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How much longer will we put up with racism?

VICTIM: Rufaro Chisango

WE ALL have a lot to be grateful to 18-year-old Rufaro Chisango for. Because this young student did not panic under the pressure of racial abuse but cool, calm and collected, and with a sanguine mind and a level head, she did the right thing. She recorded the incident. On her mobile phone. Then she uploaded it. And then...all hell broke loose.

When I say we all have a debt to her, those of us who have tried to prove the racism meted out to us on a daily basis have rarely been able to produce the evidence. Not least because racism does your head in and in many respects makes you act anything but cool, calm and collected. How many times have we heard the suggestion that we black people are angry?

And how many times have we been asked, directly or by insinuation, why we are so angry?
Only someone who has never experienced racism could posit such a question. Only someone who has not suffered the ignominy of racial bias could even doubt our word that it makes you wanna holler and throw up both your hands, as Marvin sang.

You see, in our day, there was no way we could provide the evidence so irrefutably as modern technology has allowed our children to do.

Indeed, back in those days, even our parents didn’t believe us when we told them what we were going through at the hands of our teachers and university lecturers (for those of us who even bothered to go into higher education after our horrendous experiences at secondary school), even though our mums and dads were going through the exact same thing at work.

Our parents couldn’t imagine, in their wildest nightmares, that the humiliating discrimination that they were experiencing in their daily lives would be meted out on their children.

Not the children. Surely not the children. In disyah Inglann where, from what we hear, the English love children so much. Such was the dismay for those of us who are now parents at the audio recording that Ms Chisango shared with the world.

A recording that she had made from behind the closed door of her student halls at Nottingham Trent University, as a bunch of louts shouted ‘We hate the blacks, we hate the blacks...’ and other more vulgar expletives that ought not to be repeated in a family newspaper like The Voice.

No, not the children. They do not deserve what we have to put up with. This beef is between us and the racists. Children are out of bounds.

We do not attack their children and we cannot allow them to attack or intimidate our children. Especially when our children are at school trying to make something of their lives. Our children go to school to learn. Why should they have to go and learn in fear?

DEFENCE

One can only imagine how terrified Ms Chisango was behind that closed door. As level- headed as she was to record the incident for the world to hear, were her hands not shaking in terror? Having said that, it was good to hear at least one of her house mates come to her defence and shout out to the racist losers, ‘Leave her alone’.

These losers who would never have dared to be so bold if Ms Chisango was a black boy, are nothing but cowards. The question now, though, is whether the administration at Nottingham Trent University will do the right thing.

Because the level of intimidation by some students of another student who has paid her more than £9,000 like every other student to be taught at the university without favour or fear is unacceptable.

Two louts from the university have been arrested – and released – by police in connection with this incident (at the time of going to print). Need I say more? If police felt this abuse was serious enough to arrest them in the first place, what more does the university need before making the right decision?

Nothing short of the right decision will satisfy parents like myself who had to discuss this incident with our own daughters. Why should black parents have to take their daughters aside and work out a strategy for them to deal with any experience like that which Ms Chisango has had to endure?

Have we not moved on since those days of the Seventies when the SUS laws obliged my father, and I am sure yours if you’re of my generation, to take us children to one side and explain what we had to do and not do should a police officer arrest us for anything or nothing at all. We are supposed to have come a long way since those days.

So now, Nottingham Trent, it is over to you. And your decision on these students will determine how we view you as an institution where we are prepared to spend our hard- earned money or, indeed, to allow our children to go into student debt to.

ACTION

Now is not the time for pre-varicating, now is not the time for flim flam, now is not the time for a controlled show. Now is the time for the decisive action that differentiates Laertes from Hamlet in the excellent (nearly) all-black RSC production currently performing at the Hackney Empire in London.

This is not the time for ‘To be or not to be’. That is not the question for us black parents.
We want you to do the right thing, not stand there wondering whether or not it is nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles.

The last thing we want to hear from you is all that Shakespearean mumbo jumbo. Just do what you’re supposed to do. Do it. And do it now!

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