I have written…. deleted and then rewritten this blog several times.
This happens when I am writing a blog and I can’t control my language, or my point is not clear. It does not happen often.
There is no place for racism in our society. We all have a duty to call out racism when we see it. No one should ever be subjected to racist abuse.
I am the daughter of an immigrant. My dad was born in Sicily and when he was 17, he got into lots of trouble in Italy and so his parents moved my dad and some of his siblings to England. My dad came here and never attend any kind of education and spoke little English. But he went to work straight away. My dad got involved with stuff he should not have throughout his life. He married my mother when he was around 22. He rarely went back to Sicily. He never lost his accent.
He only ever shouted at me once in my life. I was cooking some Italian dish and I snapped the dry spaghetti so it would fit in the pan. My dad clutched his heart and shouted “Kendra Leanne…. this is not Ok…You think this is, OK? You will be sent to live with your aunts in Sicily if you carry on such things”. It still makes me smile and is one of the found memories I have of my dad.
Its no secret that I had a strained relationship with my dad and that I was angry at him for a very long time. I tell you all the above because you need context.
Context to the racial abuse I witnessed my dad go through in my life.
He looked Italian…. he sounded Italian….and He was proud to be Italian.
I have written before of this, but any time my dad was in any kind of confrontation or dispute, 9 time out of 10 I witnessed him being racially abused. I have written this part several times, talking and naming the things that were said to him. But I have deleted it. Because its disgusting. I have heard my dad being told to “go back to your own” country many times. Don’t get me wrong, my dad could and would hold his own, but he was always a bit…paler…. sick looking…when those comments were involved. He once got into an argument with the manger of Debenhams in Clapham junction over a hoover. I was about 17 and whilst he was debating the warranty or whatever, I was just casually browsing the toasters, trying to move far away from my dad whose broken English and booming voice had drawn a small crowd. He was saying “bloody hell mate “over and over. Suddenly a male voice shouted, “If you don’t like it, fuck off back to your own country”. My dad was not shouting…. He was not being rude…. he was trying to read the warranty rules to the manager and was struggling. I looked up and my eyes shot to my dad. His face was beetroot, so he had heard, but he kept on reading. I went to say something to the idiot who had shouted out…scanning my eyes across the shop floor quicky, and as I did, a white lady next to me, middle aged, well dressed…said to the women she was standing with “They come here and think they can do what they want, this Wop can’t even speak English for gods sake” and they both laughed and carried on chatting.
I stopped for a moment…. That word…. It makes me close my eyes as if I am in pain when I hear it even now. Because I am in pain. Another dig. Another piece of hate. I thought it through in my head and said loudly…
The two women looked at me, not sure what was taking place and one said “Sorry, are you talking to us”. “Yes” I said with my chest…. yes, I am talking to you …They who come over here?
I asked this with a look that…if I received that look…I would have run out of the shop screaming. Exploitation was still part of my life, and I still had the cold hard gaze about me that children who have been through exploitation have. The look of “I have nothing to lose here”.
The ladies looked at each other, back at me and the one who had made the comment said …quietly …” I didn’t mean it”.
“But who did you mean by ‘They’ “? I said, now taking a step forward
The lady seemed to gulp and pulled her handbag towards her…like I may snatch it at any second.
“Foreigners” she said in a voice that even a mouse would not be proud of.
Both women were now looking at the ground.
I took a deep breath. And I told both women what I thought of racist people. That they should be ashamed of themselves. That my dad has dyslexia and English is not his first language, so they are actually mocking him for trying. That …actually…he has lived in England for over 30 years. Has an English wife. English child. English grandchild.
But…maybe…I didn’t say it as nice as that.
My dad came over, he had resolved his issue and pulled me away from the new crowd that was around me. Now I was the showstopper. But …like my dad…people were muttering under their breath …about the girl effing and jeffing with her hood up and a busted lip.
It took me years to get my head round that day. How me and my dad were the ones treated like we had done something wrong.
And I saw this repeated over and over in the community I grew up. Racism. Blatant racism. People shouting out racist words when things got heated. People who stood with me and my friends many times would suddenly make extremely racist comments. Like they had been hiding it.
The England Vs Italy Final brought all this to a head for me. My dad would often sing the Italian national anthem around me. He would just burst into song for no reason. I used to tell him to shut up, but I actually loved to hear him sing it. Hearing the Italian National Anthem even now make me stop for a hot second and I am a back…when days were different…and my dad would sing it whilst trying to twirl me around the kitchen. He would also sing the English National anthem, in his big booming voice. He said that he had love for both these countries.
To hear the crowds, boo the Italian national anthem on Sunday hurt me. Angered me. Made me feel half English. Half excepted.
The English players should have walked then, should have walked off the pitch and said no…. we are not taking part. But I guess they could not.
Prince William was there with his wife and his son George. Two heirs to the throne. William should have taken his child’s hand and left the platform. And when George asked “Why are we leaving Daddy” he could have said “Because we are surrounded by racists”
The pundits could have mentioned it. They could have made a public apology right at the start. “Welcome to the Euro 2020 cup final, firstly we like to apologise for the booing and racism you are witnessing today”. But they didn’t.
It was ignored. Just like it is always fricking ignored.
And throughout they were booed and cussed.
And I don’t care that it should have been a red card. A red card booking, and the racial abuse of an entire nation are not comparable.
When Rushford went up for his penalty it was the first time, I genuinely got up and walked backwards from my TV like I could not watch. I had been vocal through the whole match (Backing Italy just so you know) But as Rushford walked forward to take his penalty, I could already see what could take place if he missed. What people would say and do. I said “no…please don’t make him miss…they will make his life hell” I said this out loud.
As he hit the post, I just put my hands to my face. I said something like “They are gonna make him leave the country”. I could already see what would be said and it hurt me. For him. For his family. For all of us who don’t not have a racist mindset.
Jadon Sancho walked up next…and I had the same feeling…. boom…he missed.
By the time Saka took his shot I just wanted it over.
By the morning it had started. The racist hate campaign against 3 young black men who did nothing more than miss a poxy penalty.
A group of racists have turned all of this into something it should have never been…. a racist attack.
A large group of people who have attacked 3 black males with public racist slurs. A large group of people who booed and cussed a group of men for being Italian.
How many of this large racist group are parents? How many work in sectors such as the police and other public services? How many work in the education field? How many of them are in a position of power and are the ones directly “supporting” those within minority groups?
How many people are thinking in this way but are just hiding it?
How many of them also booed both externally and internally when England take the knee in games?
Racists do not speak for me. I am truly proud of everyone that represented my country on that football team on Sunday night. I am disgusted by the behaviour of so many people.
I do not want to be associated with you. If you are of that mindset, delete me from all your social media and contacts. DO not contact me for work.
I am asking everyone to sign the petition that has been created to ban racist from football from life. The petition has been created by Shaista Aziz and states:
After last night’s match, vile racist abuse was directed at our heroic players Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho. Minutes after the final whistle of the Euro final, The Football Association issued a statement which said: “We could not be clearer that anyone behind such disgusting behaviour is not welcome in following the team. We will do all we can to support the players affected while urging the toughest punishments possible for anyone responsible”.
As multi-racial football fans, we finally feel represented by this anti-racist and inclusive England team. We could not be more proud or inspired by our magnificent team and by their talent, bravery, leadership and love for all. Gareth Southgate’s England team plays for ALL of us. Their vision is an inclusive vision and this matters more than EVER – it’s why we feel proud of this team and why they’re so cherished and loved by many of us. There should be no room for racists and bigotry in football or society.
We are calling for the Football Association and the government to work together now to ban all those who have carried out racist abuse, online or offline, from all football matches in England for life.
Our England team stood up for all of us – now we must stand up for them.
Shaista, Amna, Huda, #TheThreeHijabis
You can sign the petition HERE.
I am proud of the statement put out by the England Twitter account:
We’re disgusted that some of our squad – who have given everything for the shirt this summer – have been subjected to discriminatory abuse online after tonight’s game. We stand with our players
Finally, a message to Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka. I am proud of you, and I am glad you represent my country. You all played an important part not only in this tournament but also in the work you do outside of football. To be called up to take a penalty must have been overwhelming. You did your best, and your best was and is good enough. I am sorry you and your families have been subjected to such hate. It is unforgivable and I would not blame any of you if you never put an England shirt on again. Big love.