“The Black Lives Matter movement is so important, and in case you didn’t know, this is not a new thing.”
The death of George Floyd in America has been a catalyst that has caused a huge surge of support for the Black Lives Matter movement – and while the conversation has been primarily US-centric, it is important to remember that racism is a global issue and the UK needs to be held just as accountable. In her latest video, Neesey Pathan shares stories of racism she has experienced as a woman of colour living in the UK, in order to raise awareness and inspire change.
Neesey begins the video by showing a message from an old school friend apologising for the way she was treated at school, saying she was taken aback by how shocked people were when she posted it on social media. She says this video is for “all the people that think racism doesn’t exist because they haven’t experienced it”.
She gives an idea of what attending private school was like – “there was no diversity” – before diving into countless examples of the racism she experienced daily growing up; how even people she considered her friends would use racial slurs or racist nicknames on a daily basis simply to address her. “People would say it in passing… Or they would call me p**i directly and expect me to answer to that as if that was my name,” she says.
Neesey draws attention to ignorant questions she’s been asked, about where she is from, her family and how it fell to her to explain why people who are not Black cannot say the N-word, despite her not being Black herself. She tells a story of a girl at her university telling everyone she was getting stopped and searched at an airport. “Obviously, I’m going to get searched because I’m brown, because I’m clearly a terrorist,” She says sarcastically.
She talks about how boys at school would make fun of her by using ignorant stereotypes, and how a boyfriend once told her, “You’re so hot, even though you’re brown.” Neesey also shares that, after learning about the Holocaust, she developed a fear that her dad would be taken to a concentration camp and be a target because of racism, and because of the racial attacks and micro-aggressions she was experiencing as a child on a day-to-day basis. “I just felt like I was out of place,” she explains. “I did not have any friends who were people of colour – I was just in this white bubble, honestly, and it was so damaging.”
Neesey expands on this by talking about how her self-esteem was badly damaged by internalising a “hatred of anyone who wasn’t white”. She talks about how, when she first started wearing makeup, she wanted to look “as light as possible” and ended up with a “white mask” of foundation on her face. “That looks ridiculous,” she says. “It didn’t match the rest of my body, and I was still getting compliments on it because I looked white. That was honestly so damaging to my self-esteem.”
Drawing attention to how damaging colourism and racism is, she talks about how her family would compliment her for having lighter skin and how a Black girl at school would put concealer on her face and arms just to appear lighter. As a mixed-race woman, she expresses anger at racist people who seem to feel they can be racist in front of her without consequence.
Neesey keeps a light tone throughout the video, making fun or expressing disbelief at the countless examples of racism she has experienced, while also being honest about how negatively it has impacted her, “They affected me so much. I will never forget the things I went through as a younger person.” She also holds herself accountable, talking about how she does not have the same experiences as a Black person. “People of colour who aren’t Black are not all innocent, and there are things that we can learn,” she shares.
She ends the video by emphasising the George Floyd case as a “breaking point” for the Black Lives Matter movement. “Finally, the world is listening, but the work is not done by any means. We still have so much to do.”
“We need to stand together and fight for justice,” Neesey finishes, calling her audience to action. “Please, go beyond just talking about it on social media. Please sign some petitions – do whatever you can.”
Those looking to get more involved and informed can do so via this resource.