I remember it more every time I recall it. You could say I was ‘shy’, although it’s not a word I like to use or think is positive to describe a child who was not extrovert. Wayne was my best friend at school for that period of time when things just “clicked”. I cannot even remember why but I do remember the feeling and how we played together at play centre after school. We liked to show we were “ best friends…and boys”.
I was always envious because his Dad worked for some type of chauffeur company and turned up in different car every day after school to pick him up. I’d never met his Dad in person but I always remember he looked serious when he looked at me.
One day Wayne invited me to come to his house to play and I was really happy about that. It was a Saturday. I walked —for about 30min as I knew roughly where he lived but had never been to his estate. He met me at the bottom of the hill excited.
As we entered the estate all I could remember was how the pavement was a white grey with black grooves in it and the buildings were a yellowish brown. We passed a woman who stared at me for quite a while. I didn’t understand why but felt something was strange.
We got to his house and the front patio was very small. Wayne was overly excited and I followed him to go into his house but his Mum stopped him. Wayne looked at her and looked at me. He went inside briefly as I stood outside then came back out. I was served orange juice through the window. His parents looked at each other and I remembered that serious look his father always had. His Mum shared the same look.
We then went out and played on the street as Wayne said he had some “cool” friends. As we walked up the hill an old lady looked at me and “barked” something. I cannot remember what. We then went to the wall at the end of the road and these two older boys started throwing stones at me as we sat on the wall. They walked up and pushed me off, kicked me, shouted and used the N word, W word and other obscenities (sorry, I won’t repeat it here). They were around 15 years old. Wayne pleaded with them to stop. I stayed silent. Why were they so angry?
The next couple of hours were a blur for me. Wayne was as confused as me. I was beginning to wonder why he had asked me to come. A brunette woman, another passer by…shouted something. They were “bad names” but…Wayne had invited me for the day…so I stayed for the day.
At the end of the day we joined some guys playing football. They were laughing at me and by this time I was quite dazed. The last I remember was the little boy (no more than 5 years old) shouting n****r at me and the roar of laughter from everybody on the pitch. They were all around me and the little boy was laughing hard. Wayne was motionless and almost tearful and said let’s go.
I left with Wayne and walked home by myself. Did I tell my parents or brothers when I got back home? I can’t remember to be honest. I felt like I kept silent and every time I tell this story it feels like it’s the first time I’ve told it.
Things were never the same between me and Wayne after that. He looked at me differently and was more serious in his manner at school. He said little to me and kept himself to himself. I did the same too…
“I was 10 years old when this happened. It happened to me ‘George Lamptey’. I somehow thought it was clear but maybe my subconscious did not make it clear. A friend told me to make it clear the child is me, so I updated this article. He had similar encounters and worse…this was not my only encounter…we survived these racist encounters but many other black people don’t”
When I recall this story of when I was a child it always feels like it’s the first time I’m telling it. Some people reading this may know me quite well— and may never of heard me recall it, but why would I? Why now?
It’s pretty easy to work out why now but it still requires that “extraction”. I’m not unique for sure. Fundamentally, I am here to write and recall this. Many others are not.
It’s an electric fence
You cannot touch it, climb it, stand near it or look at it. It’s the electric fence of silence.
That can be a very painful place to be. It may not seem like it but believe it or not, you cannot sit on the fence.
What we have witnessed in the last week is a field with an electric fence. At one end of the fence you have the vibrant vocalists, their hearts and minds reverberating in many different ways for justice and change. It has not taken a pandemic to want change. Human vs Human, Equal vs Equal.
At the other end of the fence there are those who revel in the injustice. Acting out an watching the chaos and wanting more of the same.
At the same end are the “silent masses”. Those who are not comfortable with what is playing out but say nothing. That is a real problem because many“do not know what to say”. Others feel they don’t have to.
“In saying nothing, by default fall into the camp you did not want to fall into.”
You cannot hide from time
Time will never just go away. You are aware of it because you are living. Many prominent people have spoken out and you make think they have because they can.
Careers may be “tarnished” in some people’s eyes but time allows you to take a stand, whether when the fence is hot or when it is simmering. The fence is never cold. It never has been.
A pandemic is in our grip and for the hearts and minds of many this invisible enemy has become secondary. They don’t need a pandemic to make us see the potential for a new opportunity because the normal we had before was simply not good enough and so much shows this.
The killings show this. The protests show this. The outrage shows this….and unfortunately the silence of many shows you this.