Last year a group of parishioners of Our Lady of Fátima in White City –which, despite its name, is a vibrant multicultural community in one of west London’s largest social housing estates – began to meet regularly on Zoom. They talked together about the reality of racism in the wider society – and also in their own community. These testimonies illustrate the everyday reality of racism within an ordinary Catholic parish in inner London
I am a “cradle Catholic”, born into the thick of racist and discriminatory practices in west London. Our family used to live in a dilapidated house in Notting Hill, where we were subjected to racist attacks from “Teddy boys” and National Front arsonists. In the early-1970s we were relocated to a flat on the White City Estate.
As a teacher, I was reminded by colleagues that my “face doesn’t fit” when it came to promotion to positions of leadership. I found myself fighting to progress professionally, in spite of years of success and experience, overlooked by younger, white, inexperienced males, to the point that the fight broke me. I was left unsupported and abandoned, forced by the white male leader in the school to sign a non-disclosure agreement and quietly leave my post. I found an echo of my personal experience in some of these testimonies from parishioners, which show how unconscious biases serve to reinforce the gulf of disadvantage, so that people of colour – black people – do not progress. Over time, the silence cements an acceptance of things just being OK that way, just because they are.