A Black man from St Kitts and Nevis has provided a detailed account of the racism he has experienced since moving to the UK 50 years ago.
James Brown, who lives in West Yorkshire, also revealed that the discrimination he has experienced has left him fearing for the future of his children.
The 66-year-old moved to the UK as a teenager in 1968, joining his father who was part of the Windrush generation and had immigrated in the wake of World War II.
Back then, James experienced racism almost every day. He was greeted with window signs on shops that read, ‘no colour, no dogs, no Irish’, and he says no one would rent accommodation to a Black person.
He was discriminated against at work, and says he was stopped so frequently stopped by police that he felt forced to sell his car and downgrade to a less expensive brand.
‘If you are a Black person living in this country your chance of being subjected to racism on a scale of one to 10, is a nine in my opinion,’ says James.
James’ father returned back to St Kitts and Nevis because of how he was being treated in the UK, but James has no intentions of doing the same.
‘I have invested a lot and contributed so much of my time and effort to build a life in this country,’ he says.
‘My thoughts are that the UK is the lesser of the two evils. Sometimes I just lie in bed and think about it all.’
However, his experiences of racism have left him feeling exhausted, nervous and have seriously impacted his mental health and wellbeing.
‘To this day, I fear for my children – I would never want them to go through what I’ve been through,’ he says.
‘But at the same time, while my heart is still in the Caribbean, the UK has become my home so I won’t return, although I am really getting to the stage where I’ve had enough now.’
James was lonely and missed his mum when he first moved to the UK, but he was looking forward to a better life.
James quickly got his first job as a brick labourer, before going on to work as an education welfare officer – where he says he was discriminated against because of his skin colour.
‘The new principal manager invited all of us into her office to introduce herself to the team she would be working with,’ he says.
‘She took the time to ask every white officer in the room what their ideas were for their roles moving forward.
‘When she came to me, all she asked was, “how did you get the job?” I was the only African Caribbean Black person within the team.’
James also says he was forced to sell his Range Rover in 2016 after being stopped by police on several occasions while driving it.
‘At home in St Kitts and Nevis, I could drive around all day in a nice car and no one would stop me, no one would pull me over and question me. I would never feel like I was a target,’ he says.
‘But when I moved to the UK, they would frequently pull me over because they were suspicious of a Black man driving that kind of car.
‘They would say that the car looked suspicious or that I was driving erratically – even though I wasn’t.
‘I also got rid of my private number plate as I felt this also did nothing other than to draw attention to my car and I was sick of being targeted by the police.
‘Since then I have just always kept a low profile to do my best to avoid harassment.’
Another time, James says he was even targeted by police while dropping his kids off at school.
‘I take my kids to school every single day as my own father wasn’t able to do that for me,’ explains James.
‘On this particular day, I pulled into a bus stop and my kids jumped out and went into school but then an officer came over and told me I had pulled an illegal maneuver and issued me with a ticket.
‘As he was giving me the ticket, a white woman also pulled into the bus lane and her kid got out.
‘I asked the officer if he was going to give her a ticket too, and he said “no” and let her drive off.
‘I asked the officer why he had not challenged the white female driver. He reacted by questioning me about my nationality, my place of origin and my length of residence in this country.
‘I was shocked and I told him he was being discriminatory. He just ignored me.
‘No one helped – two parents of children from the school walked by and didn’t say anything, one of them just shook her head.’
James took the matter further with the police and lodged a complaint, alleging discrimination on grounds of race and sex.
However, he says police dismissed his complaints, prompting him to appeal to the Independent Police Complaint Commission (IPCC) – a claim which was upheld on two separate occasions.
James says the prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement this year has been a positive step forward.
‘Black people in the UK should come together and support each other, we should all rise up and say enough is enough,’ he says.
‘Lewis Hamilton is one public figure who has done a tremendous job in highlighting the plight of Black people and is continuing to do so. He is my personal hero.’
In his professional life, James became the first Black man to a set up a recruitment agency in the Bradford and Leeds area.
He has also launched the Bradford Against Apartheid Movement (BAAM) to highlight the plight of Black people in South Africa, as well as help train people to gain a good understanding of the social care sector.
Now, James has shared his life story and experiences of racism with StoryTerrace, a biography writing service in the UK.
‘I felt I needed to write a book about my experiences living in this country so my children will have a better understanding of their granddad’s struggles and now their father’s.
‘The book is simply for me and my family.’
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