Racism in the U.S. vs. Racism in the U.K.
This man then said, "You don't look like you are from Scotland....
I almost don't have the right to write about this. Believe it not, even though I'm a brown woman, an Indian woman, and a Sikh woman, by the Grace of God I've actually never experienced racism. Curiosity yes. People have always been interested in what I am and where I come from. People have mistaken me to be hispanic and Arab and Persian. I've been mistaken to be from the country of Jordan twice! But I've never been treated badly for it. No one has ever called me any mean names. I've gotten stares but probably for different reasons. I've had people come up to me and start speaking Spanish. "Uhmmm un poquito, sorry!" Once a guy yelled out to me and called me habibi. I was thrown off. But then I looked up this word and it means love in Arabic. Awww. How can I get mad at that? LOL I've always been appreciated as an exotic Indian woman by all races. And I've always taken all of it in with all of it's glory. Free coffees for me?! Sure!
So why am I writing about this? Because the ones closest to me suffer from this. And because my community suffers through this, sometimes on a daily basis. I knew that the problem stemmed from ignorance and growing up in America I've always been aware of how unfortunately ignorant many people can be. I mentioned in my previous blog that people in the U.K. are a lot nicer than people in the U.S. It's strange because America is probably the newest country in the world and yet it is probably the most racist country in the world. And now after living here in the U.K. for a few months, I've discovered why the British are a bit nicer. Yes, the U.K. doesn't allow guns in the country so that has definitely kept it a lot safer. But gun/weapon issues are very surface level.
You can take away the guns but you can't take away the hate.
The U.K. isn't perfect by any means but I feel like they care about their citizens a little more. Along with taking away guns, there is something that they do here that has truly astounded me. It has made me look forward to raising my future kids here. Over here, in primary school (which I think is elementary and middle school in America) students are not only taught about different religions in class but they actually have field trips in which they are to visit all major religious places of worship. I know right?! And yes, a Gurudwara is on the list of places for them to visit. I've even met the teacher at the local Gurudwara here in Scotland that gives school kids tours and gives them presentations about Sikhi. And then when the students go to high school they have mandatory religious education classes. Mandatory! Oh, did I mention that all of this is free? Even the museums are free here. There is a museum of religion here in Glasgow (yes, you read that right, a museum of religion) that has beautiful collections and artifacts and displays of all religions for people to learn about. And on the top floor, they have a kid section in where they have activities and quizzes about the different faiths that they've learned about.
So in America, while the Sikhs are struggling to get a paragraph written correctly about us in the school text books, over here the students are completely immersed not only in the Sikh religion but all religions. They grow up with a greater understanding of the world and the people in it. I have no words. Well, actually I do have some words otherwise I wouldn't be writing this blog. :)
As I mentioned in my previous blog, ever since I've moved to the U.K. people are always asking me, "Where are you from?" I respond with America and everyone is like "Oh! Cool!" No one has questioned me further and I found that to be astounding. No one has asked me why I'm brown. No one has said that I don't look like an American. Everyone that I've met thus far has been super nice and helpful. It's like this: In America, I feel like my identity is Indian. I have to be Indian. Because everyone looks at me as an Indian (or whatever else that they THINK that I am.) But in the U.K. my identity is now American. Because people here recognize that this is where I was born and raised. I feel more American outside of America than inside. Weird, right?
My husband however has had a very different experience. He is a Sikh. He is a Sardar. Like myself, his parents are from India but he was born and raised in Scotland so naturally he has a Scottish accent. He has visited America several times and he has had a variety of interesting experiences to say the least. But the one that I witnessed will forever tear me up inside.
It was July of 2018. My husband and his family and friends had all flown down to Texas to witness our American/Scottish wedding. My husband was there for about 2 1/2 weeks and people on social media had actually asked him if he had experienced any racism and early on and he said no! People were nice and friendly! He even got compliments on his beard! I was happy to prove him and everyone wrong. That Texas wasn't as bad as people thought it was. But alas, on the last day of his trip, it was I who was proven wrong. The night before his flight, my car battery died. (I know, perfect timing, right? lol) So, he and I went to an auto store to get a replacement battery. We were in line and an elderly white man looked at my husband and said, "Where are you from?" My husband responded with, "I'm from Scotland."
This man then said, "You don't look like you are from Scotland. You look like an Arab, and do you know what I do with Arabs? I shoot Arabs."
My heart sank to the pit of my stomach. I was petrified, mortified, and shocked beyond disbelief. Even as I type this out in the peaceful and happy Starbucks in the U.K. miles away and almost a year later, my heart still races when I think about it. There was so much I wanted to say and convey. There was so much educating I had to do in only a matter of seconds. I wanted to tell him that my husband wasn't an Arab. I wanted to tell him that even if he was an Arab there isn't anything wrong with it. I wanted to tell him to stop listening to the media and start educating himself on world religions. And Waheguru, I wanted to tell him that no one deserves to die or get shot for being who they are. No matter where they are from, no matter what religion they belong to, and no matter what the color of their skin is.
So much. There was so much I wanted to say. But we were next in line. The cashier had called us and started asking us about my car battery. But how could I focus on my car battery when my husband had just received a death threat from the customer behind us in line. That day Texas had failed me. America had failed me. Our leaders, our government, our educational system, everything had failed me. I could not say that I was proud to be an American that day. I was heart broken.
My husband had stayed calm throughout the whole thing. Unlike myself, he didn't grow up getting free coffees. He has had to deal with racism his whole life. And there is one thing that he told me that day that still echos in my ear. He said, "Don't get me wrong. We have racist pricks in the U.K. as well. But at least in the U.K. you won't get shot."
Stabbed maybe. But you have a much higher chance of surviving and fighting back against a knife verses a gun. It's actually something that my husband and I still debate on to this day. Him being born and raised in the U.K. will say, "why doesn't America just take away all of it's guns?" Myself being born and raised in the U.S. will say, "That's not going to happen. Hence we need a gun so we stand a chance!"
And now to a more current event. New Zealand. Six days after the terror attack in Christchurch, the New Zealand government announced a ban on semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles, high capacity magazines (I don't know what that is either, I'm guessing it does a lot of damage ) and any military style weapon. And here's what really shook me up. New Zealand gun owners started giving back their guns and weapons to the police! Voluntarily!!! What??? That would never happen in America! Never!
Is it just me or is the rest of the world so much more compassionate then America?
So, racism in the U.S. verses racism in the U.K. It does exist in both countries. It exists everywhere. But I feel that the U.K. does a better job of combating the issue on both the surface level and on a deeper level. Their education system gives their citizens a greater understanding of different religions, cultures, and the world in general. And in case a kid missed those field trips and missed those classes and they still grow up to be a racist prick at least they won't have a gun to cause significant damage.
Good job U.K. You still have some work to do, especially with Brexit! But good job.
Bhull Chuk Maaf
Christine Kaur started blogging as an outlet to express the trials of relationships of second generation western born Sikhs like herself.