Childhood Race Issues

Mixed-race in Plymouth: One Woman’s Story of Racism

In light of the recent protests throughout the country, people of colour have been sharing their experiences of racism in the UK.

Despite news coverage, studies, and stories highlighting racial inequality in the US there are so many unheard stories in the UK. Particularly in small towns where there are much smaller communities of BAME people.

Tanicka Fenty, 24, has bravely laid bare what it was really like to grow up and live in Plymouth being mixed-race. Her shocking experiences of being attacked, mugged at knife-point, and called a n***** by her teacher, echo Jim Crow era racism.

With a population of over 264,000 people, Plymouth is a small city in the South West of England. The city is most famous for the Mayflower Steps where the pilgrim fathers left for America.

As with most towns in the South West, the population demographic is almost 100% white (96.2% as of 2011).

In the 2011, just 3,287 of Plymouth’s population were from mixed backgrounds:

  • White and Black Caribbean – 904 (0.4%)
  • White and Black African – 523 (0.2%)
  • White and Asian – 1,028 (0.4%)
  • Other Mixed background – 832 (0.3%)

Having a black dad and a white mum, Tanicka talked about experiencing explicit and overt racism in Plymouth from birth.

The experiences she talks about in her Instagram video were just a few of the most traumatic examples, saying her caption: “This is only a pebble size of the struggles I have faced being mixed race and growing up in Plymouth”.

Aged just 6 or 7 years old, Tanicka was subjected to her first encounter with extreme racism.

In the Barne Barton area of Plymouth she was chased and held down by a gang of white teenagers who scraped off her brown skin to see if there was ‘white skin’ underneath.

“They pinned me down after beating me up, they took my top off, and they tried to scrape my skin off to see if I would turn white. My back was literally bleeding and it was so traumatising.”

Throughout primary school, Tanicka was harassed, bullied, and beaten up because of the colour of her skin. Walking home from a friend’s house one day, a group of kids circled her, spat at her, and shouted racist slurs while beating her up.

A teacher intervened, and from then on Tanicka had to be escorted by police to and from her primary school for her safety.

Hoping that her classmates would grow out of the racist bullying, she went to Marine Academy secondary school, but it still continued.

At this school, the teachers would blame her for bullying and bad behaviour even when it wasn’t her fault.

Studies have found that black schoolchildren are commonly stereotyped as being troublemakers. In the UK, mixed White/Black Caribbean children made up 8.86% of school exclusions, compared to 4.67% of White British children in 2015.

In year 8, Tanicka overheard and recorded her teacher calling her the n-word. Yet when this was presented to her head teacher, the teacher was suspended for a week and then allowed to return to teaching her class.

“She was like I don’t want to teach a kid who’s black, I don’t want to teach a n*****, I don’t even know what she’s doing in our school.”

What makes the racism against Tanicka at her school even more baffling is that she was accused of being racist towards white people. Yes you read that right.

Although it is possible for white people to experience racial prejudice, this does not affect their position of power in society in comparison to non-white people. You can read more about this here.

Eventually she was expelled from Marine Academy for alleged racism towards a black teacher. In the same way that white people cannot experience racism, black people can’t be racist towards each other as neither has systemic power nor privilege over the other.

Speaking on police brutality, Tanicka says how Devon and Cornwall police had used extreme force on her as a child and she witnessed violence towards her dad.

“I watched them nearly kill my dad. I felt them pick me up at a young age and just throw me into a wall.”

Tanicka later joined my secondary school where we were part of a small handful of POC in the school (including my two brothers). I felt sick to my stomach when I heard about Tanicka’s experiences, and we all should.

Well done to Tanicka for bravely sharing her story, for too long we have been silenced into thinking that this is just the way it is for us.

Although all of our experiences are different, we still live in a world where you are treated differently for the colour of your skin, and this must change.

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