“I wasn’t allowed to be upset, I wasn’t allowed to have an opinion.”
It’s all too easy to assume that racism is solely defined by violence, racial slurs, and police brutality. To quote comedian Gina Yashere, though, “it’s the other racism, the everyday racism, the undercurrent of racism that black people suffer every day” that we need to be more aware of.
In a bid to help us better understand these micro-aggressions, Keisha Buchanan – who found fame as ⅓ of the ever-changing rota of Sugababes – has shared a candid 14-minute YouTube video, in which she details the “trauma” she experienced as the band’s only black woman.
“I used to think racism was when someone directly looked at you and called you a racist word,” she explains. “I didn’t realise that there are so many different ways that a person or people can be racist or prejudiced.”
Buchanan goes on to recall how she was always portrayed as the band’s “bully” – as someone the other girls were afraid of.
“I have never bullied anyone in my life [but] after a while I felt like no one would believe me,” she says.
“[The band] would have fallouts, like most teenage girls… that experience would then be written up in a way to make myself and Mutya [Buena, who is of Filipino-Irish descent] look aggressive, look like bullies basically.”
Buchanan, at this point, refers to an article published in 2009, which was penned with the sub-headline: “Keisha Buchanan reacts angrily to tabloid reports that she has been bullying Amelle Berrabah.”
“First of all, I was never angry. I was hurt and I was confused,” she says. “[But] the wording ‘Keisha reacts angrily’ allows people to get a picture in their mind of me being the angry black woman.”
Buchanan adds that this constant racial stereotyping made her feel as if she had to go above and beyond to make people feel comfortable around her. So much so, she says, that she even allowed people to steal from her.
“I’ve had people who have stolen from me and when I call them out on it, they have told me that they were being bullied by me,” she reflects.
“I let them get away with it because I was so scared they would say, ‘She’s bullied me.’”
Watch Buchanan’s video in full for yourself below:
Reflecting on how her experiences have left her feeling “fragile”, not to mention caused “severe damage” to her confidence, Buchanan goes on to note that she’s not doing this video for sympathy.”
“The scrutiny, the judgement, the bullying has actually left me fragile and I hate that word,” she says.
“It’s left me questioning my own judgement and I want people to see me for me, faults and all, shadiness and all, bossiness and all and make a judgement on that. Not on what they perceive me to be based on the colour of my skin.”
She finishes powerfully: “I’m not a victim whatsoever, but I have been hurt and I would like there to be a change in how we view others.”
Stop Hate UK is a charity that provides independent and confidential support to people affected by hate crimes. They provide confidential hate crime reporting services in various areas of the UK, including a 24-hour helpline.
The Monitoring Group, a leading anti-racist charity that promotes civil rights, similarly aims to relieve the needs of those who are distressed or suffering violence or harassment.