I have just come back from a holiday in Europe. I have been looking forward to this holiday for a long time. The hot weather, the sand, the sea and of course the rest.
It was late in the evening when we arrived so we only had a chance to grab a little bit to eat then go up to our room. The following morning we woke up for breakfast, it was then that things changed for me. As we walked along the corridor to the breakfast area I noted that people were staring at us. I started to wonder, did I have toothpaste on my face, had I forgotten to put my shoes on. It was a very strange experience almost as if people were in a trance.
Having made it to the breakfast area I noticed it again, children, women and men staring, Why? As we sat on our seats it began to sink in, we were the only black family there and now we were on show. I couldn’t believe it, in this day and age white people still feel the need to stare at black people as though aliens had just come down from the sky.
As the days went on, I began to think about the times when this happened to me in a corporate setting. I would visit clients and the shock on their face at the realisation I was black was priceless. Some were stunned into silence only speaking when I stretched my hand out to shake theirs, others recovered a little more quickly.
There is of course the story I can tell about going into a department store in central London, browsing as you do. A pair of Karen Millen boots caught my eye they were cherry red. As I approached the shoes I was followed by a sales assistant who asked if they could help in anyway. Nothing wrong with that question but it was how it was asked, her face was rather fierce looking. I responded firmly and said no thank you. By the time I had walked up to the counter the sales assistant could be seen still hovering. The lady at the counter seemed to be surprised that I wanted these expensive boots asking if I was paying card or cash. I had great delight in saying to her cash, this is when I saw her face change almost looking shocked.
Going back to my holiday experience, I noted how angry I felt in side that I was being stared at in this way. Other family members said just ignore it which is what I did but why should we have to put up with it? In those stares I could see resentment and hatred but I could also see curiosity. I can only assume some of the people lived in areas where there are no black people or hardly any.
In the depths of the staring were some smiles. I remember one child entered into a waving competition with me, that was lovely seeing a young child smiling and waving. Communicating with the adults was more challenging. The occasional smile here and there.
I did in the main, enjoy my holiday but it got me thinking, do I want to go on another European holiday? Do I have to accept that being stared at will have to be part of my life forever?
I think we can all be mindful of staring at people who may be perceived to be different such as those with disabilities, outwardly gay people, Trans people, People with different hair to ours etc. Diversity is what makes the world beautiful. It was made that way for a reason.