I Can Speak English, You Know By Isaiah Ting

I can speak English, you know.

This message is to all the people on public transport, in restaurants, in the streets, or in any social setting where you're with another human being: I can speak English, and I belong here as much as you do.

Do you know how we feel, as People of Colour, when you call us out and say something discriminatory? Well, let me tell you about the emotional rollercoaster that you push us into.

1. Anger, but repressed anger.

Growing up, I was always told by my Filipino parents who immigrated our family here that this is a white country and to just "turn the other cheek". As a child, I followed willingly because I didn't know better, or for that matter, understand better. But now, I feel anger. Repressed anger. For people with white skin, an act of violence because of anger is just that, an act of violence. But when People of Colour act on this, we have an extra level of consideration to worry about: do we want to be seen as the wrongly established stereotype of our people? We are angry but when we act on it, we are more than just an individual that has acted or reacted in that moment, we are labelled terrorists, a nuisance, "those people". So, do we want to be angry at the situation? YES. But do we want to give other people with pre-conceived stereotypes of us a chance to "prove them right"? NO.

2. Confused.

Why are we treated like this in a country that we have worked hard in and contributed to? That's it. We don't know what to do. Do we fight against the stereotype and risk being prosecuted (and in some parts of the world, killed) or leave it? We are confused because as far as we know, or as far as I know at least, I've been a contributing member of this society, with taxes, social work and leisure spending (which I do a lot!) - yet I am still made to feel like I don't belong here and the worst part is, I'm "leeching" off the government. I am a contributing part of British society and every achievement I have is from my own hard work and without malicious intent to "take all the jobs".

3. Afraid.

Although I have built up an immunity and tolerance to racism, I should not have had to! Yet even with the immunity I have built up, I become more afraid every time I encounter racism or have racial slurs used against me. Let me paint you a picture. I am on a train, on my phone minding my own business, and a Caucasian individual randomly comes up to me and would throw unprovoked racial insults at me. Despite my English education and despite my strong belief that I earned my place in this society, I regress and in that moment I feel powerless. No, this doesn't happen every time but it has happened enough that I am scared. I am scared to just be on my phone minding my own business while getting the train to the University I am doing my PhD studies at. That is not normal. No individual should be made to feel like this in any circumstance regardless of the colour of your skin. Every time I am discriminated against, I am left speechless, powerless and afraid.

That is not normal. No individual should be made to feel like this in any circumstance regardless of the colour of your skin. Every time I am discriminated against, I am left speechless, powerless and afraid.

4. Hopeless.

The last stop on the emotional rollercoaster induced by discriminatory acts against me is ‘hopeless station’. Will things ever change? What would my world be like if I didn't encounter these situations? Would it be easier if I listened to the ignorant individuals and just "go back to where I came from"? No, things will not change. No, I cannot even imagine a world where I don’t have to deal with these sorts of things. No, I deserve to be here and this is where I belong. It is, in my opinion, easy for people like myself to go straight down the hopelessness route and just accept this, despite all the opinions and sense of belonging to this country I feel, and it is a depressing fact. The concept of the ‘Free World’ provided and uplifted by most predominately Caucasian powerful western countries does not extend to everyone. This is where, for me, the feeling of hopelessness comes from. We look to the US and how People of Colour, especially the black population, face police brutality and systemic and institutionalised racism. The UK is somewhat tamer but that does not mean it doesn't happen here. I would not be writing this if these things did not happen here too.

There. What a ride. Then what happens? We go home crying to our loved ones whilst explaining the pain and anguish we feel when your senseless yet very powerful discriminatory words are hurled at us without warning.

It's time for re-education. Let's educate ourselves in our differences and we, myself included, still have a lot to learn.

As Michelle Obama said:

"Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can't just be on People of Colour to deal with it. It's up to all of us — Black, white, everyone — no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out."


Created with an image by Ivan Shilov