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Oprah Winfrey and travelling while black
Oprah Winfrey is one of the world’s richest women but it didn’t stop a Zurich shop assistant from assuming she couldn’t afford the bag she wanted to buy. I talk about the real risks of travelling when black and sadly, they are more troublesome than having trouble buying a £24,000 bag.
There was a depressing familiarity to Oprah Winfrey’s tale of racism in an upmarket Swiss boutique.
Billionaire TV presenter Oprah is a household name around the world but this didn’t stop the staff in an Zurich handbag shop from assuming she couldn’t afford the expensive bag she wanted to buy.
In Oprah’s case, she decided not to make a scene or to play the ‘do you know who I am?’ card, instead choosing to leave the shop and spend her money elsewhere.
Oprah knew just mentioning her experience would be pay back enough and already the owner of the boutique has apologised and tried to explain away the incident as a ‘misunderstanding’.
While £25k handbags are not normally on my shopping list, being made acutely aware of your race when you leave the safety of home is all too familiar…
This article was originally published in the Guardian with thanks to Writers of Colour
Serve me up a Frankenburger but go easy on the branding
Yesterday’s announcement that scientists have created the first fully lab-grown burger left many feeling nauseous.
We have an emotional connection to what we put in our bodies and the idea of a burger made on a Petri dish leaves many people cold.
I don’t share this revulsion.
Even when the rules are followed and our food isn’t bulked out with horse or fed its own dead, the way our meat is produced is already pretty vile. (more…)
Dark girls and slavery’s lingering fingerprints
When my beautiful daughter was just eight, she corrected me when I described her to a friend as ‘black’.
“Dad, I’m brown”, she explained. “You’re black, mum’s white and I’m brown”.
While I couldn’t fault her logic, her words caused a strong emotional reaction in me.
It was a mini panic, unexpected and violent. I caught my breath and tried to explain that:
“Although races don’t really exist, the world we live in has conjured them up and the shared life experience you will have with your darker skinned cousins and friends defines you all as black, regardless of skin tone.”
Good luck explaining that to an eight year old.
No argument I came up with, would convince her she was anything other than brown and so I gave up.
Now she’s 22 and would define herself as mixed-race. (more…)
Trayvon Martin and the Fear of a Black Man
“ ‘Not Guilty?’ the filthy devils tried to kill me/ When the news gets to the hood the niggas will be/ Hotter than cayenne pepper/ Cuss, buss, kicking up dust is a must.”
Ice Cube – ‘We Had to Tear This MF Up’
The’ Not Guilty’ verdict for George Zimmerman, the killer of Black teenager Trayvon Martin, confirms a fact that all Black men know, but hoped had changed. The fact that many white people view us as a threat.
It doesn’t matter if the Black man in question is well educated and softly spoken. It doesn’t matter if he has not even finished puberty. We are seen as a threat that must be contained. Trayvon was an unarmed teenager, and George Zimmerman was an heavily set 29 year old with an obvious weight advantage, who also happened to be packing a gun. But still Zimmerman felt that he was the…
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Obama and JFK – how messiahs break our hearts
This week, Barak Obama retraced JFK’s steps and spoke at Berlin’s iconic Brandberg gate.
The White House was going for a ‘JFK moment’ and the world’s media was keen to lap up the easy comparisons between these two handsome, eloquent men.
Of course it was no accident Obama’s visit came almost exactly 50 years after Kennedy’s famous ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech. (more…)
Why the Boston bomber is not evil
In the immediate aftermath of the terrible events at the end of the Boston Marathon last night, like everyone else, I am filled with sadness.
Marathons are a joyful occasion and I’m looking forward to cheering on friends who are running in London next Sunday.
That someone would chose to do this to an event which brings 500,000 spectators out to watch over 20,000 runners, many raising money for charities, beggars belief.
Looking for news on Twitter, along with the genuine shock and good wishes to injured and families of the dead, two types of response worried me. (more…)
Osborne and my Right-to-Buy
Giveaway George has me left in a quandary.
Despite the constant calls for him to let Britain grow its way out of this never ending downturn, he decided, in this week’s Budget, to put all of his economic eggs into the housing basket.
“Owning your own home is the most basic human aspiration” said Gorgeous Gideon as he explained that, despite saying the cupboards were bare, he had managed to come up with £12bn for his mortgage guarantee scheme, £3.5bn for his Help-to-Buy scheme and £130bn to underwrite mortgages.
He also increased the maximum Right-to-Buy discount for council tenants who want to become home owners from £75k to £100k.
I’ve lived in one council flat or other for almost my entire life.
The flat I live in now, on a slightly grimy Tooting council estate, has been my home for over 20 years. (more…)
Through whose eyes? white saviours in film
There is an old African saying, made popular again by the excellent Somali rapper K’naan, which says, “Until the lion learns to speak, the tales of hunting will always favour the hunter”. I take this to mean if you are not writing your own history, you can’t be sure that your side of the story will be told.
Last Sunday, I went to the Haymarket to watch The Help, Dreamwork’s adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s bestseller which looks at the lives of black maids in 1960s Mississippi. (more…)
When the underbelly roars
I grew up on south London council estates in the 70s and 80s and vividly remember the riots that tore through my city, along with Leeds, Liverpool, Birmingham and several other parts of Britain with large black communities.
When the first riots hit Brixton in 198, I was 12 years old.
My mates and I came from council estates in Wandsworth, Battersea and Earlsfield and while we were no angels, we certainly couldn’t be described as bad kids. (more…)