It appears that it is the burden of blacks everywhere. I was born in England and grew up in St. Lucia. Upon returning to England, my first experience of the low expectations of blacks was when I applied to secondary school. Being from the Caribbean, the expectations of the headmaster of the Catholic school was that the standard of education must be lower than the UK. Based on this bias, I was placed in a remedial class. After a month, I was removed from the group. Later, at the end of year exams, I achieved top grades in all my subjects. The teachers greeted this news with shock and astonishment. The irony was that in the Caribbean, the curriculum was based on the old English grammar system.
During my interview for a BA transportation design course, the course interviewer enquired did my parents work in design, did they work in car manufacturing. These questions were not related to my interest in design. What I asked myself was the relevance of these questions?
I applied for a Masters course at the Royal College of Art. My tutors on my BA course requested that they show the other students my letter of application, as an example of how they should write one. Not thinking anything of it, I said yes.
During the interview at the Royal College, the interviewer asked me had I copied the letter of the other students.
Attending a conference at the Material Institute in London, I approached a senior figure from a well-known aerospace engine manufacturer. I asked him a question relating to my research project on smart materials. To my astonishment, in a room full of the conference participants, he shouts in a loud voice, ‘that he does not have time for someone who should be on a government training scheme. As you can imagine, pardon the cliché but I was wishing the ground would open up and swallow me.
I walk into a recruitment agency in London, hand them my CV, the agent places the CV on the desk and proceeds to offer me jobs as a warehouse attendant.
I cross the border from Slovakia to the Czech Republic, the guards, ask me for my passport and then proceed to take it away. They return with the plastic film pulled at the edges. They then inform me that they believe that I have tampered with the passport. Luckily, they were on aware that the friend I had visited was a Dutch diplomat. I called her to inform her of what was happening. She then told them that she would contact the British consulate, to inform them that they had tampered with an official document of the United Kingdom government.
On my first visit to Paris, on my return journey, at Charles de Gaulle Airport, two security officers with machine guns strapped to their shoulder approach me and placed my hands behind my back and pushed me into an interrogation room. They informed me that I looked like a wanted drug dealer.
Again, I was lucky, the father of the friend I was travelling with was the governor of the Bank of Scotland. When they realised that they had made a mistake, instead of apologising, they pushed me out of the room.
The list goes on.
Still, people will tell you that you have a chip on your shoulder, that you are suffering from a victimisation complex.
There is the inverse experience, where they use ‘race’ against you. When you raise a complaint about being unfairly treated, their default defence is that you are accusing them of racism. Accusing someone of racism is the last thing you wish to do, because then you are up against whole establishments, companies and country. As they say you should be content with your lot. You should be grateful for being allowed in the country.