“Racism will continue in this country until we face up to our past and stop pretending it didn’t happen” – Esther Lawson
RACISM is alive and thriving on the streets and in schools across the UK – and it’s getting worse, according to author and campaigner Esther Lawson.
“The sad truth, unfortunately, is that racism is on the rise in Britain,” says Esther.
“But today’s racism is about more than just colour prejudice, it’s manifested into xenophobia against anyone from another country be that India, China, Eastern Europe or anywhere else in the world.”
As a mixed-race girl growing up in 1960’s Britain, Esther experienced at first hand racism in all of its forms and from all quarters of society.
She was kicked, beaten and called “wog” and “golliwog” at school. The bullies would then mock her asking “wogamatter?” distorting the sympathetic phrase “what’s the matter?” into a term of racial abuse.
Racist bullies prevented Esther and other children of colour playing in the sandpit in the public park near her home. On one occasion she was knocked unconscious when a large stone was thrown at her and hit her head.
At school she was accused of cheating when she achieved top marks n class, because non-white children were not expected to be that clever.
Her white father never allowed himself to be photographed with his mixed race wife and children.
Wogamatter is the author’s personal account of growing up in racist Britain
PRECIOUS MOMENTS: Young Esther (right) with her Kenyan mum and two sisters.
When the family moved to Camberwell in South London, neighbours petitioned against the new black family on the street and they were subsequently evicted. The landlord, although sympathetic, made no secret of the fact that he was asking them to leave because they were black.
Esther, with her mum and sisters, moved to the small town of Angmering in West Sussex where what started as verbal abuse and taunts took a serious and dangerous turn when the young family was terrorised by burning newspapers poked through the letterbox on numerous occasions.
The family was again uprooted and moved to the seaside town of Bognor Regis for their own safety, and later to Littlehampton where Esther faced a most extraordinary situation that she is still trying to come to terms with today.
Eight year old Esther was arrested and charged with 56 trumped up criminal charges, later facing a judge in court despite being two years below the age of criminal responsibility:
“I was questioned alone with no parent or other adult apart from the police officers present, my mother hadn’t even been informed,” recalls Esther.
“I thought it was great fun having my fingerprints taken, but was too young to realise the significance.”
The charges against her were vague, examples include “stole a piece of fruit between October and December”, “stole purse from pocket at some point between 1st and 31st October”.
The evidence put forward by the police was also confused accusing her of four separate offences that happened in different locations at the same time.
“When I appeared in court, I didn’t understand what was going on or the gravity of the situation, I just remember being sat in a huge chair in front of the judge and feeling very bored.”
Esther tells US chat show host Dr Pamela Brewer about her court appearance.
“Writing my story has been hugely difficult and extraordinarily painful, but I wanted to tell it to help others who experienced similar things come to terms with what happened to them
“Most of my life has been against the odds. Some of it still doesn’t feel real. But it was real, I lived through the racism, I was there, centre stage – I was the wog.”
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