My Racist Roots

My parents continue to tell me they’re not racist…

Growing up in my family; everyone who was not white was black. Unless they were Chinese. They were yellow. Chinkies with funny squinty eyes. Or Japs. Their unfortunate eyes fell in the opposite direction. The blacks were dirty people. They were pakis and Indians and Arabs alike . Africans and south Americans. Australian aborigines too. “Terrible people.” The African continent never got much of a mention in my house. Neither did most continents or country names. The people from there were either stereotypically cool, or dangerous, and their women were terrifying, agressive creatures. “Monkeys and apes”, I heard a lot. I was told that black people didn’t need a bed. They stuck themselves to the windows at night with their lips. Arabs were the worst. “Terrible, self indulgent people with a horrific religion set to destroy the world”. “Ugly and hairy and stubborn, unforgiving people”! “Nuke the lot of them”! My real father was testimony to all their wicked ways! But I was told to love myself. I was beautiful so it was all ok… But what was I?

I was told if I ever brought a black boyfriend home he would be strung up on the garden tree and my mother’s cigarettes would be stubbed into him. They were laughing. There was humour there but I didn’t get it. I still don’t get it. I’ve always been slow.

They told me if I ever had a coloured baby my mum would not walk down the street with the pram. It would be too embarrassing for her. I wondered how she managed to wheel my pram around when I was a baby…

Equiped with a deep self loathing, a few good steriotypes and a skewed view of the world, I left home as early as I could and started my own journey.

I found love…

Abuse does not present itself in truths. An abusive relationship will be to the victim, the best relationship they have ever been in. A misunderstood love.

#racism #family #dysfunctional #stereotypes #hate ##selfhate #selfidentity #ignorance #mixed #abuse

Photograpy: Najma Abukar


An Imaginary Father

I am Nadia. My mother is Scottish and father is Arab. I don’t speak Arabic. I am not familiar with the cultures, traditions or history of my father’s country for I don’t know his origins. I have never met my father.

My mother tells too many lies. Sometimes I don’t know who I am. Over the years I have asked my mother many questions about my father. She almost always gave me answers. The answers to repeated questions however, were not always the same. Thus progressing into a spiderweb of entangled, innacurate information. I began to learn early on that my mother, restricted by her painful past, was not a reliable source. Unfortunately, she was my only source.

My father was always real to me. Intangible but vivid and palpable. His physical appearance, his personality, his habits and attributes all existed in my imagination. Inconsistent and somewhat flamboyant, his image as my father has been ever changing over the years.

He was once the dirty, hairy, deserting Arab. Ugly, selfish and cold, but wondrously intelligent and intriguingly different.

He has also existed in my imagination, as the hero father. The tall dark stranger who was just like me. The father who would one day appear unannounced and shower me with love and understanding. With a similar texture of hair to me and a similar skin colour. He would tell me he liked his coffee the same way I did and I would then know that he could see the world through my eyes. He was strong and confident. He was wise, worldly and wonderfully different. He was my real dad. Of course, this dream was never realised.

My mother told me “curiosity killed the cat”.

My father still exists in my imagination. He is no longer flamboyant but he has become somewhat consistent. He his still tall and dark. The racist misconceptions have gone and left behind a more real, human image. A quiet, solitary image of a man, who for reasons still unknown to me, never got to know his own daughter.

My father is a stranger.

#father #daddy #parents #lost #findyourself #selfimage #selfesteem #self #racism #arab #ethnicity #race #mixed

A Mother’s Love

The sun was splitting the trees, as my Scottish mother would say. It was a rare beautiful day in the small Scottish town. Warm and bright with a cloudless stretch of blue skies reaching farther than the eye could see. All the kids were out playing in the street

The recent summer days had transformed me into a darker shade of brown. The shimmering sun placed a dark glow upon my skin. Radiant and exotic. Dark and foreign. My long dark curls were accentuated by my new summer glow and my large dark almond shaped eyes sparkled against this new backdrop of golden brown skin. Skin the colour of faeces they called it. Jobbies was the word they used. Some of the less innocent children preferred the word shite. I remember my younger half brother’s sing song voice in the school playground, taunting and mocking me. “You’re a brownie” he squealed innocently, laughed. And ran away with his friends.

I knew what I was. I was that dirty word they talked about. An Arab. Mother told me to lie. “Tell everyone your father has some Italian in him and you just take a right good tan”. God forbid I admit to anyone my true self. Half Scottish and half Arab. One of them!

I understand that it’s a mother’s responsibility, if not innate need, to protect her child. Which is exactly what my mother thought she was doing. She loved me. More than anything else in the world. I was her daughter. Her ‘wee burnt scone’, she called me, her ‘Gollywog’. Terms of endearment to a child ears. Confirmation that my mother loved me…

My son is 13 months old. He has afro hair and brown skin. He is the most amazing person I have ever known! The most beautiful too. His father is from Angola. A hard pill for my mother to swallow. My step father and brothers too. Although they insist otherwise. I see it in their mannerisms and apprehensions. Hear it in their tone. It’s evident in their every day micro aggressions. “cut the child’s hair, it’s horrible”. “I hope he doesn’t get his dad’s hair, it’s like wool”. “You can’t call the poor child Malachai, it’s not normal!”.

My tolerance has disintegrated. ‘Not knowing any better’, is no longer an excuse in this hyper techno-globalised world. Not for the privileged. I hear the words “burnt scone” and “gollywog” in my mind and my stomach turns. Clarity crashed down on me in the form of motherhood. I understand that it’s a mother’s responsibility, if not innate need, to protect her child. I love my son. He is one of us and one of them. He is a child of the world in his own right!

#mother #motherslove #mummy #race #racism #mixed #family #son #love #angola #scotland #arab

Open Heart Surgery – Post Op Diary

Post op Diary – Day one:

Completely ‘out my face’!

Day Two:

This day consisted mostly of happiness. I was so happy to be alive. So happy that I had not suffered from serious brain damage as I was told over and over again before the operation that this was a significant risk of the surgery. So happy to be talking to everyone around me, and according to my family, I had informed them that that I was just so happy that my eye operation had gone well. So I guess on day two I was still somewhat ‘out my face’!

Three large tubes referred to by the medical staff as ‘drains’ were sitting inside my ribcage, entering through a taped up hole in my stomach. Through them ran blood into a large box under the bed. On this day I was told to sit up on a bed to have my drains removed. I remember this being yet another feeling of happiness as these drains had been the main source of my physical pain so far. Emotions post -surgery were very simple. There was no differentiating between such emotions to say one was relieved or grateful or so on. It was just an endless rush of happiness. That may very well be owed to the morphine.

The nurse warned me that this would be painful and told me not look. I smiled challengingly and looked. First she removed the tape. This increased the pain as the tubes were no longer supported but just hung heavily from the skin along the edge of the hole in my stomach. I watched as she got a good firm grasp of the first tube and started to pull and wriggle it free from my insides. She seemed to be having some trouble… it appeared to be stuck. This went on for a few long seconds and eventually the tube appeared to lengthen in her hand as it came out of my body. Still wriggling and pulling in all directions, the nurse concentrating on her task seemed to have forgotten about me being attached to her subject. I stared in almost disbelief at the length of this tube coming out of me and I was unable to avert my eyes from the blood lightly spraying out in a few different directions.

I could feel this tube inside me as the nurse wriggled and none too gently, pushed back and forth. I said to her, “This must be what it feels like to be stabbed”. I can’t quite explain the feeling. Although it was a painful experience, pain is not the first word that comes to mind when trying to explain how it felt. It was more of an awful lurching feeling of something violently digging around inside your body.

With one last pull, the first tube was out. The nurse looked at me and said “I though you would have been screaming”. Resisting an overwhelming urge to slap her stupid face, I replied, “It wasn’t that bad”. To which she then happily announced “you still have two more to go”. Bitch! The removal of the last two tubes is not as significant in my memory as I had become almost bored with the procedure. I had seen all that was to be seen so I put my head back and allowed her to continue with her sadistic ritual.

As time went by the days rolled into one long progressive type period. Initially filled with tasks such as drip refills, oxygen intake levels and catheter bag changes, then progressing onto the removal of most of these things, pain control and increasing mobility. I was up on my feet from day two after surgery. By day three I was no longer taking morphine but managing pain control with paracetamol and tramadol. My pain was brutal, my tiredness was overwhelming and the nurses were absolutely awful, but my progress was steady and significant.

Day Four:

The first thought to enter my mind upon awakening this morning was undoubtedly and shamefully one of defeat. For but a split second, before my eyes opened in response to the harsher morning pain, I thought I didn’t want to fight today. I didn’t want to breathe through the pain, a little more each time. I didn’t want to smile through the feelings of brutal torture going down my chest. I didn’t want to spend hours on end gagging while trying to swallow more pills. I didn’t want to sit still in a pool of my own weakness and pain for another day and I didn’t want to get up and walk around trying to fight for a faster recovery. I just didn’t want today to come… for a split second. Then I opened my eyes!

I tried to lift my head from the pillow but the pain shot up through my torso and along my neck disabling me. I tried to hold on to the bedside railings but the pain and tightness had spread further now and controlled my arms. I relaxed and concentrated on my breathing… Breathing through the pain a little more with each breath until my breathing was no longer shallow and sporadic. I had finally gotten a decent night sleep so today was the day to make my progress and push a little harder in order to eventually reduce some of the pain.

As I became more awake I felt better and better and more determined. Day four was my turning point. On day four I learned how to fight.

When Times Get Hard… Just Push Harder

“I want to explain how exhausted I am. Even in my dreams. How I wake up tired. How I’m being drowned by some kind of black wave.”

I am awakened by the hunger, but as I awake, the tiredness awakes! I am unsure of how much time has passed since I last ate.  The darkness has crept into the room, a trademark sign of the night’s arrival, informing me that yet again, another day has passed.  I need to eat but I can’t move. I am too weak and I’m too hungry! 

Sometimes it feels like my heart is beating too fast, other times the beat is just so strong I think its irregular rhythm can be seen protruding through my chest. With this comes a pain, a dull throbbing pain that can lurk in my chest for hours, its intensity fluctuating with the hearts beating. Then there is the stabbing pain, which is somewhat regular too; it pierces through my heart and reaches up along my shoulder. Fortunately this pain is less frequent but it can often be rather breath-taking.  

My fingers regularly turn a dark shade of blue as do my lips and toes. Upon awaking after sleep I am unable to feel my hands and feet. This is due to my heart being unable to pump the blood effectively around my body as it sometimes only has the strength to pump the blood to my vital organs. Thank goodness it can still manage that!

I feel dizzy most evenings as my heart tires more and sometimes I am unable to talk. Thinking is also a challenge sometimes as I can get easily confused and I find it hard to articulate my jumbled thoughts. This is because my brain is receiving a significantly less amount of oxygen.

I am lying here alone unable to hold back the tears. I am crying because I am alone and I am crying because I can’t ask anyone to come and help me. There are so many people that care about me and I just cannot tell them how much I need someone to help me right now. I feel ashamed of my weakness but I so desperately want help. These conflicting emotions that contribute to my daily battles are unfortunately exacerbating the tiredness.  I am so tired of being tired! 

I am not and never have been a fan of self- pity. I strongly believe, through personal experience, that when you hit the bottom there is nowhere to go but upwards. During such times in my life it has been the stench of despair and depression that has finally driven me to rise up and fight.  I decided that this will be no different!

It was on one of these dark, hungry, lonely mornings that I decided to fight. With the little energy I had I started with the phone calls. I organised for myself a social work service which provided me with a daily care plan and other similar methods of help. I also swallowed my pride and reached out to friends and family for the support I so desperately and almost unwillingly needed. I finally realised that asking for help was in fact a sign of strength as opposed that of a weakness. While drowning in my self -pity I had somehow, almost forgotten many of my strongest beliefs and opinions.

I also organised for myself the service of a counsellor. This was much needed for me to effectively deal with the change in my life from a previously proactive busy and driven lifestyle to that of an unwell, weak and scared girl in the depths of emotional turmoil. My counsellor was and is a wonderful and impartial guide throughout this time of struggle and fear. I tell her the same things I tell my friends and family but in a different manner. I can open myself up completely to her without having to protect her from my pain.

Learning to accept my illness and to stop being angry at myself for a physical weakness that is out-with my control has been one of the most challenging issues I have had to deal with throughout this journey so far. I have now realised that this has not made me any weaker but exactly the opposite. I have a strong faith in my emotional and mental strength and I know my physical strength will soon be back with a vengeance once I have my new pulmonary heart valve.

While being almost always housebound with very few good days left, (days in which I have the physical capacity to participate in a light social activity such as visiting friends or a short walk),  I have decided to keep my mind as active as possible. I read continuously and try to ‘self educate’ through any sources accessible to me in my physically limited, temporary life. My intellectual and academic interests are rather diverse and I now have ‘all the time in the world’ to pursue these interests. Although sometimes challenging against the fight of the tiredness etc, my knowledge is vastly expanding along with the parameters of my little crazy mind.

This is not a situation I have chosen to be in. This is not a situation that I am particularly happy about being in. This is however where I am in my life at the moment and I have chosen to utilise this and play the proverbial hand that I have been dealt. This is a game I will not lose.