No cultural melting pot

I am daughter of first generation immigrants, but, somehow, being a relatively fair skinned Asian  woman with a European-sounding first name and a very English accent seems to protect me from the worst kinds of racism. I am not seen as threatening perhaps, or simply as ‘one of us’ by my European/Caucasian friends. People will often let their guard slip in front of me, revealing sometimes quite racist points of view. It has often been my way of telling the wheat from the chaff when it comes to friends if I’m honest.

One conversation I had this week related to the now infamous ‘you tube’ footage on the Wimbledon to Croydon tram line. It came from a professional and revealed some quite extraordinarily, unintentionaly perhaps (or instutionalised?) racism. Another conversation a while ago involved a mum at my son’s old school telling me the reason she had moved her daughter was because her old school had, effectively, too many non-Caucasian children in it.

I’m never sure what to do with these comments. Age and experience have taught me that I am not going to be able to change the world single-handedly. The radicalism of my youth has well and truly got jaded with age.

It saddens me how entrenched racism is in British society; there is an intrinsic lack of education and understanding behind every single racist remark made. It goes without saying that only through education and understanding can we change these attitudes.

As a mother of mixed-race children myself, my natural maternal instinct leads me to want to protect my children from the ugliness of racism. How do you explain to a six year old that sooner or later someone is going to judge you and stereotype you simply based on the colour of your skin? Believe it or not, living in London it is still possible to chose friends and surround ourselves with relatively liberal minded people; and protect ourselves in our daily lives from racist attitudes (although they will always seep in).

Being residents of Wimbledon, we take the tram line shown on the You Tube footage a lot. On the whole it is a really pleasant and unstressful experience which my boys find fun. Following the riots and destruction in Croydon it’s not a journey we’ve taken as often as before. Seeing this footage makes me want to take it even less.

Croydon is often the butt of jokes, but it is also possibly one of the most multicultural parts of  multi-cultural London, where inter-racial relationships and children are very much the norm. Seeing the footage on you tube this morning, made me have to confront an ugly reality: that even in such a  multi-cultural part of London racism abounds. Admittedly Croydon has problems that are very specific to it, with a quite frightening disenfranchisement and virulant gang culture. Nonethess it served as another wake up call to the more liberal minded: London is not the multi-cultural melting pot that many would like to believe it is.



  1. That is so sad! I can’t believe that in this day and age, there are people who are still putting up with racism!
    When I was teaching, I always made sure that we talked about how everyone is the same, no matter their beliefs / colour / background etc.
    (It was a small junior school in Berkshire)
    It makes me so angry to think that people have to warn their children that some day they will meed an ignorant person, who will judge them on skin colour alone!

  2. Hi mentalmum, yes it is sad, but just a reality for most. If truth be told, institutional racism is just as much, if not more, of an issue for ethnic minorities as the blatant racism in this footage. It’s also much harder to tackle, as it’s unspoken.

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