What It's Like to Be Young and Black in Scotland

Young Scot spoke with Intercultural Youth Scotland’s Anti-Racist Ambassadors Themba and Ciara about how other young people in Scotland can be allies for the Black community, learn about the Black Lives Matter movement and why it's so important, and how to practice Anti-Racist activism sensitively and safely.

As a young, Black Scot, what do you want white people to know right now? 

Ciara: I want them to know that the most they could do right now is just support us, instead of turning it into a trend of some sort just to boost their own ego or to boost their following.

I think they should be taking it a lot more seriously than just tagging a few friends or posting something about it. What they could be doing to help is phoning numbers, they could be linking petitions to sign and they could be joining things like Intercultural Youth Scotland (IYS) as well to help create more, what’s the word, to bring more light on charities and stuff like that that want to be heard.

Themba: Of course Ciara has highlighted most of the main parts I'm kind of agreeing with her. I also want them as well as, of course all the stuff with social media, I want them to also know that they should actually feel okay to want to help us as well because I know a lot of people, a lot of white people are posting and stuff, but there's also a lot of white people who are kind of scared and not confident to come out because they also feel like this isn't their business.

When, if we really deep it and think about it, it's not just a Black issue, this is a world issue because at the end of the day, we're all human and it's humans that are being treated like non-humans at the end of the day.

So I want white people to, as well as to join us and help us kind of, I don't want to say rebel, but get our voices heard also to just not to be scared in letting their thoughts out and letting people know how they're feeling that no one will really judge. But I'm also with Ciara, the part of, I don't want white people just to do it because it's kind of like a trend now on social media, just to be tagging people and stuff without a meaning, without knowing anything, without doing research.

Cause I see a lot of people, kind of doing it just because it's kind of trendy right now on Instagram and stuff but they don't actually mean what they're saying.

What would you like to say to people of colour right now? 

Themba: I would like to say this is our time. This is our time to stand up and get our voices heard. While we've got all this big kind of platform, of course this has been happening for decades and decades, I feel like this is probably the best time.

Now is the best time to get your voices heard while we have the press and all the news covering situations like this, like as I said, this has been happening for decades and decades, but it's not been getting the right attention.

But finally, we're getting, of course, there’s still more, a lot more to be done. We’re finally getting international attention for it so I would like to, if I had a message to all the people of colour, I would definitely be saying, this is our time lets stand up.

Let's get our voices heard. Let's post this on the internet. Let’s go out and spread messages. Let's do as much as we can.

Ciara: A message I would say would be, it's obviously not our job to educate people that don't, that are not willing to listen or try to understand what's going on.

But if you could just keep trying to give people knowledge, keep trying to make them aware of what's going on and remind your loved ones and remind other Black people and other people of colour that, that we are with you.

And if there's any times that you feel that you can't take it anymore and stuff like that, then we can all come together, and we can all talk about it and we can keep fighting.

How can white people be better allies to the Black community?

Themba: As I was saying before, that of course this is an issue happening to Black people, but at the end of the day, we're all the same, as kind of like, as humans. This is something that we definitely need more than just Black people to get a message across to the government, to the system and stuff like that.

So, as I said before, as much help as possible, I know in America, obviously a lot of white people and other races actually helping in the protest, which I like to see.

I like to see the support, but then there's also the side of it where it's like, of course, I don't know the real intentions of them, but I can only pray and hope that it's for the right intention that they actually care and want to help with the situation.

Ciara: I think first of all, they should acknowledge that it shouldn't be as hard as some people are making it to just speak up about it or just talk to a family member or a friend about it, it shouldn't be that hard to just know in your head that this is what we should be talking about, this is what's going on right now, I can't just keep ignoring it.

So, I think first of all, what people could do is acknowledge what's going on and look into it and just try to not just keep pushing past that and keep ignoring it.

When a Black person tells them this is what's happening and this is how I feel, they should listen instead of trying to challenge it with, stuff like ‘all lives matter’ and stuff like that. So, first of all, if they could acknowledge it, then that'd be really good I think.

How are you looking after yourself right now? 

Ciara: Well first of all it's quite disheartening to see it still because me, myself, I wanted to be in the police force and obviously this has just pretty much changed my mind in a way or made me think about it again because it's really disgusting what's going on and I can't, well actually I can believe it's still happening because no one's really been doing anything. Not as much as they could be doing to help it or change it.

What I'm doing to look after myself, I'm not really thinking about myself right now. I'm mostly just trying to get it out to other people and keep spreading knowledge and understanding.

Obviously my mental health as everyone else should be feeling, is not good right now and it hasn't been for a long time cause there's always, this is not the first time this has happened and it's kind of annoying that people are only thinking about it now.

Like, for people to actually talk about it now there's been fires set, there’s been rioting and I think that they shouldn't just be thinking about now, they should be thinking about all the times it's happened before and all the times that it's going to happen again.

Themba: I had a conversation with some of the people at IYS about this the other day and previously.

It’s kind of like, because it's so big right now, it's kind of changed the way I've been thinking about how things will happen after lockdown happens because I've had this kind of vision, like after lockdown finishes, everything will go back to normal, I'm gonna go out, blah, blah, blah.

But now that this has happened, for instance, of course this isn't new as Ciara was saying this has been happening for decades and we need people to acknowledge that, for instance, going out isn't… sometimes isn't… I don't know how to say it.

Basically, like when, say for instance, I go to a shop, I'm just going normal like everyone else in the shop, but I feel like I'm not wanted in the shop because, for instance, I'm a Black Scottish person with dreadlocks. I walk into a shop with other Scottish people, but I feel like I've got more eyes on me. Say I go into a different aisle and I see the security guard or someone working in the shop specifically keeping an eye on me. It kind of makes me feel like, 'oh, is this how things are going to be?'

And now that things have really became, especially the past few days with what's happening in America, I feel like it's going to be more kind of like, I don't wanna say awkward, but it's definitely going to be, definitely something that a lot of people would be thinking in their heads like when they go out to different places, not just for white people of course, but for Black people.

For Black people going out, especially seeing police driving by, I know it's probably, I don't know if it's just me, but I know it's going to be kind of nerve wracking because these are the people that we've grown up to see, believing that these are the people that are supposed to be keeping us safe but in this case we're more kind of scared and just wondering, 'oh, is something going to happen to me or my friends? Is something going to happen to me or my family as we're walking on the street?'

So that's stuff that's definitely been in my head.

But, some things that I’ve been using to kind of help me with that is, I'll be honest, the group that we're with, the IYS programme. I'm kind of happy I came across this now, cause I didn’t think there was a programme like it, but it's somewhere I can, if I need people to talk to about a situation cause it's not always easy to talk to my friends or my family, especially my family, it’s not an easy topic to just bring up.

So I've got the people in the IYS in the group chats, the calls we have to kind of help me mentally get through this challenging time with advice, and just kind of like a place to ease my mind. Of course family as well and different things just to kind of help me in the mental side of things as this thing is happening.

What would you like to see change for young Black people here in Scotland, and across the world?

Ciara: I think that what would have really helped me a lot would have been support in school, especially in schools that are more like deprived areas I feel like they don't have any understanding or basic knowledge almost of how to deal with things such as racism in schools because I know for a fact that my school has never done anything to deal with it.

And no one's ever spoke to me about anything like that or when something's happened, never came and went, 'how do you feel? What should we do? What can we do to help you?'

They’ve always chose the side of the person that's done it, which is quite worrying especially seeing as they're obviously in charge of our education and other things as well.

So, I think that there should be counselling maybe specifically for people of colour in mostly white populated schools and I think that before teachers are allowed to become teachers that they should at least get a pack of information that's like how to deal with a situation like that which is also quite worrying as well because I feel like if that's a job that you want to take on, then I feel that you should already know how to deal with that or at least, I don't know how to say it, but at least just talk to the person about it and make sure that the people that are doing things wrong face consequences. And I know that that's not been happening in my life.

So, I think that what could be changed is definitely someone that could help and also as well I think that there should be more diversity in the teaching staff as well because I know if there was a person of colour that was a teacher, then I know that they would most likely understand more and that if something was to happen to me that I would definitely be able to go to them and talk to them because I feel they would understand as a person of colour and in my life, I've not had that at all during my school years.

My school hasn't even ever done anything for Black History Month. Not a single acknowledgement of it or anything. And what we learn about in history in Germany and the Holocaust, but these kind of things have happened to Black people. The only Black history is the civil rights movements and slavery but it’s just so biased the way it’s taught. People need to learn about white privilege, especially the teachers. If we had more honest and comprehensive history in schools then it would an education for everyone.

Themba: Obviously there’s so much, there's definitely so much change I'd love to see but the main changes, I like what Ciara said about the education system, especially here in Glasgow.

I went to a school in quite a deprived area and we always got, you know when you get assemblies you get talks about I don’t know, health, you get talks about charities, all sorts of fundraising stuff but never once did I have any talks about racism and racism is definitely a big thing in Glasgow.

I feel like I'd like to see more, especially because as we've gone on in the years and with all these kind of racial incidents happening, the older generations have tried things and things aren't really changing. I feel like it's up to the youth because we are the future and the younger people are the future and I feel like that's a big part of the change.

I feel like, school's definitely getting more talks in schools, kind of educating the kids and stuff like that would definitely be a big, big push, a big step. And definitely I believe, I believe strongly that it will change things in the future. I'd like to see a lot more of that. A lot more talks for that and as well as for the, the system itself in terms of justice.

I'd love to see more justice within courts, within, of course the police and stuff like that. Of course, I've got nothing against white people themselves but I tend to see a lot of, when I see stuff about court and stuff on lawyers and just jury in general when it's a Black person being set up on trial, whether they did something wrong or not, it tends to be a lot of just mainly white people, and I'm not saying that that's a necessarily a bad thing, but it kind of goes to show there's no kind of balance in terms of like deciding the future of who's going to be in prison or get in that system of course.

So, I'd like to see more changes definitely in the education system and the law side of things.

Is there anything else you’d like to add to the conversation that you feel is important?

Ciara: Another thing I was going to say about the education system. I heard Themba talk about teaching. I feel like they should be teaching more things that like for example, Black History Month, that's never been a thing at my school and I feel like if it was, then people would probably think about it and consider it more maybe. Instead of just being uneducated.

And, as well, people just, if you're Black, they’ll see you as either Black, like African, they’ll be like, ‘go back to Africa’ or they’ll just think you're Pakistani or something, there's no in-between to these people.

So, I feel like in school, if they could at least have talks. I've never, ever been in my school and heard someone talk about it like a member of staff, it’s just never been important to them which is really disappointing because it really should be. Especially in a school where there's so many people that are racist and they know that and they're just ignoring it.

Themba: I like what Ciara said about in schools, just kind of more educating the youth, especially in Scotland and UK in general because I feel what I've noticed and seen on social media and stuff is a lot of people think this is just an issue happening in America, which is sad to see.

People just think it's an American issue. They'll be like, I seen a few comments like, ‘why are we protesting? This happened in America.’ Stuff like that, which really upset me just to show there is kind of a lack of education of things that are also happening in the UK. So, I would definitely like to see a change in that in the next few years.

I'd like to see more people know, knowing what they're talking about instead of just seeing it on social media and definitely like Ciara said, I’d like them to come out of school with knowledge and a background of why Black people are protesting, not just because a murder happened in America. I want them to understand that this has been happening for years.

Please don't just teach about slavery, we are much more than that.

I want them to know the full story of things rather than just finding out on social media. On social media you could literally read anything, a lot of stuff is also made up as well, whereas I feel like in school you get more factual things, you get more time to study on things. So, I definitely in the education system I feel like that's the main, main thing for me I'd like to see change.

Intercultural Youth Scotland

Intercultural Youth Scotland is a grass roots, youth-led charity in Scotland.

They provide evidence of meaningful and genuine engagement and impact for for Young Black, Indigenous and People of Colour in Scotland and are leading in youth anti-racist activism and anti-racist education in Scotland and across Scottish services.

They deliver crucial, effective and culturally appropriate youth services for young people aged between 13 and 25 years old, making an impact on fairness in employment, positive destinations and the inclusion of young people of colour in performing arts and events.

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