What being Black British means to me

Continuing with Direct Line Group’s Black History Month series, we spoke to content and social media consultant Demi Bissette-Wilson. We asked Demi about her experiences of being Black in Britain today and why it’s important to celebrate Black achievement and pioneers throughout history.

What does being Black British mean to me? 

Quite simply, it means just that. I happen to be a Black woman and I happen to be British – both of which I am very proud of. I find it fascinating that the colour of our skin, something that none of us have control over, can determine how some people treat us.”

Growing up with rose-tinted glasses...
"I’ve seen and heard many awful stories from Black and Asian people about their experiences in dealing with discrimination and it’s deeply upsetting that we live in a world where racism still exists. I have to say that my story so far hasn’t been as difficult as others in that respect.”

"I realise now that growing up living in London allowed me to see the world through rose-tinted glasses. The fact that (for the most part) it is such a cultural melting pot has somewhat sheltered me from the level of racism that I know exists, and the effect it has on so many people that look like me, throughout the UK and the world."

How it felt when the glasses came off...
"Having said that, I do remember a time when my rose-tinted glasses were yanked off my face on a trip to Devon with my family. We were pretty much the only Black people there and we were constantly stared at as we walked down the street. Although I cannot categorically say that I was treated differently during my stay, the blatant focus from others had an impact on me and made me feel uneasy and uncomfortable. It was the first time in my life I realised that I could be in the country that I call home and be seen as different. I’d never experienced that before and I must say it was a very unsettling experience, especially being an impressionable 11-year-old at that time.

"I have also experienced many, many occasions where microaggressions were at play, which are often subtle, conscious or unconscious behaviours of discrimination. One experience that has stayed with me was when I went for a job interview at 22 in 2013. I was told that I was not the right “cultural fit” and was practically dismissed before I’d even said hello and introduced myself. It was the shortest interview I’ve ever had. Deep down I knew and understood it to be ultimately racist, but at the time it was easier to dismiss it – something I know I wouldn’t do today as a more experienced individual."

So what does being Black British really mean to me?

“It should mean that I happen to be a Black woman who is also British. But instead as a Black British woman, I often find myself asking questions such as: could I go on a staycation in my own country and be treated normally? If I go to a job interview, will my skills be assessed fairly against my white counterparts? If I speak up about this too passionately will I be seen as aggressive? The answers to these questions are uncertain and for some people it isn’t easy to admit that these types of discrimination still happen in Britain today.

"Celebrating Black History Month is important to me because it highlights what amazing Black pioneers have contributed to history, something that wasn’t part of my school curriculum. I’m so proud that we have this time to celebrate Black achievements but I’m hopeful that we’ll get to a point in time where history is just history, and there isn’t a need to give Black history a month but to teach history as a well-rounded, all-encompassing subject."

To read more about Direct Line Groups celebration of Black History Month click here