On appearance – Black

Hi. It’s nice as always to catch up with you once again. How’s your week been? mine’s been pretty joyous of late. Let’s rewind back to the end of last weekend and my trip overseas to see my parents. I’ve not seen them in close to a year but it felt like longer. I spent a good few days in the sun, had some nice runs and spent lots of time in the pool. Carlos says hi.

Most importantly, I got to spend time with my mum and dad, and if work wasn’t calling this week onwards I would no doubt still be out in Spain. Which brings back to the second joyous event which is after a significant lull in contract work I’m lucky enough to be working with a community organisation for the next few months in London as an IT project manager.

Of my many skills in the sector I’ve worked in now for over 10 years project management has become one of my most well paid and developed. I like challenges and I like helping people achieve their goals. I guess some of that stems from martial arts and the desire to help others from community volunteering and organising.

Either way, I’m pleased to be addressing areas of my life that were falling short. I’m also back on the horse when it comes to police monitoring. Which is always a good thing. As the saying goes when your facing the right direction, just keep walking. It’s something I can apply to most areas of my life and more often than not do. Helping others is rewarding and in my own way I guess it means I’m fighting back too.

You see, Bristol Copwatch is a lot more than a social media presence despite the lies the police and their allies (by allies I mean rats.) may tell you. We are an independent community focused police monitoring group who monitor the police on the street and across the UK. We are also a group of people with lived experience of police harassment and brutality and most importantly police corruption. We’ve been out in St Pauls, in Easton and around black and brown communities in the city off and on for over 12 months. We’re still young and have raised over 3 thousand in funds.

There is a long history of resistance to the police in black and brown communities and of course, many people in society these days can see the problem with policing (it’s going to get worse before it gets better.) If you’ve ever taken action over any matter you’ll be well aware of what the cops try to put you through, targeting, harassment, malicious arrests.. we’ve been there and most importantly I’ve been there. Sit down with me and I’ll tell you what’s been dealt to me since the age of 16.

It’s something that’s left it’s scars and that I’m working through healing with the help of a lovely friend. Those scars came back into focus earlier this year when I discovered that despite my brown skin I’d been misidentified as white. After much wailing and nashing of teeth the home office (you read that right, the home office) put me in the right box. “On appearance BLACK”. Well it was kind of the right box… but let’s not nit pick.

However, it got me thinking about the micro aggressions I’ve faced consistently over the course of my life to out and out racism (I first experienced it at about age 6 ) and at points the lack of my acknowledgement by some of my identity as a black man. Because, despite what you may be thinking I don’t have a “tan” and I’m not “half white.” White supremacy has never allowed for being half of anything let alone it’s favourite colour. Race and identity matter. It creates barriers and aggressions that I run into that you, if your a white person just won’t.

Sadly in martial arts those aggressions have reared their head more than once. My clearest memory of encountering racism in a Thai boxing gym was being told very vocally one summer many years ago that I looked like I’d jumped in the fucking mud. Silence from me. The person of course was just joking it was just a joke mate!. This of course in a training environment is completely unacceptable. So are monkey noises as is being told that I’m a “monkey looking c***” just joking just joking. Of course it’s just a joke.

I may be so laid back I’m almost horizontal but there are things that I don’t find ok. And I question the white silence that has emerged when the events above have occurred. We may live in a racist society but if anything that means we should all strive to be more anti racist than ever before. I walk into a gym to escape the day to day bullshit I run into. This includes police harassment, (I went through the stop and search paradigm in my youth so I’m no stranger) work and volunteering trials and tribulations, racism on a daily basis (the insidious snide sort the middle classes like is the worst) and everything else in between.

What I’ve never expected to have to deal with and still don’t is continuations of that racism in a place that has over the past 15 or so years become my home. But sadly, from time to time whoop there it is and I realise some people have a lot they need to unpack. However, me being me I just walk on by, hit the bag , hit the pads spar and have a nice time. When these events have unfolded in the past I’ve shrugged them off. Sometimes I don’t think I should any more. However, just like in life its not representative of the city I live in, and in training when its emerged its not representative of the calibre of my gyms past and present.

I’m pleased to say I’m training again the rest of this week, and I’m completely COVID free. I guess I’m blessed. Well that and partially vaccinated. It’s going to be good to get back into the mix and focus on improving once again. Looking at photos of myself earlier was like looking at an older version of me. It’s going to be fun seeing what the new guy has to offer. On appearance he’s black. He still has a soul and will no doubt be back in the ring soon. Watch. In the meantime. have a great week and just like the last time.. I’ll see you on that road.

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