I’m okay when I realise despite the extremely black headline, I am one of about 0.0002 black people and 0.0008 people of colour in total out of forty thousand people at Longitude festival in Ireland.
I’m okay when a drug-fuelled reveller headbutts me by accident and splits my lip. I reapply my Fenty lip-gloss and march on.
I’m maybe okay when a series of drug-hungry revellers keep asking one of my guy friends if he has any drugs to sell. One of them even taps his pockets, so sure there are pills in there somewhere.
I’m okay(ish) when I have to ask the three white women standing next to me not to scream the N-word so loud.
I’m a little bit less than okay when I have to pluck several curious fingers from my canerows.
But it’s when I’m alone on my way home and a group of lads decide to follow me calling me Samira from Love Island, telling me to go back to the island and that Frankie loves me (lol???) that I have to square up.
Samira’s painful and problematic experience on Love Island aside (another story for another day or also maybe never), what to these boys may have seemed like a “harmless” joke was the straw that broke this camel’s back.
This camel has the hump because she can’t go to a festival to see her favourite artists without feeling like she’s entering a space that requires full body armour and a hard hat.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had this out of body experience either. A while ago myself and a friend of mine found ourselves completely outnumbered by white men screaming the N-word at a Kendrick Lamar concert in the O2.
Of course, a lot of these events are going to have majority white audiences, we live in a majority white country after all. However, trying to relax and enjoy the show with the N-word hitting you from all angles from the mouths of people who don’t seem to care how unhappy or disconcerted this may make you feel, is an EXTREME SPORT.
I’m making no apologies for the fact that this is my personal experience. There may well be a lot of people of colour who can manage N-word-screaming-hair-touching-bindi-and-other-cultural-wear-appropriating experiences and still have a good time. Go them! I would have had a much better weekend at Longitude festival if I could do this too. I would rather though, look to the day when I will be able to go to a mainstream event to hear black music, feel safe, and relax my black body into the vibe. Or is this something that I can only expect from purposefully curated safe spaces like Afropunk?
I really enjoyed this clip of Amine changing the lyrics to his song on tour to ensure that non-black fans didn’t say the N-word. Kendrick Lamar also recently pulled up a white fan on stage who said the n-word after he brought her up to rap with him. Is this something all artists should do? I’d love to ask the artists themselves how they feel about the fact that this happens at their shows, or if they have any advice for us out in the audience. I actually managed to ask Princess Nokia about this after her performance at Longitude, stay tuned for her response.
After my weekend of micro (and macro tbh) aggressions at Longitude, Solange offered healing. Her performance to close the show was like going to the doctor. Did you hear me in the front row as I screamed the lyrics to Don’t Touch My Hair & F.U.B.U., and choked back tears singing along to Mad? How does it feel Solange, when the white crowd even sang along;
“all my n——s in the whole wide world, this shit is for us”?
So that was my experience – I hope it wasn’t yours, but I’m going to end with some words of advice just in case. When I confided in Princess Nokia at Longitude, she said: “Just stick to your tribe baby”. So perhaps I should go with twice as many friends next time? A friend suggested staring the offender dead in the eye and thinking about James Baldwin. My mum says we should electrify our hair – I hope she’s got bail money. How about noise cancelling headphones to put on quickly when we can sense the racial slur loading? Or signs that say things like ‘IF YOU WANT TO SAY THE N WORD, GO STAND SOMEWHERE ELSE’?
Or maybe, we should fake it til we make it – act like this shit is (also) for us and one day, it just might be.
By the way, for those of you wondering what the outcome was of my squaring up to the six foot plus lads who decided to compare me to Samira from Love Island would be funny, here’s the tea.
Even in rage, I had sense enough to know that boxing up (or attempting to lol) the ‘lads’ concerned was a bad idea. In between exchanging heated words with Lad 1, the main culprit, I turned to a member of festival staff and asked him if he could see what was happening to me. The guy was really proactive and ran to get a policeman (or a guard/garda as they’re called in Ireland, which actually stems from ‘An Garda Síochána’, which means The Guardian of the Peace. Lovely.)
Anyway, the guard (who was tiny and looked about 17, bless him) runs over, grabs the guy, and demands his details. I am at this point doing a vex brisk walk to the taxi rank, but the festival guy came over and convinced me to tell the guard what happened as he wants Lad 1 to be held accountable. He probably won’t be but thanks to the festival guy and guard guy anyway for trying their best to be allies at that moment <3