'Coloured people are doing so well, look at you' - York campaigner's racist encounter

Haddy Njie, chair of IERUK has shared her experience of a racist encounter with an older man and told how she handled it <i>(Image: Lorne Campbell)</i>
Haddy Njie, chair of IERUK has shared her experience of a racist encounter with an older man and told how she handled it (Image: Lorne Campbell)

A YORK campaigner has shared her experience of a racist encounter with an older man and told how she handled it.

The chair of York-based Inclusive Equal Rights UK (IERUK), Haddy Njie, said during a conversation with a well-intentioned older man she was told: 'coloured people are doing so well, look at you!'

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She said: "Five years ago, I would have been livid, and this charismatic elderly man would have received a different response because frankly, one can argue he did not deserve a gracious response.

"On this occasion, following a short pause, I gave this reply: 'I am not doing as well as my parents, grandparents and great grandparents. When I was little, I lived in a massive house, a compound actually. We had a driver, and a gardener'. I proudly went on. I also enlightened him that if not all, most black people I know have torn down unimaginable barriers and they are exceedingly doing great things in spite of hate and harsh discrimination they continue to endure; casually and institutionally."

York Press: Haddy Njie
York Press: Haddy Njie

Haddy Njie

Haddy uses the encounter in her latest column written for The Press as an example of how people may not be racist by nature, but may unknowingly hold racist ideologies and act in racist ways, 'sometimes unconsciously and unintentionally'.

"We may have also believed what our parents and elders have told us about black people which must be questioned and challenged at all times because they are dangerous, divisive and none of it are true," she said.

Haddy is one of the people behind Inclusive Equal Rights 3.0 the city of York’s five-year anti-racism and inclusion strategy.

As The Press reported in the Summer, the strategy was backed up with quantitative data illustrating the disproportionate inequalities in various sectors such as education, mental healthcare and policing.

IERUK is a grassroots organisation based in the city of York.

Its mission is to tackle the root-causes of racism; taking an intersectional approach to their work.

It was founded by Haddy in October 2021, alongside her organisation, Speak Up Diversity spearheaded the city-wide motion to make York an anti-racist and inclusive city, the first city to do so in the north of England.

Inclusive Equal Rights 3.0 showed that York City Council is made up entirely of white councillors and the York contingent of North Yorkshire Police has less than ten minority ethnic police officers.

In the health sector, just five per cent of the 734 staff at the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Mental Health Trust, the second largest health organisation serving York, are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

In 2022, hate crime incidents in the North Yorkshire Police force area exceeded 1,000 for the first time. Approximately, two-thirds were race-related hate crimes.

The working group of IERUK, made up of members of York’s different communities, identified key areas of concern to develop a plan of action to address institutional racism and unconscious bias, promote cultural diversity and inclusion, and improve access to education and employment opportunities for marginalized groups.