My Experience With ‘Subtle Racism’ In The UK

My Experience With ‘Subtle Racism’ In The UK

By Adaku Efuribe

I had an encounter with a lovely gentleman on a sunny afternoon;

I had just finished the half shift for the day and quickly went to the grocery store next door to get myself some cool crunchy salad as the weather was very hot and I wanted to stick to vegetables that  afternoon after I had a massive bowl of Icelandic low fat yourghort the previous day.

The UK hot weather is quite different form the Nigerian weather I must say,

Although I was born in the UK but having lived a great chunk of my life in Nigeria I can relate with the Nigerian hot weather. I can’t remember ever using sun screen lotion in Nigeria, but I never had a sun burn.

A few years ago when we had another incredibly hot summer month in the UK, I noticed I had sun burns and a bit of black patches on my body, that was when I heed to the advice of NHS choices to use sunscreen, A few Nigerian friends of mine who also grew up in Nigeria like me said they have been using sun screen as well whilst in the UK as the UK sun tends to be a little bit different and not so kind to their skin,

I can remember those days in Abuja ,Nigeria fresh from the university when I used to board commercial motor bikes also known as ‘ okada’  with the temperature around 45 degrees ,I could feel the hot air blowing across my face which made me feel so uncomfortable.

I had a Samsung AC split unit nano air technology in my flat which I bought with my first salary as a pre-reg pharmacist starting an independent adult life. I would always rush back home after work to put on my AC to catch a quick nap, we did have better electricity supply at that time in the Abuja and the prepaid meters were installed.

Back to 2018 on a ‘ very hot ‘afternoon in July in the UK as I approached the entrance to the very busy  grocery store, an elderly white man shouted at me —‘I bet you’re enjoying this hot weather aren’t you ’ I shouted back, yes of course I’m used to it!.

But was I really enjoying the hot weather- I don’t think so, my  response was out of impulse ,I don’t know why I responded the way I did  ,maybe I just wanted to sound nice.

A minute later as I was trying to make up my mind between a bowl of classic salad or Mediterranean salad, one of the staff at the grocery approached me and said he wants to apologise to me because of what the elderly man said to me earlier.

It was then I realised it must have been a racist remark, did he say it because of the colour of my skin, I asked? I think so the young man replied.

So he just assumed I was enjoying the very hot unpleasant weather just because I was black; I thought.

I have never said to anyone …hope you’re enjoying the weather when it’s -10 or 0 degrees, because I know no one enjoys that. Everyone covers up in long coats, hats, gloves etc. irrespective of their complexion or race.

For me I didn’t take the elderly man’s comment seriously, I have had a lot of things said to me in the past which I usually ignore.

Again in the same area about seven years ago, I was walking through a crowded town centre to pick up a quick lunch during my break. I wore a long braided hair style. I heard a young gentle man singing a Bob Marley song whilst invading my personal space, calling me ‘Rasta man’. I just smiled at him and walked past

Sometimes I believe people talk randomly in public to attract attention, perhaps they have not spoken to anyone all day and need a chat so talking to strangers loudly in public is the only way they can talk to someone.

I don’t usually take unpleasant remarks seriously; I just walk away because I feel people are usually rude and nasty because of their personal struggles.

I love Nigeria and I really miss the food and weather sometimes, one thing I cannot comprehend is the impunity and bad leadership going on there.

Sometimes I miss my boiled organic sweet yellow corn and local pear-ube, I also miss my okpa wawa, Rivers native soup and a host of other delicacies I’m used to.

I would love to live in a world devoid of racism, but is this possible?

More questions than answers!

‘I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word’. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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4 thoughts on “My Experience With ‘Subtle Racism’ In The UK

  1. Beautiful piece right there and impressive disposition to life you have.

    To attempt your last question, which I guess is rhetoric, it is a NO. There is no absolute stop to racism when other kinds of deeds with similar features as racism exist in other layers of the society. Many have outlawed racism and some of its kinds, and I think that’s a great deal. Some other kinds of deeds similar to racism in my view include: tribalism, fraternity, political party system, and there could be more.

    1. Yes you are right Nago,
      Other forms of racism has eaten deed into the fabric of our society.
      We must continue to speak up against all forms of racism

  2. Adaku, thank you for sharing your experience with subtle racism which all black people living in Europe and North America can relate to.
    Africa is without doubt a beautiful continent with a rich culture. Like you, those of us who grew up there miss it especially the weather and food.

    You asked if racism can be eradicated in our world. My answer will be yes, but this can only be done by black people themselves.

    We made a choice to leave all that is good about our continent and come here principally because the leadership impoverishes its people and denies them opportunity. We have come to the west for better life.

    Towards the end of my postgraduate studies here in England, my supervisor and I where looking at options for me post graduation. He advised me to consider relocating to Australia, Canada or the US; his reason? The occupants of these countries were immigrants as opposed to Europe where some people believe they own the land.

    Racism is a state of the mind. In the mind of white people and those from the developed world, black skin is synonymous with the poverty and bad leadership that we all ran away from. The black skin is not an ‘aberration’ in itself but the people are seen as a ‘burden’ to a world where innovation, creativity and knowledge hold-sway and black Africa brings very little to the table

    Racism can only be eradicated when Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa becomes democratic, a hub for innovation and thereby prosperous. It is all in our hands.


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