A post by LTAR member Johnal Guy Simpson.
1989. Having left school with a small number of qualifications mainly maths and English. I pursued an interest in vehicles to gain a trade in the motor vehicle engineering sector. It was repeatedly drummed into me from an early age to “get a trade”, above all else. University, a Masters or Doctorate were never discussed as a possibility.
Little did I realise during those informative years spent with pen and paper learning a history I couldn’t connect with would soon bring me within reach of the fascist group NF and its adoring fans.
I turned up at my YTS (youth training scheme) with new boots and an eagerness to learn the fundamentals of the internal combustion engine. My designated boss was a shrew of a man with greying hair, terrible dandruff and ideologies not suited to the modern, diverse world I was a part of. Neither was the location of my placement. A town I later found to be the base of the national front.
I knew this place wouldn’t be fruitful to my education when on my second day I brought in my own cassette tape containing Bob Marley’s hits. This was quickly removed from the stereo and destroyed along with the words “There’ll be no jungle bunny music here”. So it began…
Whilst working with a ramp (used to lift cars in the air), the car was gradually lowered under the pretence of gaining access. I found myself flat on my back, face staring directly up at the underside of the engine. There was no way to get out as my previous attempt had been thwarted by the boss’ side kick, a lad five years older than I. With no obvious escape route, I suddenly became aware someone had got in and started the car. With my face no further than five inches from the spinning pulleys of the engine. It was at this time that the sidekick played his part by emptying the entire contents of a watering can down the side of the engine bay in a successful attempt to soak me, yet an unsuccessful attempt to wash the colour off me. All this was done whilst the engine was continually revved. I’ll admit to shedding a tear on my bus journey home.
The inspection pit Part one. A rectangular pit about fifteen-foot-long with a depth of around six foot. The car is carefully driven over so as to allow easy access to the underside of the car.
The sidekick had a habit of shoving me out of the way, many times I ended up on the floor with the chorus of laughter from the pair. During one such time, they grabbed my arms and legs, holding me face down and spread eagle directly over the pit. My screams were heard by businesses across the road. Thankfully they came to my rescue and reprimanded them both. That was another tearful bus journey home. I would later go to college and plead with them to find me another placement.
The inspection pit Part two. As I was stepping out of the pit following an inspection, I was struck with a thick piece of rubber piping. As both the customer and I simultaneously asked “what was that for?” The reply from the boss was “that’s what all blacks deserve”. Later that afternoon I called the boss into the store room under the pretext I was having trouble finding an item. I don’t condone punching him but I will admit as I promptly left and caught a bus, there was a smile on my face.
The college found me another placement soon after. I didn’t discuss these events with my parents as I saw myself as a young adult stepping into the real world.
2000. With the birth of my Son I started working nights as the employment agency paid 50p per hour more than a day job. Working for a pharmaceutical logistics company, my tasks included loading and unloading lorries throughout the night. Because I wasn’t one of them, I didn’t drink, follow football or swear needlessly. I was soon seen as an outsider and quickly became a target of their ‘humour’.
At this time Baha men had their popular song “Who let the dogs out”. A song I utterly despise for the following reason. For at least six weeks this was sang by the group whenever I appeared, although the word dogs was exchanged for wogs. Night after night for six weeks along with the usual utterings of black b—–d and any other uncreative terminology they could think of.
I persevered with my job, tirelessly drowning out the ignorance. I couldn’t report to my Supervisor as he was part of the group and one of the antagonists. HR was made aware after another nightshift of being serenaded also involved one of these individuals having defecated in my lunchbox. By the accompanying laughter, it became evident they were all aware of my ‘gift’.
After twelve weeks I gained full time employment with the same Company, four months after that I was promoted. Six months after I was promoted again until finally, I relocated to the flagship depot and became Night Operations manager.
There have been instances of racism in a majority of my work places throughout my years. The few places where I was treated as human brought about wonderful friendships. Yet these attitudes still exist in society. My Son has a paler complexion and huge curly hair. He works in an area lacking in diversity and so hears many comments that can never be justified. He is proud of his heritage, actively seeks to educate not only himself but those willing to learn too. I couldn’t be prouder of the man he is becoming and couldn’t be more relieved he doesn’t have to face half as much as I did at his age.