Chesterfield residents share their experiences of racism
Tomorrow is United Nations’ Anti-Racism Day.
The Derbyshire Times has spoken to three Chesterfield residents about their experiences of racism – in a bid to further raise awareness of the issue and reinforce the message that it is wholly unacceptable.
Lud Ramsey, chair of the Chesterfield African Caribbean Community Association, said racism has been a part of his life ‘pretty much since the day I was born’.
“I’ve been through a lot,” the 61-year-old told the Derbyshire Times.
“I grew up in London and had to deal with the far-right National Front and being disproportionately stopped by the police.
“That was a real concern for me because if you get unfairly stopped by the police and happen to lose your rag because of the injustice of it all, you could get arrested and end up with a criminal record and no career prospects.”
Lud said he worked in the armed forces and then as a firefighter in the south of the UK and experienced ‘a lot of racism’.
“After retiring from the fire service, I moved to Chesterfield in 2014 and I thought my days of racism were going to be over,” he said.
“But the first day I arrived in Chesterfield, I went to the supermarket to get some tea and milk – and the security guard stopped me before I even got in the shop.
“He wrongly accused me of theft.
“I’ve been wrongly stopped by police four times.
“When my baby daughter was in her pram once, a woman walked past and called her the ‘n’ word.
“There are so many other horrible, horrible examples.
“These are the type of things people of colour have to put up with.”
Asked how it makes him feel, Lud said: “Tired.
“It drains you.
“You just want a break from it.”
‘British culture is a melting pot – and that’s something to be celebrated’
Sorèle Diouf, 36, has lived in Chesterfield since the age of eight.
She told the Derbyshire Times: “I’m mixed-race and I’ve certainly seen both sides of the coin.
“There have been times when I’ve been incredibly proud of Chesterfield for how accepting individuals can be to people of different cultures.
“But also I do think there are still a lot of issues that need addressing.
“I’m a nurse and recently I’ve noticed some people will say negative things to me about immigrants and people of colour.
“If I challenge them on it and say ‘you’re talking to someone whose dad was an immigrant and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for immigration’, they say ‘oh no, you’re different’ – which just doesn’t make sense to me.
“They seem to really struggle to notice and recognise their own prejudices.
“British culture is a melting pot – it has been for a long time, we’ve always had people from different cultures – and that’s something to be celebrated.”
Mahroof Saddique, treasurer of the Muslim Welfare Association of Chesterfield and North Derbyshire, described race and racism as ‘still very much an issue in the UK in the 21st Century’.
He told the Derbyshire Times: “Any time an attempt is made to tackle this issue by a person of colour they are immediately labelled as troublesome, having a chip on their shoulder or part of the 'woke' establishment.
"In terms of personal experiences of racism in Chesterfield, unfortunately there are too many to list even though I came to this country when I was five-years-old and have contributed to it ever since in every way I can.
"My wife and children, in addition to numerous members of the Muslim community, are subjected to the most horrendous verbal and quite often physical attacks just because they dress differently, look different or speak another language.
"They bear the brunt of such racism every time there is a story in the press about Islamic terrorism."
Referring to the Duchess of Sussex’s recent comments about how an unnamed member of the Royal Family asked ‘how dark’ their son Archie's skin might be, Mahroof said: "Meghan Markle, in my opinion, has suffered in the press purely and simply because she does not conform to the expectation of what most people think of a member of the monarchy – which is originating from a white, elitist society background.
"I am glad that Meghan has opened this can of worms because at last we can all have an adult and honest dialogue about how deeply racist this country is and how right-wing it is going under the present Government.”
In response to Meghan’s comments, Prince William said ‘we are very much not a racist family’.
Hope for the future
Lud said education is important in tackling racism.
During Black History Month, he visits local schools and talks about Martin Luther King, Muhammad Ali, Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman, among others.
He said: “The kids learn a lot from it – they listen and take it all on board.
“When you’re telling them stories about people like Rosa Parks (who was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Alabama in 1955), they just can’t get their heads around how badly some human beings can treat others.”
He urged people to ‘challenge and call it out’ if they see or hear racism.
Mum-of-four Sorèle told how she has ‘so much faith’ for the next generation.
She said: “When I hear the conversations my kids have with their friends, they’re amazing – they’re very accepting and constantly challenging prejudice and always thinking about how they can be better people and more inclusive.
“That can only be a good thing – and it gives me lots of hope.”
For information on how you can support United Nations’ Anti-Racism Day, visit www.standuptoracism.org.uk.