I’ve struggled to find the words to express myself with this one. Unusual for a writer, I know. But, words just don’t seem to be enough.
I am not black, I can never truly understand how a black person feels. But I can empathise and I can educate myself. I can stand next to my fellow human beings and say, ‘I’m with you. I support you. I am against the injustices that you face and I am 100% anti-racist.’
Racism is something that I have never understood, not since I was a small child. Now let me put some things in context for you here so you can quit blaming your upbringing for your ignorance and do something about it.
I grew up in a small village, it was ALL white. Except later on when the American airforce started using our village hall for their church, I’ll get to that in a minute.
Now I remember as clear as day the first time I ever encountered a black person. Yes, it was that significant. I went swimming with my mother, I must have only been 3 or 4 years old maximum. I still had armbands on. I learned to swim at a pretty young age… so this is the giveaway. As I was paddling my way towards the edge of the pool the most incredibly beautiful, and very tall lady walked in. She had on a bright yellow swimsuit and she was black. I had never seen someone this dark before.
So, 3-year-old Nikkie looked up and declared, very loudly in an echoing pool area, ‘wow, look at that lady’s tan mummy, it’s amazing!’ At which point I think my mother wanted the ground to open up and swallow her. But, this beautiful lady crouched down to this little blonde white girl and said, ‘Thank you, darling, I do have a good tan.’ Then she flashed the biggest smile at me and got into the pool. I fell in love with that lady there and then. Unfortunately, my mother was so mortified she cut our swim short and we got out of the pool.
But you see, as a child, I just saw a lady. A beautiful lady that was darker than me. Other than that, she was no different from me. I didn’t know about race and I didn’t judge her because of the colour of her skin. I was intrigued by her because she looked so different to me, but not in a way that made me think of her as less than, and why would I?