Thursday 20-10-2016 - 15:40
#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.
Growing up in the UK, I was never under any illusions about where I am really from. One of my earliest memories of trying to put my heritage into words betrays my youth, as on the playground I explained my dark skin to Jack: “I’m one whole Jamaican, one whole Barbadian, and one whole English”. I hadn’t quite grasped fractions yet.
This made more sense to me at the time than my parents explanation; how could I be three quarters Jamaican and a quarter Bajan when I lived in England? How did I begin to express my allegiance to a country reserved for holidays and shy kisses on the withered cheeks of aunties who insisted that they knew me? I remember my Aunty chastising me for referring to myself as English. “You aren’t English, you’re British”. I didn’t understand the difference then, but years of probing questions by the people who want to know the origin story of every drop of my melanin has left me wiser: I’m not English, I’m British Black.
At twenty-two, I have been fortunate enough to make regular trips ‘home’, to the little paradise I am told I am from. It doesn’t feel like home though. Eager to be welcomed by the people I have spent a lifetime claiming, they want nothing to do with me. Taxi drivers call me a spoilt English girl, men try to charm me into sharing spoils of wealth from the motherland that I do not have, while I weakly protest that I belong and curse my plummy accent.
My younger sister feels it too. She’s making a family tree, working back from leaves to roots, hoping to lay claim to a pre-colonial past and root us back to African soil. This is a herculean effort as any West Indian will be able to tell you; snatching people from their land and leaving their names behind them makes tracing your ancestry with any accuracy impossible after a certain point.
Too foreign for ‘home’, too foreign for here, it’s a little harder to express where I’m from these days.