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     Volume 4 Issue 74 | December 9, 2005|

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Straight Talk

The Colour of My Skin

Nadia Kabir Barb

For a moment I stood looking at the woman in front of me with disbelief. "I beg your pardon but what did you say?" I could hear myself asking in what seemed like a very high-pitched voice. "You stupid Asian *****" She yelled again. I looked around me and saw another woman who had been walking behind us, come up to me. She then took hold of my arm and started walking with me back towards my home. "Just ignore her, she must be mad.", was her attempt at making me feel better. I appreciated her gesture but I had to correct her statement. "She wasn't mad, she was racist you heard her, that comment was directed at me because of the colour of my skin" The lady looked at me almost apologetically, "We're not all like that, you know" "I know", I replied. By this time we had reached my house so we parted ways.

This incident had happened a few years ago and I remember getting back home and feeling sick to my stomach. The phone call to my husband who was travelling at the time was irrational and all I wanted to do was pack my bags and go back to Bangladesh. We never did but it was something that I had almost managed to forget. The newspaper headlines brought back that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach again. 'Cousins Jailed for Racist Axe murder'. I guess I had gotten off relatively easily with just a few words of abuse. Teenager Anthony Walker hadn't. He had ended up dead with an ice axe lodged in his head. Why? Because according to his murderers he was the wrong colour. He was black.

On the 29th of July, 2005, around 11pm, Anthony Walker and his cousin offered to walk Anthony's girlfriend Louise to her bus stop, close to a pub. Standing outside the pub were Anthony Walkers assailants, Michael Barton and Paul Taylor. Barton began hurling racist abuse at the two men, shouting, "Walk, nigger, walk". The trio decided to take a short cut to a different bus stop through the Park. Barton and Taylor got into a car, drove to the entrance to the park and hid in bushes before ambushing Mr. Walker and his friends. Anthony's cousin and girlfriend managed to escape but Anthony did not. Taylor drove a mountaineering axe into the teenager's head with such force that it was found embedded almost 6cm into his skull. Anthony Walker died on July 30th at 5.25am, with his family at his side. Merseyside police immediately labelled the murder as a racist attack and launched a hunt for his killers. On August 5th they were both arrested and finally convicted in November 2005, for the murder of Walker. Justice had had been served but at what cost.

The racist episode that I had encountered was like a wake up call for me especially to be confronted by the fact that the first thing that people notice when they see me or anybody else for that matter is the colour of their skin. Every morning when I wake up, I don't look at my husband or my children and think that the colour of our skin is not the same. Gone are the days of slavery and apartheid but racism is not something in the past or simply stories you read about in the newspapers or hear on the news and feel shocked or disgusted by. It is a phenomenon that is endemic to most societies. Prejudice and bigotry are inherent in most of us; the only difference is that some are more blatantly open about it than others.

Racial hatred can be borne of many things the fear of all things different and ignorance of other people's culture or traditions. Another natural reaction that people tend to have when things are going badly for them is to blame somebody else. This is often what can cause racism to raise its ugly head. If unemployment is high or rising or the national economy is very weak, many people will look for a scapegoat to blame, and sadly the people who become the target of this frustration are those with a different ethnical or cultural background or those who are perceived to be depriving others of jobs or social benefits. In the UK we have the British National Party to contend with. To give you an example of the ideology followed by this xenophobic party, in October 1990, the British National Party was described by the European Parliament's committee on racism and xenophobia as an "openly Nazi party..." When asked if the BNP was racist, Richard Edmonds, deputy leader of the BNP, said, "We are 100 per cent racist, yes".

I try to tell myself that for every man or woman who lives with this kind of hostility and incites or encourages racial hatred there is another one like the woman who walked home with me.

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