Written for AZ Magazine
This world cup I supported England. This choice has a strange pull on my ancestral conscience.
I cannot unlearn that this nation savaged and raped the world. I think of my mum, the first British child to Caribbean immigrants racially abused in school everyday in the 70’s and 80’s. I recognise that generationally, those racists are the parents of my white friends- it’s perplexing, it’s close, it’s hard to trust. Sometimes, I look at my GranGran of the Windrush generation, and I think of the hope in the pit of her stomach as she squints against the salty breeze of the Atlantic, England bound, Barbados at her back. She was called, queen and country needed her. What a shock to find England would brutalise her, worse, brutalise her children.
England’s want and rejection of Caribbean people, leaves those like myself a little dissociated. When I look at Saint George’s cross I feel nothing, it doesn’t belong to me. I see Christian crusades and slavery. I think of an England before racial diversity, and hear the calls of a large portion of conservative England heckling to go back to a state and time where my family and I do not belong. In the Union Jack there is the guise of fraternity, an insulting attempt to draw the commonwealth under one banner while exploiting it’s brownest members after violent forceful colonisation. My ancestral conscience refuses to feel anything at the foot of either of these flags. They represent systems of oppression, nations built on the back of hating me. As it turns out, when your ears are open to other ethnic minorities born in England, it is no secret that the flags of other European countries also evoke a similar sense of dissociation in the hearts of those they once colonised.
I spoke with English born young people with South American heritage. I learned a general consensus, they too are not enamoured by the Spanish or English flags. They raise an eyebrow, seeing billowing symbols of racism. I questioned a young Londoner, a second generation Angolan immigrant whose mother fled to Portugal as a child in wake of the Portuguese Colonial War. I asked them if they supported Portugal this World Cup, they said, ‘No. Portugal put my [Angolan] granddad in chains.’ I was taken aback, yet I could relate. I continued to enquire if they supported England and as a Londoner, their thoughts mirrored mine almost exactly.
When I cheered for England this world cup, I cheered for the boys from down the road who went from concrete council estate pitches to the world stage, by being the best of themselves. I cheered for progress, for ‘our England’. We, the generation as represented by the young men who were on the pitch, are the generation who call out injustice and push for equality. We will keep challenging, and voting, and giving, and creating, until the disgraceful ideologies that underpin England and the UK are uprooted and burned. This is all very idealistic. It’s complete nonsense, actually. The reality is, supporting institutions rooted in the oppressive status quo, will not combat oppression no matter how many glittery idealisms we speak.
The discomfort second and third generation immigrants can feel while faced with supporting their former colonisers, is valid. Diversity does not equal true equality. According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, university educated black people in the UK earn 23.1% less than the average white employee. Black people in the UK are three times more likely to be criminally sentenced, while over 26.8% of black people live in overcrowded accommodation, compared to only 8.3% of white people. Consider France, the winning team. Many media outlets sung praises to the diversity of the French world cup squad. Meanwhile, 14 African countries still use a currency (Central African Franc, CFA) France had imposed on them during the colonial era. A condition of apparent stability of this currency, means that these countries pay more to France in taxes, than receive in aid! Colonial Tax. Modern day black people pay actual money for their right to exist in faux freedom.
Our discomfort during times of patriotism will remain until white supremacy ends. We feel the truth, that diversity is a meatless bone posing as the fullness that is equality. We understand deep down, the self loathing in celebrating the oppressor for scraps of morally upright behaviour. Unconsciously, we are not fooled by mass hysteria, a catalyst for delusion that attempts to disguise racism and other forms of oppression.