Recent Express coverage of reports of discrimination locally prompted one islander to share her experiences.
Sofia Noakes said she has seen “both interesting and dangerous words on the topic” on both sides of the debate. Miss Noakes, who is Scottish Asian, said she felt compelled to speak on the issue of which she has first-hand experience.
“When I moved to Guernsey in 2016 it was much less diverse than it is now. I didn’t factor my ethnicity into my decision to move here, because we are all people, but I was then very aware that I was often the only coloured woman in a room here,” she said.
Pictured: Miss Noakes said the community has "a responsibility to choose their words carefully about discrimination".
Miss Noakes worked in the hospitality industry when she first arrived in the island.
“There are a lot of people working in hospitality here who are not local, that has always been quite apparent,” she said.
“I was once approached by a gentleman while I was working and he asked my opinion about a BBC news report which had used the n-word.
“He used the word repeatedly while talking to me and thought that it was ok to do that. He had chosen to speak to me specifically because of my ethnicity.
“I have become desensitised to hearing such racial slurs, and it wasn’t until I looked at my colleague that I realised the magnitude of the conversation. My colleague was Caucasian and was so upset at the man that they were shaking.”
Miss Noakes said that she understood why another islander had chosen to remain anonymous in sharing their experiences of discrimination.
Pictured: A recent Citizen's Advice report revealed that most reported incidents of discrimination happen in the workplace.
“When I read the anonymous account I felt very bad for the person because to hear and see those things must be horrific,” continued Miss Noakes.
“Once when I was in a bar waiting for my partner to arrive, an older man approached me and said that he and his friends were taking bets on ‘what colour’ my boyfriend would be.”
Miss Noakes said that the incident had been “mortifying” and she still thinks about it on occasion.
“I know that there are often comments made that older generations are more likely to make such comments, but I don’t think that age is any excuse,” she said.
“We all have a responsibility as a community not only for what we say, but for other people too. It can be difficult to stand up to people who make those kinds of comments, but it’s important.
“As members of a community if we see things that are wrong and we have an opportunity to help then we should take it. That might be helping someone directly or approaching our government representatives, there are always options.”
Pictured: Discrimination can be on the ground of factors including race, sexuality, gender, age and disability.
Miss Noakes said that the upcoming debate on discrimination legislation proposal was important.
“I would hope that businesses in particular would already exercise a duty of care over their employees and ensure that there were contractual obligations in place to protect them,” she said.
“I think that discrimination legislation will back up what employers should already be doing for their staff.”
Miss Noakes describes herself as taking a “helicopter view” on discrimination.
“I think it’s important to have a middle-ground attitude about the issue. I have a helicopter view where I can look at things objectively,” she said
“If I, as a coloured woman and non-local, can take that approach then I think many others could to. I think we should all be looking at the issue as a community, acknowledging where the gaps are and doing what we can to solve that.
“Above all, we need to remember that our words are powerful and we should use them carefully because there are people who may read them or hear them who might be hurt by them.”
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