My Metropolitan line train leaves Rayners Lane station at 7.30am. Living close to the station affords me the luxury of a delicious bowl of unsugared oats, toast bread and a glass of cranberry juice morning after morning. So I take my time before dashing to my office. Ok, Rayners Lane has always been known to be populated by Asians of the Indian subcontinent. As these proud Indian professional Diaspora swell the station with their swagger, you could smell garlic wafting around like a cloudy formation. The onion bharji generation has arrived. The cultural hazard of living in Harrow you might say.
But I have a concern. Where are the black professional Diaspora in their suits and briefcases or IPads in the early hour of the morning? Where are my people? Something deeper must be reconfiguring the work ethic of my black brethren. Must we allow the Asians to take the lead in corporate rat race in Britain? In Europe? Are we surrendering our competitive edge to the snarling charge of the Asian tigers? For a fact, the diminishing fortunes of black British male is quite astonishing. Yes, the era of brawn, muscle, afro and black salute is long gone. These are the cultural definers of the “happy-happy 80s”. Yes, the “I feel alright” smug of one iconic James Brown has turned into relic of our glorious, proud past.
The world has since changed. UK has changed. We have gone from Great Britain to a broken Britain. The layback eighties has given way to a more ferociously competitive nation. The demands of the IPad generation requires intelligence, competitive edge, stamina and Generation X creativity. As a chronicler of life in all its complexities, I have always been a cheerleader for my black brothers. I have cheered them on the sideline with my pen encouraging them to take the leap into the cloistered society of achieving middle class gentry. If the Asian Diaspora could get in with feathery ease, why not the black British. The notion of the white majority that black people are known to be poor and excluded in western pigment conscious society is proving to be right.
Worse, we help sustain this fictive notion through our values and the imagined identity we want to create of who we are. The shifting sand of racial permutations in UK is making it difficult for blacks to cut a distinct identity. What are we good at? Where do we have natural creativity?
How do we adapt to a changing Britain that tend to forget the immense contributions of its black subjects? Are we headless chickens that dance “palongo” for a while and later die? Of a truth, Europe is a reward society but does it remember and reward our effort, emotional patriotism and readiness to integrate? Consider the last Olympics. Black athletes brought honour and glory to UK. They bled on the track field to prove all over again that they believe in this island nation but what is the reward.
The newspapers still see black people as scroungers. The police still see them as unwanted immigrants. The concentration of black people in a leafy street is enough to crash house prices. Bus drivers will inch their buses forward to pick a white passenger at bus stops while the black passenger is ignored totally. In the trains, sitting beside a black person is like a tough examination. Many would rather stand than sit beside us. The same goes for the buses. Other colours would rather stand or find company with their colours than sit beside us. Where is integration?
In the stores, security personnel and store detectives train their eagle eyes on black shoppers in spite of statistics that prove otherwise. The Asian shopkeepers prefer to leave the change on the grocery tops than touch black hands. Hinduism forbids it. Caste system forbids it. Even on the football pitch there has been no gaps in racial slur. Black professional football players are still being subjected to taunts and monkey chants from the predictable ugly tribes of uncouth racists.
Unreformed thug like Ashley Gill-Webb was caught throwing beer bottle at Usain Bolt as he powered to the finishing line of the 100m race during the 2012 Olympics. Brave heart Kevin-Prince Boateng of AC Milan has just gave the soccer world the very best solution to racism on the football pitch: walk away. Every other black player in the same situation now has a script to copy from the courage of this German-Ghanaian player. Uefa and Fifa have not made black players proud in their reluctant reaction and ridiculous penalty to offending nation, referee and players caught in racist behaviour.
Even display of education and outward affluence are not enough to alleviate the sin of hostility and indifference. Our gleaming IPads, Gucci suits, Rado watches and shiny shoes are not enough “success gears” to change the language of racial profiling of especially the black male. Our children are being thrown against the wall by the institutionally racist Metropolitan Police in the course of “stop and search” which targets black kids than any other race. Stuart Lawrence brother of murdered Stephen Lawrence had to cry out after he had been stopped and searched 25 times by the police. London Mayor has called it “utterly disgraceful” and “unacceptable” that black men were still being pulled over so often and that it is vital that people across London, every single community have confidence in the police.” Rude adults being set against innocent people. But we always have an answer when the abasement is up to the neck. There is always a tinder in the sink estates to trigger the fire of riots and mayhem. Black riots in the forgotten black estates of the inner cities is like unlocking the walled up anger and frustrations of our jobless youths. We are always the worse for it. Our “abnormalities” are enough fodders for Conservative racists to lace political rhetoric with tougher immigration sound bites. Tougher immigration bars are set for immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean to convince the white masses that something is being done to raise the barricade against the natives.
The world has changed. The old UK of fairness and accommodation has changed. This island is no longer fair, ethical, rational and ordered. I read somewhere that the man who gets the most out of men is the one who treats them with humility. Probably I got that from Buddha or Gandhi, the source has escaped me. There are many contradictory opinions on the state of black British. Some say that we are still being ignored, despised, humbled and denied. I am still testing that evidence…