Farewell to America
January 21, 2020 2:15 PM   Subscribe

This is the summer I will leave America, after 12 years as a foreign correspondent, and return to London. My decision to come back to Britain was prompted by banal, personal factors that have nothing to do with current events; if my aim was to escape aggressive policing and racial disadvantage, I would not be heading to Hackney. In 2015, Gary Younge moved back to the U.K. But first he wrote a long read about all the reasons why, as a Black father, moving made sense. (Content warning for violence and racism.)

Once, during our 10-minute walk to daycare, my son asked if we could take another route. “Why?” I asked.

“Because that way they stop all the black boys,” he said.

He was right. Roughly twice a week we would pass young black men being frisked or arrested, usually on the way home. He was also four, and until that point I was not aware that he had even noticed. I tried to make him feel safe.

“Well don’t worry. You’re with me and they’re not going to stop us,” I told him.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because we haven’t done anything,” I said.

“What have they done?” he asked.

He had me. From then on we took another route.
posted by Bella Donna (6 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Can’t say as I can blame him. I was alive back in the late 60s and early 70s, and this feels like a more intense version of those times, and yet inverted in many ways with an intensity I don’t recall back then. Might well be a very dangerous and nasty summer.
posted by cybrcamper at 3:44 PM on January 21

Fucken-a. I also left (after 35 years), and 6 months away, I can’t get my head around how deeply racist the country really is.
posted by growabrain at 1:19 AM on January 22 [4 favorites]

I enjoyed this writing enormously (even as the content is not exactly uplifting). I was most disturbed by the acceptance of irritation of racism than the gun deaths. Probably as a white Brit, I can take some comfort that the relatively unarmed British police are less likely to kill someone for being black due to systematically (albeit not deliberately) reduced opportunity. But the more benign incidents will I guess be similar over here. I’d be interested in hearing and reading about any comparisons.
posted by plonkee at 12:01 PM on January 22

It's worth noting that this was written 5 years ago, dare I say during the hopeful years in America (post Bush, pre Tr*mp). I can only imagine his reaction to Brexit, the refugee crisis in Europe and Trump's ascent in the States. I don't think his article, as bleak as it was then, can in any way have been improved by recent events. He was acting editor-at-large until Jan 2020, and one of his last columns In these bleak times, imagine a world where you can thrive is a great recap of how his thoughts and considerations have changed since this article.
posted by kurosawa's pal at 3:03 PM on January 22 [9 favorites]

Thanks, kurosawa’s pal! That column is powerful. So glad you shared it.
posted by Bella Donna at 7:30 PM on January 22

Reggae fi Peach
posted by sneebler at 1:27 PM on January 24

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