‘Racism is right here’ – Chef tells how he was abused during village walk in Suffolk
- Credit: Archant
Head chef at The Greyhound in Ipswich, Brian Powlett, was racially abused while out for a walk with his wife Abby. Here, he writes about the experience.
Racism is right here. I’ll summarise it here. I was on the receiving end of a “**** you, ******” while out walking with my wife. The rest of this article is about that experience.
Here’s what happened. Mrs P and I went for an evening walk. It was just another lockdown stroll. Four miles around Bramford and Sproughton. Nothing out of the ordinary at all. We were just out enjoying the picture book Suffolk evening skyline, hearing the 8pm ‘Clap for carers’ and the atmospheric calm which was now part of pandemic life. Few cars, lots of birds, families out walking.
As we turned down onto Sproughton road, a red Mazda came speeding up past us, gave a blast on the horn, which gave us both a start. Obviously intended to get our attention. I turned, initially thinking that it may have been someone I knew. But my 45-year-old eyesight was never going to make it.
From the car, now 50 yards up the road came the “**** you, ******” shout.
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Mrs P turned to me in shock and disbelief. In our 25-plus years together, this was her first real, direct racial attack. That’s not to say the classic subtle racism, which the UK is famous for, has not previously occurred.
The “I’m not racist, but...” and the people who think it’s ok to use other racial slurs to describe their local Indian owned corner shop. The closest she had previously come face to face with racism was at an under 13s football match out in Thetford. The opposition parents felt it necessary to berate the kids with monkey chants. Yes... kids football.
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So, here we are. Walking though leafy Sproughton, hearts racing, adrenaline firing through our veins. My anger, quickly rationalised and turned to processing the situation. The consensus was quickly drawn up that they were, in fact, idiots and cowards. Waiting until they were a good distance away to then yell abuse, while in a car. This act does not require any bravery.
Here’s the thing. Less than three minutes later, another red car came speeding around a corner into Sproughton. Driving like a rally car, It put our already heightened senses, on a level of fight or flight. It was not the same car. My wife thought it was. For that split second, she had thought it was the same car which had come back to dish out more abuse. In that split second, thousands of scenarios went through her mind. Turns out it was just boy racers, driving irresponsibly, in a similar vehicle to that of the racist idiot pricks. She wanted to know if I was ok. Naturally, I said I was fine. But these two incidents, although, possibly unrelated, had left us both shaken.
It took me a few days to process that whole situation. For the 24 hours after the incident, my rage fluctuated, between wanting to go out on a vigilante raid and find the car, to quietly reflecting on how lucky I am that this does not happen daily. Lucky.
I then remind myself of the lyrics from Dave’s track “Black” where he says the being the least racist, is still racist.
I’m used to racism. I’m used to low level ignorance. I’m used to being watched by security guards, I’m used to seeing you clutch your handbag tighter as we pass each other on the street, I’m used to you greeting me with a fist bump or high five, because that’s what blacks do!
I’m used to you being surprised that I live with the mother of my three children. I’m used to you assuming all my cooking is Caribbean even though my training was in the French Classics. I’m used to being your one black friend. I’m used to you assuming I’ll like this song (plays some trashy raps track from their phone) I can handle all of that. I’m used to you saying, “you don’t sound black”. That is ALL what makes me who I am, but in-your-face racism hurts me.
It did as an infant, as a child, as a teen and now as an adult. Being one of a handful of people of colour at high school was tough.
Most teachers, back then, were of the massively publicised view, that black kids were natural under-achievers, trouble makers and just good at sports. But as a teenager, if a teacher was not going to push me, I was not going to be asked to be pushed.
I was as guilty of following the scripted narrative as the teachers were of adhering to it. I was by no means a trouble maker, but definitely a class clown. Also, I was in every sports team. Even the sports I didn’t understand. But, my life, growing up in Suffolk has been mostly great. Only a handful of aggressive racially fuelled incidents which I can really bookmark. Cheap lager fuelled monkey chants outside of Yates Wine Lodge or the sly whisper in the ear on the football pitch.
Job and business opportunities have passed me by because of the colour of my skin.
I have so much going on in my mind right now. I, like most of us don’t know how future life will look due to this pandemic. My body hurts, because I’m getting older. I’ve got 3 kids heading in to 6th form and university so money is tight. That’s enough to deal with right? We all have enough to worry about. Why create more problems? Racism will never go away. People will always find a reason to hate difference. Height, weight, hair colour or just because they support a different team. I am not offering an answer or theory. This is just how a two minute window of my day, can impact a life.
I am not a spokesman for all black, or people of colour. I can only speak from my own, personal experience and these are my words.