My 22 year-old new friend (whom, for the sake of anonymity, I will refer to as “Cam”) sat down with me on the patio of my mother’s Venice home a handful of evenings ago. He deems northwest London his home, but currently hops from sofa to sofa in Los Angeles, California, where he pursues his multiple interests in the entertainment world. It was the first time I’d met him, but we somehow got into an extraordinary conversation about race in America. Without even realizing it, Cam began tying his own experiences into the mix. Without telling him what I was doing, I swung open my laptop and began taking notes, some word for word quotes, some summarized comments, mainly because his heavy british accent mixed with his speedy delivery was making it difficult to catch absolutely everything. We spoke for probably half an hour, and I learned more about how minorities live than I had watching any of the American news stations. These are his stories.
Cam is originally from Antigua, where he lived with his Antiguan father, his Irish-Polish mother, and his two brothers, one of which is two years younger than him, and the other two years older. Growing up in an extremely racist neighborhood, Cam’s family was often a victim of racial discrimination. One day, Cam (then 8 years of age) remembers his older brother (then 10 years of age) running home, battered, bleeding, and crying after being jumped by a group of white kids. (This was not an uncommon occurrence, and eventually, Cam’s older brother had to leave school as a result of the advancement of the bullying.)
And so, Cam’s father, a man of proactivness, grabbed Cam and his two brothers and dragged them down the stairs.
“You three, go and sort it out,” his father would say.
“So,” Cam told me, “You grabbed a cricket bat, and found the lads, and battered them.”
It didn’t end here.
At 8 years of age, in Bernley, England, Cam was playing football (soccer) outside, when the ball was kicked over near the door of a pub. Outside of the pub, there were a handful of Caucasian men drinking, and one picked up Cam’s soccer ball and began to laugh.
Cam asked if he could get his ball back, and the man responded with, “Can you catch?”
Cam asked for his ball again, and the guy said “catch this”…. threw the ball up in the air so that Cam would look up …. and then struck him in the face, a blow that left a scar that is still visible on his face today. “Get the fuck out of my country, you little nigger,” were the man’s parting words to a bleeding Cam.
Now, incase you’d like to blame that Caucasian man’s disturbing racism on the alcohol in his cup, in which case I’d bet you’re the kind of person begging to keep your blindness, here’s another example.
One night, about 2 A.M., Cam was walking in the streets of L.A, California. He went to cross the street, and before he was halfway across, a cop walked in front of him and pointed his gun at Cam’s face.
Cop: “What the fuck are you doing?”
Cop: “Get the fuck out of the road.”
Cam (with his hands in the air): “I didn’t know crossing the road was a crime.”
Cop: “Welcome to fucking America.”
And this doesn’t just happen in America. I’m guilty of believing that America has one of the biggest problems with race in the world.
At 16 years of age, Cam went on a vacation to Abiza with two of his friends. After getting off the plane, they hailed a taxi and went straight to a strip to stop at a few bars. Since they hadn’t stopped at the hotel yet, they had their suitcases with them as they walked along the strip. Cam explained to me that you’ve got two types of police in Spain… 1. The Guardia (military police) 2. Policia (normal police). They were stopped by The Guardia police. They started searching Cam for drugs, ignoring his two white friends altogether. He repeatedly explained to the cops that he’d just gotten off a plane, but was met with nothing but accusations. “We know you have drugs,” they responded. After a full strip search, they began going through his pockets while he stood there in his boxers in the middle of the street. They then told Cam to take his boxers off, and he said “No.” The cop put his hand on his batton and said, “Take them off, now.” Cam, shocked that these cops were literally asking him to get naked in public, once again responded “No,” only to be met with a blow to the side of his head, leaving a scar and blowing out one of his teeth. Cam fell to the floor, and told me that to this day, he doesn’t remember what happened next. His friends later told him that the cop hit his head with the batton a second time, after Cam was already knocked out on the pavement, cracking his skull. The cop proceeded to kick him, busting two of his ribs. Cam woke up in the back of the police car with his friends next to him. Cops took them to the apartment they were staying at, the cop said 2000 euros and we won’t take you to prison. So you gave him 3000 euros. So he said “You, don’t be naughty.” and he walked out. Called my mom on my birthday, speaking with a lisp, told her he fell over cause he didn’t wanna scare her. His mates were white.
There are also things that Cam has repeatedly experienced because he’s African American… or, to be politically correct, 50% African American, and 50% Caucasian.
An example of this is when he’s walking outside and Caucasian people are approaching, they’ll often switch sides of the road.
“I expect that, and I just light up a smile. It’s something you don’t even comprehend now. It’s like, you’ll see a guy, and he’ll put his arm around his girlfriend or swap sides with his girlfriend. Things that it’s like, for me, I see it, but I’m used to it, so it is what it is. It’s like you don’t get angry anymore. And they’ll smile, and nod at ya, but it’s more because they’re walking with someone that they care so much about, so they’re trying to make sure they’re protected. It’s like they’re looking for some kind of acknowledgement, to see what I’ll do.”
Cam also spoke about the extra thought that goes into what he wears.
“It really does matter how you dress. That’s a massive factor. For instance, I know if I’m going to the gym at night, and I wear a sweatshirt, or if I wear nice gym clothes, there is a difference.”
I’m not entirely sure if my new friend Cam noticed, but during the course of the entire discussion, he kept repeating one particular phrase, and I couldn’t decide if he had given up hope that anything would ever change, or if he was simply willing to be the better person in looking past the trespasses made against him.
“It is what it is.”