Chapter 2 – Extract 1 from The Paradise Induction!
When I was a child, my insides would crawl when my father would say, “I hate black people.”
Sometimes, it would be when we were in his car and a vehicle would cut him off in London traffic. He’d honk the horn and glare at the culpable motorist. If the aggressor were black, he’d mutter something like: “Typical black monkey. Can’t stand black people.”
Or perhaps we’d be at a huge family gathering.
If a black relative slipped an undermining comment about my father, maybe a cutting joke to make others chuckle, my dad would mumble under his breath, “Black people. Always black people.”
But today, I understand my father’s words clearly.
I hate black people, I thought, face-to-face with a tall black man. The accompanying tremor from my gut that shook my insides, blazed through my head like a gust of intense summer heat, setting my cheeks on fire with shame, guilt, and nausea.
The thought and emotions are as ferocious as knowing the burning sensation on my skin when I’m too close to a bonfire.
I continued to frown at the man stood in front of me in JFK Airport security check-in.
What’s the issue now? What grief is this ‘one’ going to give me?
I looked past him to the other security personnel who were smiling.
What are ‘they’ up to?
I’ve never vocalised my hatred for black people; I’m disgusted by the very notion of it, but anger travelled through my veins as the tall guy stared at me in a manner I could only describe as ‘intending me harm.’
I mentally shook my head.
My father was raised on the island of Antigua till he was twenty-one. He left and never looked back. It didn’t paint the rosiest picture of the Caribbean as he was extremely thankful to live in London. But weeks before I left the City, I’d asked him, “Are black people in the Caribbean any different from black people in London?”
“Yeah,” he said with a look of solidarity. “They’re more relaxed.”
Even though I’d been to the Caribbean before, I was aware I’d been treated with tourist hospitality. My father’s confirmation was needed to suppress my fears, but seeing the airport security surrounding me provoked rage from old wounds. All of them were black and they were snickering at my expense.