Here in post-UK Brexit, where hate crime and racism are on the rise, an American woman in London came up with the idea of wearing a safety pin to show your opposition to racism and to single yourself out as an ally. Continue reading
Brexit: confusion, fear & shame
On Friday morning I woke up at 7:02am and in my first few waking moments, blinked at twitter. No. Surely not. Tears sprang into my ears before I’d even fully processed the information, both the shock and the doubt merging with the disbelief. The UK has voted to leave the EU. Even as I read the facts through blurry, angry tears, my mind was refusing to accept the information.
Hey! It’s me. Laila. The author of this blog. The girl in the photo. The editor and the scribe. The immigrant’s daughter. Continue reading
A Response: What It’s Like Not Being White
Three weeks ago I finished a post that had been knocking around in draft for about 7 months. I’m a chronic perfectionist. I wrote about my life and my experiences, as I always do, and I didn’t hit publish until I was happy with it. Whilst I’m pretty open, this post was a little more personal than usual, and I thought it might get a few more hits than normal. 40, 45, maybe even 50.
After an hour the post had reached 100 views. It’s a very, very rare day when I hit more than 100. I ran downstairs to show my housemates – look, this is insane, I’ve gone from 12 views yesterday to 100 in an hour. I kept running back downstairs as the stats skyrocketed. 300, 400, 500. It was 1000 by the time we went to the pub; we joked; maybe it’ll go viral. I thought that was it, a weird fluke day, but the views kept climbing over the weekend. 3000 on Saturday, me frantically checking whilst out on a date, 5000 on Sunday morning, me frowning at my dying phone, 8000 that evening, laughing it off with my housemates whilst feeling utterly confused.
By the time I left London on Monday things were crazy. Comments by the hundred, comments that were actually lengthy posts about other peoples lives rather than the two-line comments I normally receive. My inbox overflowing; requests for interviews, names of journalists, people who just wanted to reach out. I went to Edinburgh, away from the internet at the largest arts festival in the world, out of the house for 18 hours a day and living utterly in the moment, partying, working, drinking. Fleeting moments of internet catch-up were overwhelming with my stats up by 5000%. I was on the front page of BuzzFeed, I was Freshly Pressed on WordPress, I was trending on Medium. Most of the madness happened without me really observing: catch-ups with friends would start “so you’re on BuzzFeed?” before moving onto safer territory like work, friends, the festival around us.
A lot of people thought it may have been cathartic or difficult to write my last post. It wasn’t. I wasn’t speaking up. I wasn’t raising my voice. I wasn’t trying to start a discussion. I just said what I was thinking: the same thing I do every day in my posts, in my songs, in my stories. Evidently, this was something that needed to be said. I really didn’t think my experiences would be that widely felt. I received hundreds of comments and retweets from all over the world, and the vast majority can be distilled into four words: “thank you” and “me too”. So many of us, it seemed, feeling the same things and thinking “it’s just me”. It’s not.
There was little backlash: I prepared myself for an onslaught of negativity which really never came. A few people told me I’m hypersensitive, that I need to chill, that I’m obsessed with race, that I’m the problem – attitudes I addressed in my original post. There was one comment saying they wouldn’t have read had my “attractive” pictures not lured them in, another saying I was beautiful despite my decision to write the post, a number of people saying that it’s equally hard being white. I responded to all of them.
Many of you responded to each other. Every comment was published, and every question that was asked, I answered. This is my blog, and these are my words, and I want to be accountable for them. I’m SO grateful to all those who read them, for sharing them, for responding and sharing their own words with me. I feel a lot stronger with 5000 strangers supporting me from afar. If your comments taught me anything it’s that we all need to speak up and call it out, we can’t laugh stuff off and ignore it and just suck it up or it will never end.
I live in London, in the UK. Where people like Katie Hopkins and Jeremy Clarkson are allowed to throw stereotypes and racial hatred around in the name of entertainment and journalism, where “immigrant” is a dirty word, where just 6.6% of our parliament is not white. I didn’t write about topical issues in this country or mounting racial tensions or social crisis in other countries. I wasn’t trying to share the “London perspective” my local MP Jeremy Corbyn is accused of having. I just wrote about myself.
I’d like to write more. I’d like to write more about my experiences, more about growing up in a white society, more about being mixed race; I’d LOVE to write about what it’s like being mixed race. I don’t get paid to write this blog, it’s my personal space, and it takes time just to get through the comments as I want to read them all and take the time to reply appropriately. But there’s more to come, I have more to say. I hope you’ll read my future posts.
If any of you have any ideas where I should write more, or what about, then please get in touch. And in the meantime you can follow me on bloglovin, or twitter, or wordpress, or my blogs Facebook or sign up directly for my e-mails or my personal facebook. It means a lot. And let me know when you have to #callitout with me – just this morning this happened. Thank you.
SOME OF YOUR COMMENTS – if you’d rather not be quoted here please let me know, and I would really refer everybody back to the entirety of the comments on the last blog, as there were so many valid and interesting points raised: here.
“Even if people say we’re being overdramatic by pointing out micro aggressions, we really aren’t and everyone needs to be properly educated on the impacts of these types of discrimination to stop them” – Abby R
“Telling you to ‘not make a fuss’ is people not wanting to admit they’ve made mistake, don’t doubt yourself because other people are too afraid to confront their own shortcomings. Society needs people like you to stand up and make a change.” – richardhp
“The ‘exotic’ thing is seen as a compliment when really it is a vocalisation of ‘difference’. You are different, you are not from here.” – impublications
“Most people don’t intend to be racist, but intent doesn’t have to present.” – GamerDame
“There are an army of us out here, batting away the insult and marching on.” – Nadine
Sakura at Yoyogi Park
Hello! I’m so, so happy I can finally share with you my photos and thoughts from Japan! I’ve spent the last month with a dead laptop – huge and endless thanks go to this guy for extracting the contents, replacing the hard drive, re-installing everything and saving me multiple and expensive trips to the Genius bar!
I went to Tokyo last month – we timed it for the world-famous Sakura festivals. The sakura last for just a couple of weeks – a few days where the blossoms are at peak bloom, with a couple of days either side of buds appearing and shedding. We arrived just as the blooms were opening and caught the full wonder of the season – from seeing the tiny unfurled buds everywhere and anticipating the first full trees to blossom, to the wonderful days (and it was really just a couple of days) where we woke up and all the trees were in full bloom, not a single petal out of place. By the time we left they were starting to shed – the falling petals looked like soft snow and carpeted the roads in baby pink velvet.
These pictures are predominantly from Yoyogi Park. There’s something about the pastel pink against the clear blue sky that just seemed so whimsical and dreamlike to me – like the parks and roads had been dusted with candyfloss and pastel clouds. I’m already feeling wistful about returning. More from Japan very soon – yay!
These Streets Are Made For Blogging
I met up with fellow blog people Bel and Jess all the way back in October, so these have been sitting around for about 6 weeks now! I quite often feel like the old woman of the hills when we all hang out as I’m so old (Bel is actually the same year group as the first class I taught through to A-Level… which is bizarre) but whatever, we have fun!
I’m not actually sure what we were doing in South Kensington as it’s one of my least favourite areas of London; apart from the obvious draw of MUSEUMS it’s mostly just overpriced aesthetics. I have a feeling this is the day my boy was lecturing at the V&A and we were contemplating going… but got too busy drinking hot chocolates…? Or maybe we went solely for the pretty streets…?! I don’t know, it was so long ago! I’ve never blogged about something so far in the past!
I do know we went for tapas and then wandered around the residential area (or “pretty blog streets” as Jess described them) with about 20 minutes of sunlight left; talk about forward-planning. I’m wearing an ensemble from my “maybe keep, maybe chuck” pile, (does anybody else have one of these?) so a lot less put-together than the others!
After taking photos we went and sat in a cafe for about 2 hours and talked about appearance, the media and confidence issues (or lack of) whilst drafting out future blog posts. I’ve got about two female friends outside of blogging and never read any “female” media apart from a few blogs, so this sort of girl chat is very novel for me! I’ve now got a whole series of posts planned out (thrillingly titled “longer life-ish posts and stuff”) which is entirely based on suggestions from Bel and Jess. Thanks guys!
It’s so great having new blog friends! Please go and check out their blogs, they are both far more consistent and stylish then I’ll ever be. And if you have any suggestions for posts to toss into the mix then let me know!
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Danilo and I were in Camden for a meeting on this occasion; happily the end of the meeting coincided with our lunch-hour so we used it as an excuse to briefly run round the markets and admire the relatively new Amy Winehouse statue. I’ve not discussed it much before, but I’m a huge, huge Amy Winehouse fan; I think the statue is beautiful and it’s a wonderful way to commemorate her spirit. She really was such a part of the local community and Camden really felt her loss personally when she died. I like that she’s back and watching over all of us there.
My outfit is very standard “Laila”; short skirt, white shoes, colourful shirt, bag (my one bag…) and winter coat. Danilo (who took these photos) and James are always saying how difficult it is to take photos for me as I never shut up and lose interest after about 10 seconds, maybe you can tell..!
Welcome to Prineville! I spent a few days here in this small town; it’s definitely not one of the foremost tourist destinations in Oregon but I really enjoyed the slower relaxing pace, beautiful sunsets, abundance of wildlife and quaint old-timey buildings. Quite a turnaround from New York!
I mentioned my family ties to Oregon and a large chunk of family are based in Prineville. There was one night where there were maybe 12 people in the room who I have a blood relationship with. It was weirdly assuring to experience “family” in Prineville; I have a difficult relationship with both my parents and have few other relatives in the UK, so growing up I often felt very apart from anything you could call “family”. Whilst it was an interesting peek into what life with a large family could have been like, I’m grateful I grew up largely alone. I’m also lucky I have multiple surrogate mother and father figures around these days (as well as a slew of older brother types who I can annoy and bicker with in equal measure).
Family musings aside! There were quite a few weird coincidences and serendipitous moments during my month long dash round the US (I believe in magic). One of the weirdest was watching Back to the Future on the plane over to Oregon and then arriving in Prineville to be told that the clock tower in the film is the same as (i.e. directly copied) the clock tower in Prineville. Have you seen the film/do you recognise it?
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