just lost her son and didn’t know and she was shedding tears as a mother.

The day that the bombings in London happened – July 7 – the friend I spoke about earlier had a brain haemmorhage whilst driving and she wasn’t expected to survive. My dad was diagnosed with lung cancer and died 10 weeks later. Our Muslim friends though shocked and fearful of repercussions rallied round and we all helped one another through. My friend survived and it was with great happiness I heard her speak to me again.

My dad had a spectacular funeral. His coffin was carried out to the beat of African drums. Every mosque in Middlesbrough sent a representative. In a big church it was standing room only. The funeral director said she’d never seen anything like it. A man who was first generation English with parents from Pakistan paid for his funeral because he loved his Uncle Ted and Aunty Win and didn’t want us to worry.

Love.

That’s why I reported a racist to the police yesterday.

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