Difference

Once upon a time many years ago at the age of 13 while sitting in the playground engaging in idle conversation with a group of childhood friends a member of the group a tall slim white girl with golden, yellow hair and bright blue eyes asked me a question that still reels in my mind even to this day. “Shade do you wish you were white ?” my response was a deeply defiant, very automatic “no, of course not”!

Thinking back to my response it was immediate, embroiled in embarrassment, sadness, shock, shame and absolute anger. Even though I defiantly said no and as I heard the words tumble out of my throat I knew that the response I gave her wasn’t an entirely accurate one.

I was afraid to say yes. Of course my answer way back then was related to childhood issues of fitting in and being part of the crowd, but fast forward may years later my response would be related to other matters.

So, after all this time I still can’t erase this conversation from my consciousness. I have often wondered what my friends response would have been if my answer had been yes. Maybe she knew I was lying . One thing is sure my friend observed my difference, my aloneness and most importantly she observed my otherness. Her intention wasn’t to embarrass me, she simply wanted to fully embrace me as a bonafide member of the group, by inviting me into the exclusive, privilege of part of her world. But back in the playground on that fateful day I hated being reminded and singled out for my difference.

I am immensely proud of my African heritage, it’s flare, the colour, the music, afrobeats to be precise, smile .The hustle, is real, it really is. If you haven’t been to Lagos yet, you are yet to experience life, a very different one I must say.

I dare you to visit, because it isnt for the faint heated, neither is it for the weak in spirit, the language, pidgin, Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa and many more will amaze you it really will.

Lagos is a country often described as a cultural melting pot. Lagos reminds me that it’s really cool to be black, or is it?

In reality, statistically black people are four times more likely to be sectioned under the mental health Act, than people who are white. They are more likely to find themselves in low paid unskilled work, face poor or inadequate housing and have poor access to health care facilities. Overall, ethnic minorities also face a double disadvantage in earnings. People from professional and ethnic minority backgrounds earn 11% less than white counterparts.

There have been calls for Britain’s top universities to widen participation towards Ethnic Minority groups. Doing so improves their social mobility.

I am still haunted by my friends illuminating question “Shade do you wish you were white?”. Perhaps now I would pause for just a moment before responding with an automatic no and of course not!

References: Social Mobility Commission, State of the Nation 2019

Published by Folashade Babalola

I enjoy story telling. I am curious about the world around me. I am a teacher, therapist and an education activist for www.pathtopossibilities.co.uk

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