It is about to be 4am and I feel that abnormal sense of inspiration and awakening that accompanies the lack of sleep.
I have been writing drafts with a feeling of extreme discontentment; simply not being satisfied with my organised gibberish but I think this one is a winner.
During the time that I have been playing Kim Kardashian Hollywood (I’m not ashamed either), reading and thoroughly enjoying Americanah and bingeing on Netflix, I had the privilege of going to Paradise Wildlife Park AKA a zoo in Hertfordshire. I had a meerkat stand up for me, got my face gloriously smothered in glitter and vibrant colours and I heard the beating drums of emus.
During our little snack break, we (my family and I) had the opportunity to witness the children entertainment. This consisted of 4 or so 20 something-year-olds putting on exaggerated voices and being overly cheerful.
In one of their activities, a winner had to be chosen via the audience’s cheers, like a cheer-o-meter. So, the children in the audience had chosen the green or red team (I really don’t remember) and the lead 20 something year old declared what team was the winner, based on their cheers, and she then said, without missing a beat, “Well, everybody’s a winner” and I quickly stated my opinion out loud to my family, I said “I hate it when they do that, they’re not preparing them for the real world!” which caused a mother, who was sharing a bench with us, and my parents to erupt into laughter. I then said to my mum, sitting next to me, “Imagine: the child has grown up and has gone for a job interview and didn’t get the job. What are you going to tell the child? It’s alright, everybody’s a winner?!”
Look, this is what it is. Just about everybody got to that point in their life when they realised that life really isn’t gumdrops and lollipops like Barney & co. sang about and that the real world is actually vicious and streaming with pessimistic bitter people, and the realisation hit us so hard because a majority of people were never really told the truth, were never really equipped for the future that was ahead of them and was told junk such as “everybody’s a winner”. And I hate that. I feel that it is an injustice. Please, do not get me wrong, I don’t feel like a child’s innocence should be ruined and their dreams shattered but I believe they should be prepared and equipped for whatever may come their way.
Moving from East London to where I am now, I think I was the first “black” person to enter my primary school. It was one of the hardest things I have ever experienced. Let me paint a picture for you: from nursery to year 2, I had one Filipino best friend, two Indian close friends. We had days off for Divali, we had children speaking foreign tongues to each other, I had a Nigerian teacher in Reception/Year 1 and a Muslim teacher in Year 2.
I entered year 3 and then I had 7 year-olds calling me “paki“, people asking me if “I speak African?”, I had a group of people corner me and throw insults at me resulting in me having a panic attack where my parents had to rush me to my GP, all the way back in East London, because they thought I had an asthma attack, one girl insulted my braids and said that if I didn’t take my braids out I would get dreadlocks as if she knew anything about my hair!
And every so often I would go to my year 3 teacher and tell her what was going on, and this one time when nothing was really being done, I approached her and said something like “Miss, you said you would do something about the bullies” and she replied me hastily and in such a frustrated manner and she told me that she would sort it out – she never did and I never asked again.
Of course during this time I told my mother what was going on, and of course she did what anyone would assume, but along this journey she also called me and she said to me that it is not going to get any easier, that this abuse was merely a flesh wound and that when I go to other places e.g. workplace, university etc., they will do the same thing maybe even worse but that if I cannot handle it now, I will not be able to handle it then. I was seven. She didn’t disturb me or scar me for life but taught me a valuable lesson that has brought me thus far in one whole piece.
In year four a supposed friend said to me “Faithful, if you were white you’d be pretty“.
If I was told jargon, such as “everybody’s a winner” and all that sweet pitying nonsense and not given a wake-up call when I had got it, how would I handle such situations at such a tender age? We, as humans, think we should wait til a certain point before we start teaching our children certain lessons but I beg to differ. If my mum never taught me then, how would I have handled the boys with a racist demeanour in my secondary school? Or the racist neighbours that I have been sharing the same postcode with for the past 11 years? Or that one time when I and my brother were playing out and my brother, being just above toddler age, walked into our neighbour’s house and their 6 year-old son shouted “MUM, THERE’S A BLACK BOY IN OUR HOUSE!” without any hesitation.
But it’s not just about racism, that’s just personal to me. But it’s about all those times when you realised that people aren’t that great…like the time when the friend you trusted was the one spreading the rumours about you? Or when your dad left the house and didn’t look back? When you got the blame for something that you didn’t do? The teacher that always penalised you? And it’s also about all the times when you didn’t get a certificate or you didn’t win first place in a competition. Who equipped you for such moments when you were young enough to understand, when you were young enough to have the experience but apparently too naïve to be taught that these things could happen? How is “it’s alright, everybody’s a winner” a consolation for you?