So after living all my life in London, I decided to take the chance to live in Michigan. One thing I can say, is that the way the British perceive America, isn't totally accurate (from my own personal experience)... With this post, I’ll try to share some of my experiences; With how African American culture differs from Black British culture.
The first thing that stuck out to me upon relocating to America was the evident racism. In my first few weeks here, there is one particular incident that stays in my mind. I was out with some friends from college- (who happened to be white) and as we stepped out of the taxi, one said "oh shit, we’ve lost him, where is he?" In my mind, I was thinking "how can he even think this is an appropriate joke?" My white friends in England wouldn’t even see that as a joke in any way, so when that rung in my ears I felt like a computer finding an error. From my reaction, the dude realised I was about to let him know about himself, so he quickly apologised with one of those "I know you’re mad" smiles.... Not funny.
Another time, a black dude I chill with in college told me how a white guy, who we are both familiar with, came up to him and said "Hey, wassup my Nigga?!" In England, a white person trying to say hello to me like that would result in a punch in the face. He told me that he almost got into an altercation with him; his excuse for being allowed to even say that was because he’s from an area where mostly blacks live there. My jaw dropped! Did he think he had the privilege to say such to black people because he’s from a black area? After hearing this I had to explain to the white guy to be careful with what he says, if he was in England, especially London, he would be missing a lot of teeth, because the connotation of the word is not lost on the British. (The majority of them, anyway.)
Since being here, there isn’t a week that goes by when I don't have to talk about what someone has said that shouldn’t have been said, or thinking "rah, do they know they’re saying some racist shit right now?". I don’t know anyone in England that would hear something extremely offensive and not go on a path to let that person know what they’ve said is racist and offensive; Here, from what I’ve witnessed it’s more a "meh" reaction. One student told me how he wanted to approach a white female and she told him "leave me alone, you black animal", my head was spinning when I heard that. An African-American who was born here and lived here all his life even told me how its got to a point people who are not even from America, also have that racist mindset. Someone from France couldn’t come into England and do something like that, in my experience living in England its unheard of to that level.
It makes me wonder why it is like this, whenever I’m told stories it makes my stomach turn. I have been searching for the reasons as to why America seems stuck in this place, and trying to come to a conclusion it seems it is because of the public perception of African-Americans here. For those Americans who still have prejudice towards black people, its because their ignorance levels are so high; as if they still have the mindset of those who where in the slave era. There are, of course, many Americans who are civilized, not racists and good people- But those who are, a racial ‘joke’ is said more often and the stereotype of a African-American is acted on more often than in England. In England, for me growing up, racism and the ignorance towards black people was evident, and it still is without a doubt, however it is definitely a fraction of how intense it can be here, after having experienced it.
Another difference I’ve seen is heritage, or lack of- in African-Americans. Being born to parents who moved to the UK willingly, like many of my friends, it is not hard for me to know where my parents grew up. Indeed, those who have parents who were born and grew up in England, they still know where their grandparents are from. When asked "where are you from?’ in England, most have an idea where their parents and grandparents were born. From the African-Americans I have spoken to, this is different. When I would ask, America was the answer. They disliked the label "African-American"- but their history has literally been wiped away. This made me appreciate being able to know where I have come from that much more.
Moving here in August, it was a few days after the world found out about the police officer that murdered Mike Brown. The general consensus in England, and what we perceived, was that this should not have happened in any way; him allegedly stealing from a shop doesn’t warrant a police officer to take his life away.
I tried to get an understanding of the general public's outlook on a situation like this; the Internet can only provide a certain amount of feedback towards another country’s perception of a situation. I asked people, mostly adults what they thought of it. The mindset towards a situation like this was "well, he shouldn’t have robbed the liquor store in the first place". This answer left me so confused at this thought process, because Darren Wilson did not even know Michael Brown had allegedly done. I asked even if Darren did know, was Michael Brown's death deserved? I would be greeted with a shrug or some random babbling, trying to answer my question with a long-winded yes. Below shows public opinion on the decision of the decision not to indict Darren Wilson:
I was so shocked, but the thing is, in every single situation like this, an unarmed black man being murdered by police, a lot of people in America do not see an actual problem with it, it doesn’t stir up something within them that even as a human being its wrong. It astonished me that people actually existed that didn’t see anything wrong with that.
The Michael Brown situation has however shown me the strength of black people when united. This has been shown by the protests and lie ins, and blockages of main roads that have been happening to bring awareness and attention to what has been going on. The Michael Brown situation made me very conscious about being black and living in America; I certainly felt less safe here than back in London because of happenings like these; what they show on the news isn’t all of what actually happens, there is so much more less conspicuous scale.
This differs to England; mainly because of our strict gun laws which I appreciate even more now living here. Random people cant carry a pistol in their car like its possible here. As well as that, police in England didn’t originate from the patrolling of slaves; but going in on the origin of the police for in America is for another time. Targeting of ethnic minorities in England happens as well but police fatalities happen far less often than in the states. The statistics are crazy, every 28 hours a black man is killed in America, in England we don’t have this as a social issue. The worst in recent years was the killing of Mark Duggan, (May he rest in peace). Stop and search data showed that in some parts of England, black people were 29 times more likely to get stopped and searched than a white person. I wonder what that figure would be in America, if they’d stop killing us first.
I would write more on how living in America has opened my eyes to how different America is let alone how African Americans differ from Black people living within England, but I would go on forever. If you’re reading this from England; yes, the situation in America is as crazy, if not crazier than how we perceive it from media outlets and the internet.