Hey there! My name is Farida Salim. I am a 19-year-old Kenyan-Irish woman, born and raised in County Cork. My family has lived in Ireland for a little over 20 years.
I don’t recall a time when I haven’t experienced racism in the country I call my home. One of my earliest memories was when I went to creche. There were not many Black children there (I believe there was only two of us) so of course we were a bit of an anomaly to our White classmates. I remember being called a “monkey”, having sand thrown on my natural hair, having it yanked and being shoved to the ground when I tried to stand up for myself. But most importantly, I vividly recall trying to tell the teacher and having her scoff at me and walk away, leaving me clearly distressed and traumatised from the experience. If only that was an isolated incident.
At the age of 7, I moved to the countryside with my family and of course there were (and still are) only two Black families in my area, my own accounting for one. Needless to say, this was a shock for me as I had grown up around people of all backgrounds and races. I had grown so accustomed to having neighbours who had similar experiences as me, similar lifestyles and cultures and moving to my area had shown me a very different side of Ireland that I had never expected to see.
It was evident that my new neighbours had never met a Black family before and they made their ignorance very clear. One or two children told me their parents had instructed them not to associate “with my sort” and that we were “dirty, stupid monkeys”. And of course my word against that of their parents was worth nothing. I remember the little fights I would have with the White children who constantly told me that “you’re black so you came from monkeys and that’s why you look like ‘that’ ” or even having neighbours, who we had known very well, refer to me as “a dirty n*gger”, “a thief”, and “an illegal”. I think that is when I started to see the world as ‘us against them’, which is the conclusion that any child who had experienced trauma would come to.