|MICHELLE PURVES, a 26-year- old PA, lives in Clifton in Bristol with her 24-year-old boyfried, Linton Dwyer-Reid, who works in insurance. Michelle says:
GOING out with Linton has brought me face to face with brutal reality and the shocking levels f prejudice that exist in Britain.
Anthony Walker’s tragic murdermay have shocked some, but it ddn’t surprise us.
It wa awful, but the truth is these kinds of attack are happening all the time and all over the country, though most are not fatal.
I was brought up in a middle - class family and spent most of my childhood in Cornwall — my father ran his wn retail business and my mother was a housewife.
Before I met Linton I didn’t know many black people — there must have been two living in the whole of Cornwall. But like most white people I assumed Britain was a tolerant society and that racist antagonism happened only in the worst inner city areas.
How wrong I was.
We liv in Bristol, but whenever Linton and I go out togethr we are stared at. Occasionally people give us a wide berth in the street. We call it ‘the look’ — the way people look you up and down, as if to say: ‘Why on earth are you with a black guy?’ We’ve grown so used to it by now.
Last year we were flying to Thailand and we’d paid extra to go club class. We walked into the executive lounge at Gatwick, all excited and smartly dressed — Linton was in a shirt and tie.
But as soon as we sat down a man, a white businessman, put his newspaper down and started staring at us.
It was a really nasty look and clearly said: ‘Why on Earth are you here? You can’t afford to fly club class.’
At first we tried to ignore it, but it was really blatant. Linton got a bit fidgety, then started to get angry. I told him to calm down, but other people were beginning to stare at us as well. It was unbelievable.
Eventually we walked out, and as soon as we got up to go, the man picked up his newspaper again, as if to say: ‘Thank goodness, we’ve got rid of them.’ I was livid — how dare people treat us like this?
On another occasion, we were taking Linton’s eightyear-old brother to Disneyland Paris and a group of holidaymakers started staring at us and whispering.
Linton’s brother turned to me and said: ‘Why are they pointing at us?’ It was heartbreaking. I couldn’t say it was because I am white and he and his big brother are black.
I met Linton when we worked together. I thought he was attractive, but nothing happened. Then we bumped into each other two years later and I thought he was polite, intelligent and fun to be with.
By then I’d had a few black friends, having lived in Bristol, and having a black boyfriend seemed less of a big deal. He took my number, we went out on a date and started going out. Our relationship became serious quite quickly. But I was unprepared for the reaction from my family.
My father, who’s 78 and retired, said it was not what he wanted for his daughter. That shocked me, but I tried to see it from his point of view — he’s from a generation where black and white people did not mix. He did not think our relationship could work and it’s taken him a while to come to terms with it. But now he’s met Linton he really likes him and accepts us.
Linton’s family, on the other hand, were totally different. His father is a builder and his mother is training to be an accountant, and all of them welcomed me with open arms. Being with Linton has opened my eyes to the reality of being with a black person in Britain. It’s no wonder a lot of black people live together in a community, because even now many are treated like outsiders in their own country. Linton was born here — he’s British, for goodness’ sake.
He’s well spoken, has a good job, dresses smartly and is clearly a responsible citizen, but even now when we go out as a couple, we are stared at.
We are very happy and are hoping to marry and have a family. I know it will be a rocky road. We just have to hold our heads high and get on with life.
JAN LLOYD, 45, has been married to Tony, 48, for ten years. The couple have a four-year-old daughter, Toni. They run a successful martial arts business, Fighting Fit, with gyms around South London, where they live. Jan says:
PEOPLE have spat at me in the street, stared at me, jostled me and shouted at me — all because I fell in love with a black man. But unless you have experienced it, you are unlikely to have any idea of the racism in British society.
It’s terrifying, but it’s something I am aware of every day of my life. We were taking our daughter Toni to see the GP when she was only two years old, when I was spat at in the street. It was completely random — a white man in his 40s looked us up and down and then spat at me.
It was so disgusting — I couldn’t believe it was happening. I looked for support, but everyone looked away. They were embarrassed and probably disgusted too, but no one wanted to get involved. I was shaking and tearful, but angry as well — how could someone behave like that in a civilised society?
As I walk down the street, go to the pictures, eat out in restaurants or go to the theatre, I am frequently aware of a kind of coldness and embarrassment around me. The only way I can describe it is that it’s like being disabled — people don’t know how to treat you.
They don’t know what to say to me. You can see the thought running through people’s minds: ‘Why is she with a black man?’
When I got together with Tony, a lot of my friends melted away. They’d invite me to a party with my new boyfriend, but then, mysteriously, they’d never invite us again. Once, early in our relationship, I’d booked a table at a nice restaurant. When we arrived, there were lots of empty tables — but they put us at the back, next to the toilets. I was going to complain, but Tony told me just to leave it. He’s used to it. Our backgrounds could not be more different. I was brought up in a well-off family in Sussex and was privately educated. I met Tony when I took up aerobics and he was my instructor.
I thought he was nice, but our relationship didn’t progress until I was in a horrid road-rage incident, when a man hit my car and then bashed on my window. It made me realise I ought to learn self-defence and Tony also taught martial arts. Before I fell for him, I’d been out with City types, public-school educated white men, so Tony was a real change. I thought he was intelligent and interesting — I was fascinated by the fact that his life was so different from mine.
HE WAS born in Yorkshire, but his family moved to London when he was three. He had traditional values and an old-fashioned approach to relationships. There was also a lovely warmth about him. He was successful and welloff through his business and he was a real self-made man.
We started going out and six months later I met his family. He’s one of six and it was so different from my middle-class home — they were so loud, so welcoming, pressing food on me and firing questions at me.
Tony told me he’d been badly beaten up as a child by racist bullies and that nearly every day he faced some kind of prejudice or abuse — it hurt him so much.
But it wasn’t long before I started to experience the kind of hostility he’d faced most of his life. Suddenly, being with him, I was made to feel like a freak, a secondclass citizen. It was bizarre. There was so much disapproval in people’s glances. There seems to be this attitude like ‘Aren’t white men good enough?’ when all I had done was fall in love.
We had been together only six months when we decided to get married and it came as a shock to my parents, who asked me if I was sure it was going to work given our cultural backgrounds. But they have since mellowed and little Toni is the bridge between us.
My parents are very traditional, and all they could see were problems in a mixed marriage.
We married on a beach in St Lucia. Both sets of parents came and it made such a difference being there — we were surrounded by welcoming black people, and my parents felt less uneasy.
Now they are very supportive of Tony and can see what a good man he is. Before, they — like so many others — had only seen the stereotypes.
After our wedding I joined Tony in his business, and Fighting Fit is now very successful. We live in a lovely four-bedroom house, we enjoy great holidays, scuba dive, ride horses and have a happy, middle-class life. Now when I get the looks, I ignore them and carry on. They can’t harm our life or family.
I did worry a little about our daughter and whether she’d face any prejudice at school being mixed race, but she’s totally accepted — she’s just Toni, with a big personality for a little girl, so sunny and confident. Everyone loves her.
Both Tony and I were deeply shocked by Anthony Walker’s death, and we extend our sympathy and sorrow to his family, but it highlights the fact that prejudice still exists.
As a couple, we try to do all we can to dispel the myths and promote racial harmony — recently Tony was named as an ‘Ambassador for Peace’ by a London council. I had hoped things were getting so much better, but this dreadful attack shows we sadly still have such a long way to go.
TYNDALE, 53, who works in adult education, is married to Adrian, 55, a martial arts
instructor who used to run his own electronics business. The couple, who live in Wimbledon, have two children, Andrew, 31, and Amelia, 27. Jill says:
THERE are always going to be morons. It is tragic that something like Anthony Walker’s murder should happen, but the only way forward is through education and tolerance.
It just shows that even in the 21st century, prejudice and hatred towards mixed-race couples is flourishing.
Sadly, it’s been around for a long time. When we married in 1974, my uncle refused to attend because he didn’t approve of our union.
The murder this week just proves that those kind of outdated attitudes survive. Unfortunately, we are living through a time when people are wary of different colours and religions. If they feel threatened, they turn to violence.
I had a secure background — my father was a civil engineer and chartered surveyor, my mother a housewife.
He worked for a time in Africa and it was a very colonial society back then. It was a time when there was a view that white people were superior to the black people, and I think my father held those views, too.
Adrian and I met through a shared love of Morris cars — we were members of the same car club. When I announced I was going to marry him, there were eyebrows raised and my mother, in particular, had reservations. Most of their fears were based on the fact that we had such different cultural backgrounds, and I suppose there is a fear that somehow those backgrounds cannot mix. There was very much an ‘us and them’ feeling.
I’m sure they liked Adrian very much — he’s a very likeable person — but sometimes it is hard for older people to look beyond the colour of a person’s skin.
NOWADAYS it seems ridiculous, but in those days it was far more of an issue. Mixed-race marriages were much more unusual.
We were determined to go ahead with the wedding and my parents did come round.
At the wedding, in Wimbledon Spiritualist Church, I was worried about the tensions between our families, but in fact both sets of parents carried it off very well, and my father and Adrian’s father got on well in the end, even though they had not met before.
Adrian has encountered violent abuse throughout his life — he has been spat on, shouted at and even chased down the street. When he was nine, a man in his 20s ran after him shouting abuse and he was so scared he had to hide in someone’s garden.
But thank goodness the children and I have never faced violence when we have been with him.
But prejudice can be more insidious that just violence. When our son was 16, he happened to mention at his private day school in Surrey that his grandfather was a coloured musician.
The racist response was truly shocking. I can’t remember exactly what was said, but the naked prejudice he faced really shocked us.
Adrian even had to go into school to complain, because the abuse was coming not just from the pupils, but from a teacher as well.
Fortunately, our friends are educated people and they do not see it as an issue at all. My theory is to accept people as human beings and I think that the colour of a person’s skin is an irrelevance.
I am not aware of being a trailblazer or anything like that — that sounds ridiculous. I just fell in love with and married the man I wanted and we’ve been married for 31 years.
I think it is horrendous that racial prejudice still exists, but I don’t think it’s going to go away for a long time yet. And that is a tragedy.