- 14 Dec 21
Ashley Chadamoyo Makombe shares her thoughts and experiences as part of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism.
Ashley Chadamoyo Makombe,
Co-Founder of the GALPAL Collective / Head of the Writers Team
Growing up, I was always made to feel like I didn’t belong. My skin was dark, my hair was coily and instead of a Sunday roast, my family ate Sadza with Covo and chicken for dinner. My mom and I lived with her sister and her husband, so instead of having one mom and one dad, I had two of each, and an older cousin who is basically my sister.
Everything about my family was considered strange, and because I didn’t fit into the box of what Irishness was supposed to look like, I was never really considered Irish. It didn’t matter that I spoke the language or that this country was all I ever knew.
Most of the othering I experienced when I was younger probably wasn’t intentional. But that didn’t mean it hurt any less. Hearing “Where are you from? No, where are you really from?” or “But you’re not really Irish” for your entire life, would make even the strongest person feel like they didn’t belong. But as I got older it just got worse. It went from kids calling me dark to teenagers calling me slurs. I was called intimidating by teachers, seen as less intelligent than my peers.
When people would shout the n-word during songs or would wear blackface at costume parties, I was considered the weird one for being uncomfortable with it. I was called an ‘Oreo’ for not acting the way they expected a Black woman to, and aggressive or angry when I did. I and other people of colour would be pulled in front of the camera to show how “diverse” and “accepting” our school was, but when I reported the racism I experienced, I was told to apologise to that person for bullying and ostracising him. I would constantly change the way I would act to make the people around me comfortable, but of course, no matter what I did, it was never enough. I was still Black.
Whenever I mentioned how terrible the racism made me feel, I would simply be told, “kids are mean” or “they don’t know any better”. Everyone else’s feelings were prioritised over mine, and I’d keep telling myself that once I got out of school and into college, it would get better. But it never ends. I experience it every day. From parents pulling their kids away from me at the bus stop to the woman who clutches her purse when I walk past her in the park to the men who sexually harass me on the street, and when I ignore them or turn down their advances, proceed to racially abuse me in response.
I, like every other person of colour, am not limited by my experiences of racism. I still experience joy and happiness and I am proud to be Black and Irish. Over time, I’ve learned not to let people’s limited views of Irishness and Blackness define who I am, or the way I interact with the world around me.
Read Part 2 of 100 Voices: #AllAgainstRacism in the current issue of Hot Press:
Special thanks to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission for their support in this project.