Scottish cricket is unravelling as allegations of racism continue to come to light. Last week, the entire Cricket Scotland board stepped down and was placed under special measures after an independent review found 448 examples of institutional racism. Two cricketers – Majid Haq and Qasim Sheikh – said at a press conference on Monday 25 July that Cricket Scotland was "institutionally racist".
Scotland presents itself as a progressive country. Many outside the country perceive it as a liberal forward-thinking place, but that is only partially true. No one can wash away the racism that is embedded in Scottish society. But it’s frustrating how little of that is acknowledged.
Institutional racism not only exists in Scottish sports, particularly football and cricket, but in schools, media organisations and even taxi companies. I worked for a company that only had one Asian on-screen presenter. They would only allow strong local voices with certain Scottish accents on air. It made leaving easier knowing the organisation didn’t care about diversity.
Growing up Asian in Glasgow meant being mocked for being a terrorist, and the P-word was common back in school; where people used to tell me they were going to "string me up". I reported it to teachers but nothing was ever done about it.
At university, I saw people casually using slurs like “fat p***” without batting an eyelid. When I raised it, I was told the people using the slurs were not racist. A bartender at a club refused to serve me and referred to me as a “p*** b******”. I tried to confront him but was promptly kicked out of the club. When I tried to return, the general manager dragged me out and threw me on the street.
Glasgow is littered with the names of slavers, with some estimating that up to 62 street names are linked to the slave trade. During the Black Lives Matter protests in Scotland, activists replaced Cochrane Street, named after 18th Century tobacco Lord Andrew Cochrane, with "Sheku Bayoh Street", a black man who had died under police custody in Fife. The street names commemorating slavers for so long are one of Glasgow’s darkest secrets.
Look at top companies and businesses in Scotland, they are dominated by white males. Being Asian living in Glasgow meant dealing with xenophobia every day. After the 2015 Nice attacks in France, I sat on a busy train on my way home from the city centre and no one sat beside me. The train was packed but I got strange looks from people. Hate crimes against Asian people have increased after terrorist attacks.
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I still think about incidents every day. There are some instances I’m comfortable discussing and others I am not. When I attended the BLM protests in the summer of 2020, 8000 people gathered outside the obelisk pillar in Glasgow Green. One of the organisers told me he was named after the family that used to own his family. It shows black and Asian families can overcome and conquer racism. However, we can’t do it alone.
Xenophobia has a severe psychological impact on victims of abuse. It can take victims to a mentally dark place. It’s a catalyst for depression among members of black and Asian communities.
It’s refreshing to see the powerful held accountable. Now Cricket Scotland, and Scottish society as a whole, need to do much more. We need to admit the racism that has been present for hundreds of years and still persists now. Only then will Scotland be the progressive place that it aspires to be.