I feel so down for not having made the speech, and curse the cold for making me unwell to do so. But I still want to share the words that had I been well, would have said them with gusto and all the power I could muster. Having shared it on my own personal fb account, I think it only right to share it in this space that I have always tried to be honest in.
"Last year it was my first time standing as a candidate in the Cambridge City Council elections. It didn’t take long before a public figure said that I was there just to get minorities votes... as if I was some kind of a ploy… or that because of my heritage, only one section of society would vote for me. In that moment I felt so boxed in…. Not once had I thought that I was in anyway just representing one group of people… because not once in my time living in Cambridge had I been made to feel different.
When I spoke to people from different ethnic backgrounds, they said to me they didn’t always vote because they didn’t feel their councillors cared about them, they didn’t feel represented by them and they didn’t feel that they could relate with them…. And yet I was the one who would only get the minorities vote because of the colour of my skin and my heritage.
During my campaign, I also spoke to people who were hell-bent on convincing me that immigrants were the reason that everything was going wrong. When I would ask why… most of the time they would tell me that they read that in a newspaper or that they just knew…. They blamed immigrants for the long waiting lists at hospitals, and the NHS for falling apart. Of course, as per usual when I told them ….that my parents were immigrants- they would say- “O, but we don’t mean you”.
Thinking about last year… and all the things that have happened, I have come to realise that it would be easy to blame people or groups for their actions. But the real enemy in this situation is the establishment that has created policies that work against certain groups of people… the establishment that lets the media get away with hateful and discriminatory reporting… and the establishment that has created an education system that lies about the real history of the British Empire.
It’s the government that has created an education system that teaches children about World War 1 and 2 but not about the sacrifices of Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Gurkhas, the Polish and the many more. It is the government that has created a criminal justice system that is unfair towards Black and minority ethnics. It is the government that lets the media get away with their horrendous reporting of certain groups of people, blaming them for a whole hoard of things that our own government is too ashamed to admit is due to their own wrong doing.
When somebody says that someone like me can only represent one group of people, they are creating a division, making them all the more real. But if councillors are largely ignoring certain groups of people, they are responsible for the divisions they have already been created.
Now is not the time to shirk from uncomfortable subjects. We need to face them head on. We need to challenge concepts like, what does a typical Brit even look like? Rather than just blaming racists as if it’s just down to people and groups, we need to challenge the establishment and their irresponsible policies.
No one should be made to feel like they don’t belong here. For every racist attack… we need to ensure our status quo of living in harmony stays intact. I’m proud to live here and call Cambridge my home. We need to ensure everyone has this positive experience, no matter what their mother tongue is, what their struggles are- we have one common identity- to feel proud of living with each other.
Even though I could not give this speech, I am thankful to Cambridge Stand to Racism for giving me this great opportunity. They helped to explore this issue further and though I don't go very deep into any of the topics in the manuscript, I researched and explored them thoroughly to come to these conclusions.In many ways, I feel like though I will continue to explore my identity, I have found some answers to some of my questions.
Until next time,
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