I am writing this article because of a recent encounter I had with some fellow Brits. From my previous sentence you can guess that I myself am also a Brit(English). I live in the Philippines, which has an increasing number of expatriates from many countries. The 3 most prominent regions being, The USA, Europe(UK), and Australia.
As most of the Brits living in the Philippines are Caucasian, one gets the feeling that there is an underlying sense of superiority among them towards the locals, which I imagine stems from the colonial days of the British Empire(referring to Brits only on this occasion).
To provide you with a bit of background, Filipino people have many shades of colour, ranging from the almost African looking Ati-Atihans(the original inhabitants), to the Mestisos(mixed with Spanish blood), who are almost white. In between there are many shades. So overwhelmingly, the Philippines is a non-white country. The Philippines has also been colonised by several countries. Among them were: The British, The Dutch, The Japanese, The Americans, and of course, The Spanish. People who have controlled The Philippines in the past have regarded themselves as superior to the local population. Therefore, anyone of non-white appearance is seen as inferior.
Anyway, going back to my encounter with my fellow Brits. I was introduced to them by an friend, who I had recently met, (who is also white), and one of them asked me my name and where I was from. I told him that I was from the Midlands, and at this point one of them proceeded to do a “cockney”(East London) accent (Why, I don,t know, because my accent is nothing like a cockney accent, but there is a mix of Jamaican patois and Cockney which is popular among young people of all races). Then I was asked if I was born in England, to which I replied that I was. At this point I should point out that I am black British. My parents went from the Caribbean to England in the early 50,s and me and my siblings were all born there, and are what I consider to be, normal English people.
Although Britain is a multicultural country, there are many white Brits who see a Black or Asian face and still assume that they were not born in Britain. Anyway, the Brits in question, were in the middle of a conversation about England and the immigration issues, which is the reason many of them do not want to live in England again. I actually agree with them. The country is changing, and is no longer the same place we grew up in. But I listened to the conversation in which they pointed out that some cities have too many “blacks” in them. Almost instantly, one of them turned to me and said that blacks means Muslims, Indians, Pakistanis etc…, “not you.”(why do they always say this?) Then the moment I had been waiting for. 9 times out of 10, this comment is made, and person who makes it thinks they are being funny.”How long have you been living here in The Philippines mate?””About 9 years” is my reply.”Oh, that’s why you have such a good suntan” (queue laughter all round, then queue my response).“Really, that is the first time I have ever heard that in my life, you are so funny.” This comment has been made to me many times whilst I have been living here, and the strangest thing about it is that most of their wives are darker than me, but this comment is never said to a Filipina (women).
These kind of comments are based on a colonialist mentality which is ingrained in certain parts of society. My parents( although my mother had very light skin) were subject to those remarks in the 1950’s when they arrived in England. I understand, but don,t condone the remarks. The 1950,s was a completely different era to now. My point is that times have changed, but the mentality has not changed in many people(usually older people). The fact that all of these men have Filipino wives, who are often the same colour, or darker than me, is of no significance to them.
There was a time, many years ago, when I would go along with the joke, just to spare myself, and the person making the remark, any embarrasment. But as I have grown older I have learnt that I have to change their mentality by challenging them head on. I never take a confrontational stance because I do not feel offended, I feel embarrased for them (Can they actually hear what they are saying?)Most times you will find that they will back down or apologise (are they actually sincere in their apology?, It is difficult to say). My hope in the future is that the colonialist mentality of the Caucasian British, does not hold them back from being truly accepted in predominantly non-white countries.