Jamelia pens powerful essay about racist encounter on UK train

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Kayleigh Dray
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Jamelia recently took to Twitter to reveal that she and her daughter suffered a racist incident on a train – leaving many social media users shocked.

However, writing about the encounter in greater detail on her blog, Jamelia has insisted that her “situation is far from unique”.

In the essay, the Superstar singer explains that she had boarded a first-class train carriage with her daughter, Tiani, after a photoshoot in London.

However, just moments after taking their seats, a female passenger approached them and demanded to see their tickets.

“I was genuinely confused,” writes Jamelia, “why would I be sat in the first-class carriage without a ticket?”

After a few moments of wondering what the woman’s intentions were, Jamelia glanced around the carriage – and realised quickly that she and her daughter were the only black people on board.

However, wanting to give the woman the benefit of the doubt, Jamelia asked her why she had felt the need to question her about her ticket.

“She leans in, and in a hushed tone, as if helping me out says, ‘Well I’ve just seen the conductor, and he won’t let you travel in this carriage.’

Jamelia continues: “At this point I feel her assumptions are crystal clear - I’m offended and my daughter’s face shows she has understood the rhetoric too.”

However, refusing to allow herself to be bullied into silence, the television presenter chose to stand up for herself and call the passenger out on her prejudices.

“Let’s be honest, you’ve seen a young, black girl and assumed she doesn't have a 1st class ticket,” Jamelia writes that she told the woman. “You’ve allowed your prejudice to speak for you.

“If I was an older white man, would you ask him?  Let this be a lesson to you, don't you ever make this kind of assumption out loud again. I hope you feel ashamed.”

Unwilling to spend the rest of the train journey to Birmingham sat with the woman, Jamelia and her daughter moved.

But, when an “older white man” then sat in their vacated seats, the mother and daughter duo noticed that he was not challenged by the same woman.

“Tiani stared over at the woman for a good minute, and her face took on every emotion as she saw confirmation of the woman’s point of view,” writes Jamelia.

“In a level that would’ve been audible to the entire carriage, Tiani says, Are you not going to ask him for his credentials then?’

“The woman didn’t turn her head to acknowledge my daughter’s question, but the beetroot hue on her face was proof enough that she’d heard every word.”

Jamelia, who tweeted about the incident, admitted that she was surprised by the reaction her comments received.

“What struck me, were the wave of comments I received…first of all those in response to my tweets, the shock and horror that this could happen. I need to say at this point, this situation is far from unique,” says Jamelia.

“Most of my train travel is first class, and I would estimate that at least 60 per cent of the time, I experience this exchange with either another passenger or someone working for the train company.

“It’s irritating, embarrassing, but I, like many affluent, black women accept it as an annoying part of the space I occupy in society.

“I have multiple replies to my tweets from people who have had similar exchanges, and rarely are they isolated incidents.”

The Loose Women presenter added that she’d been asked whether she was attention seeking or “playing the race card.”

She responded by saying: “If I was to tweet every single racist incident that happened to me as it happened, you would be on the floor.

“If I and every other person of ethnic minority I know were to do it, I guarantee you it would affect Twitter’s algorithms and become a trending topic. I have no doubt about that.

“The insistence that I don’t affect the status quo with my uncomfortable truth is quite telling, and indicative of the issues we face today as a society.

“The problem is that we don’t tell you, we speak about it amongst ourselves, and you get to carry on about your day not realising you’ve ruined ours.

“Black people experience this daily, in social and professional environments, whether it’s being greeted with “Wha Gwarn”, touching our hair without permission, being told we are “so well-spoken”, being repeatedly stopped in our luxury cars or being asked if we have a ticket to travel in first class. This kind of thing happens every. single. day.

“I tweeted because I wanted you to read it. I wanted you to be aware of this happening. I wanted you to know that even if you have these thoughts in your head, it’s not OK to say it aloud.”

Jamelia went on to challenge people to take a stance against racism going forward.

“I do not want to keep quiet about it anymore,” she said. “We serve no-one by remaining quiet, if anything this renders us complicit in the continuation and validation of this behaviour.

“It is not ok with me, and it shouldn’t be ok with you.

She added: “I absolutely refuse to send my daughters out into a world that tells them NOT to speak up when someone hurts them.

“The only way that will happen is if we are all brave enough to put these important conversations on the table now.”

You can read Jamelia’s essay in full here.


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.