What's it Like Being Black in England?
Interviewee: Tamnobomate Osima Dokubo
Interviewer: Pat Sevikul
Graphic Designer: Janice Cheng
Hey, my name is Obomate and I’m fifteen years old. I’m from Nigeria and I guess you could say that I’m of royal blood, with my mother being the heir to the throne of a small tribe in the southeastern part of Nigeria and my father being the prince of another. I’ve lived here for basically my whole life but started boarding school abroad in England when I was 11, so I’ve lived here for about 4-5 years now.
What was it like growing up?
When I was 11, my parents bought a house in a white neighbourhood, with mostly old people. Each time we would go out, they would move their grandchildren away as my family walked past. My neighbour once told me she didn’t know that “our kind” could live peacefully.
At junior school, I was stared at, being the only black person there. People called me a scammer and a liar because there was “no way I could afford a private school abroad”. While I was there, they continued to call me the “n” word with a hard R. I was bullied for my skin being “muddy”. They asked me, “Did you live in mud huts?” or “Did you have a toilet at home?” Although most iconic of all, “When can you bring your pet rhino to school?” and “What rock do you use to sharpen your spear?” My initial reaction was just pure confusion, then I was just really angry. How ignorant do you have to be? At first, I used to rip into them, flaying all types of insults, but then it dawned on me that I was just feeding into the “angry black woman stereotype” they had already boxed me into. Since then, I just bite my tongue and pray to god that they choose to gain some more brain cells and educate themselves.
Although, there are some upsides to London being one of the most diverse cities in the world. By having such diversity in the city, it forces ignorant people to educate themselves and move forward from the racism that has been taught and enforced for generations. Having such a variety of skin tones, languages and cultures allows for there to be less prejudice and more opportunities for people to broaden their mindsets and i feel like that is a rare and beautiful thing that London has.
Have people treated you any differently since George Floyd’s death and has there been any improvements since then?
I wouldn’t say I’ve been treated differently at all. I don’t think the UK was affected or moved greatly by the BLM movement (besides the youth of course). So, for me, I’m still treated and looked at the same by the people around me. I definitely think there has been improvement, I just don’t think it has really affected me or changed anything in my life as I’m not in a workplace or university so there’s not much prejudice I could have received.
Why is the BLM movement important to you?
It’s important to me, because not only are people becoming educated on the systematic racism of our society, but also my fellow blacks (including myself) are finding out more facts and information about black history that have been glossed over and excluded from the education system implanted everywhere and from discussions about racism on a general scale. It makes me happy that it’s finally gaining attention. It has given the opportunity, not just for white people, but all races to educate themselves and become less ignorant.
What can we, as non-black people do to help?
If it hasn’t been said enough, it’s mostly just educating yourselves your friends and your family, signing petitions, researching things about black historical and present-day figures and donating to charities and organisations. Oh yeah, just avoid swinging the “n” word around. It’s an oppressive word with much more weight than you can imagine.