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#ReclaimBlackStories: Maia

Thursday 20-10-2016 - 15:21

#ReclaimBlackStories is NUS Scotland Black Students' campaign to share the reality of Black history and what it's like to live in Scotland at the moment - as told by Black students. 

#ReclaimBlackStories: Maia

I remember when I was about ten or eleven, there was one other minority ethnicity kid in my class. I can’t remember exactly where his family was from. But what I do remember is that he really didn’t like me. I think at first I confused him. When we started term in September I was still very brown from the summer (I look more Indian in warmer months, and more Middle Eastern when it’s cold) and he called me “paki”. I don’t think he meant it in a cruel way, and I didn’t know enough then to be as angry as I would be today - I was just annoyed because I wasn’t Pakistani. 

Then when it got towards winter and my skin looked different he stopped calling me that and asked where I was really from. When I told him and my part-Israeli heritage came up in the long list, he got angry. He said Israel was bad (and I agree with him) and was “fighting” in his country. And the kicker: “your family is hurting my family”. That’s stuck with me. It was the first time I really understood why my dad so vehemently rejected his Israeli citizenship and the shame behind it that explains why I don’t speak Hebrew or cook shakshuka at the weekends instead of porridge; and why my mum, for different reasons but feeling that same shame, hampers after Britishness. 

To a certain extent, I inherited more of that shame than anything else. But still, I want to come back to what he said. I still feel like I’m mixed race without benefits. I haven’t got any real second languages, native recipes are lost, and so are many of my parents and grandparents stories. And family is another point. Most of my Jewish family will not and have never met me or my brother, because our mother isn’t also Jewish. I’m second generation Indian but have never really met my Indian family, and so on. I wonder where I can claim that I begin, and my families end, and what I can claim as my culture when I start to draw that line. 

I’m still trying to work through what he said to me because - while it was mean, and I hope no one will hold me accountable for my grandparents’ actions in a state I actively oppose – he made a point about what it means to be from somewhere and to call certain relations family. And it made me appreciate my parents’ struggles, which can only do good.

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