Asians in Scotland and Racism
I was gigging with a lovely Asian comic, Inder Manocha. He is an amazing comic and wonderful man and when we spoke backstage about Asians and Scottish people’s attitude towards them it made me recall when I was young.
I lived in Shettleston in Glasgow’s East End and in the 1960s, we had many small Asian shops but no Asians actually lived there, they only worked in the area. There was a small shop at the end of the street and they were a lovely family. Aslam was the father and he had a wee boy called Khalid and he was my friend. Back then people in Glasgow were racist by nature; they would often look down on Asians and be openly racist.
My mammy was friends with many of the Asian shopkeepers as she ran so much credit and debt through her own poverty and relied on the shopkeepers good nature, yet she would still call them ‘Paki’s’ to me, I hated that she did this.
Anyway Khalid and I used to play outside at football and if we ever kicked the ball and it hit some man Khalid was always incredibly polite and shout “Sorry Sir” and apologise profusely and that would annoy me. He was being so subservient to these men who would shout “Fucking watch it Paki” and I would hate them for their rudeness.
One time I felt so sorry for Khalid as he seemed lonely and not many people played with him I invited him up to my house to play and he quickly said “No”.
“Why won’t you come? Are you not allowed?” I asked, I was worried he thought he may not be treated properly or was mistrustful.
“You have nits and lice that’s what my dad told me and I am not really allowed to play with you” he replied. I was taken aback as I always thought he was slightly disadvantaged and wouldn’t mind and because I was white, everything about my poverty would be overlooked because he was Asian and needed all the friends he could get! I was aghast! I was being typically racist, as I was taught to be by my peers and never thought to look past it all, but I was only nine years old.
Weeks later we met up and he was carrying a bag with photos in to take to his grand mother.
He showed me a photo of him in his school uniform. It was a posh looking uniform and he was standing beside a mansion.
“It that your school?” I asked.
“No that’s my house” he simply replied. You see, most of the Asians in Glasgow were really hard working and quite rich, they worked in the poor areas but the lived in amazing houses on the other side of the city and drove fancy cars, yet Glaswegians would always look down on them as if they were better because their skin was white!
Glasgow has changed though racism still exists; people seem to be less accepting of other cultures since 9/11 and the rise of radical Muslims. I hope it changes. I wonder how my old mate Khalid is now._