Being young, black and male

8 mins read
Credit David Kabongo Fuamba

“We are not dangerous people, we are not criminals, we are not robbers. We are just like anybody else. We are just an ethnic group trying to make it in the world.”

With every word his fingers rhythmically tap on the table. David Kabongo Fuamba (21) is seated across from me in a crowded cafe, here to discuss Black History Month.

His initial relaxed attitude changed. He is seated upright, no longer avoiding eye contact.

“No matter how hard I work. I will never get to the top. No matter how much sweat and blood I put into It all, I will never get the recognition I deserve”.

David is talking about life after University, after Stirling. He tries to explain his reality, the one of a young black man in the western world. How it doesn’t matter how good his grades are, if he gets a master’s degree. His name won’t get him the job.

“I work hard, but outside these four walls; I am going to struggle out there.” It is a reality he has been prepared for. The generations before him have lived through it all, from parents to grandparents.

“My mum told me a story about how a black and white woman called for a job. The first time, the black women called in and she was turned down. They claimed there were no openings. The white woman who called straight after did get a position.”

David isn’t the first to tell a similar story. Recent studies have found that hiring discrimination against black candidates hasn’t declined in 25 years.

Credit David Kabongo Fuamba

And we are not just talking about a lack of progress. Recently racism and hate crimes have risen in the UK, with Brexit credited as a major influence. David, who grew up in Essex, has experienced his fair share.

The city, known from the popular reality tv-show The Only Way is Essex, “isn’t all sunshine”. As a young boy David had to look over his shoulder at all times. With most kids in his neighbourhood being involved in, -“certain activities”-, police patrolled the streets constantly.

He remembers an incident where a group of older white people were smoking weed next to David and his friends. When the police pulled up they directly targeted the group of young boys. David shakes his head, “you could see the older lady holding up the cigarette and they still went straight to us”.

Even if the description of perpetrator didn’t match, he would still be stopped and searched. “They were looking for a light skinned guy with brown hair. Still they came up and stopped me. I am dark skinned; my hair is black. It’s just not right”.

“It’s why I went to Scotland”. The second he mentions the s-word his face lights up. “I have never heard any racist remark since I moved here, this place is just beautiful”.

By now he’s grinning from ear to ear, describing how Scotland reminds him of Canada and how he recognises himself in the Scottish history. “It has seen struggle, it had to go through to get where they are now”.

Scotland has managed to give David something he missed in England, a sense of safety and community. Being an active member of the African Caribbean Society has elevated Stirling even more.

“It is good be around people that have been through what you’ve been through, grown up like how you’ve grown up.  You don’t have to be afraid to show you true colours, you don’t need to hide.”

When aksed if there’s a way for the non-black community to act as an ally . he pauses briefly. Then responds with three words: “Join in celebration”.

Credit David Kabongo Fuamba

“The black community is open, it’s not just for black people. Join in for the good food, the music, learn about the culture. The same with ACS, when my white friends say they can’t join I always tell them: no. Everyone can join.”

David goes on to tell about how his white friends come over to his mom’s house regularly for the food. “They call her auntie and ask for whatever she’s cooking”. He once again emphasizes the open character of black culture. “We are open, come celebrate with us. Eat the food, join us”.

We end up talking about the newly found western appreciation for certain elements of black culture. He brings up the Kardashians and their league of cute mixed-race babies. “Everyone wants a cute baby now, with the curls and the big brown eyes. It’s no longer that everyone stays in their own culture, dates within their race”.

His dream for the future? For Martin Luther King’s dream to fully come to fruition. “I expect it to become a reality.. The dream of integration. Right now we are at 65%. There are still parts where segregation is there”. He mentions a high school in America where black and white students live their lives separately. A faint smile comes over his face “something goods to come”.

As he we end the interview, he kindly thanks me for taking the time. As I see him walking away through a sea of students, I can’t help but feel heavyhearted.

How can a guy whose eye’s twinkle when he talks about Canadian trees, feel the need to emphasize he is not a criminal? How can a guy who is eloquent and well-read, feel the need to underline that is not a dangerous person? How have we created a society where a 21 year old is convinced his hard work will never truly pay off?

And despite this all, there is no anger. According to David there is only one world. For him there are no skin colours, races or cultures there are just people. If only this world could live by his words; join in celebration.

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