Photo Diagram by Khadijah Majid

Am I ‘Authentically’ British?

A poem on the experiences of a British Bangladeshi shaped from comments that have been made at work and school.

Note: The alt-text version is also available.

My grandparents struggled
Moving to Britain
More than half a century ago
My parents did too.

I, too, am left floundering - 
- In a different way.

When I am told to go back to my own country    Honest question; where is that anyway?               Should I show them my British passport?
When I am asked in the playground
If I intend
To blow up my school                  Um, no, I actually like this place
When I am screamed at
Across the street             At twelve years old, I didn’t think they were talking to me
When I am called a refugee    is that supposed to be offensive?

The more I think about it
I realise;
I am a refugee.

I shouldn’t have to mention
Seeking refuge
From racial slurs
it makes no difference wether you go to a state or a private school; the insults just get more articulate
Or praying that today
I am not a victim
Of religious hate crime
there’s a reason I never stand close to an approaching train
I mean,
It’s funny how
In 2022
There is still no working definition of Islamophobia
thanks Tories for blocking that motion
When there are definitions
For literally everything else.

I seek refuge from
The thought of the stolen jewels
That sit in the Tower of London
A must-see for all the tourists.
My country’s riches
Never shone so brightly
Back home.

I seek refuge from
My posh European teachers
Who suggested I might not understand
The process of applying for higher education
Because my parents
“probably don’t know the system that well”
My father is an engineer
While my mother holds three degrees
 Shocking, right?

In assembly, 
We stand in unison
And sing
God save the Queen
At the top of our lungs.
Secular education for the win!
I seek refuge from
The erasure of my history
From my land, my culture, and clothes
My food, my language and identity
Becoming objects of entertainment and amusement.
After all, everyone loves a good curry.

I am privileged to be here,
So lucky my ancestors were
Allowed in
To work in factories
For minimum wage.

Their degrees were redundant here.

After all,
Not just anyone
Gets to call themselves British.

Being ‘authentically’ British
On paper, at least
Is a gift from God.

But sometimes,
With the weight of coloniality
And misunderstanding
Heavy on my shoulders
It doesn’t feel that way.
Source: ‘Utter neglect’: Government fails to create Islamophobia definition two years after pledge

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