the3million reflect on Black History Month with an interview of Assa Samaké-Roman, a French journalist in Scotland.
First published in October 2020.
Today is the last day of Black History Month. It was the first year we, as an organisation celebrated black EU citizens, and it has been a journey which will continue well past this month. Today, you can read Assa Samaké-Roman’s interview, a French national living in Edinburgh.
We all agree that there is a problem of representation in the3million, and people of colour and other under-represented voices must be heard. We must challenge the stereotype that EU citizens are just white and privileged Europeans. If you agree with us, we are looking for leaders so please join us in this fight.
Black History Month — Interview with Assa Samaké-Rom, a French journalist living in Edinburgh.
“Originally, I am from the centre of France. I first came to Scotland in 2010 through Erasmus and I found the country to be fascinating and the people were wonderful. I love food and drinks too.
“I went back to France after Erasmus to work as a journalist but I came back to Scotland two years ago because I wanted to cover the Brexit process, as well as the resurgence of the independence question and all the social debates in Scotland.
“For me and for other EU citizens, the Scottish people have been so welcoming and the political leadership has helped. I waited for a while for my pre-Settled Status only two weeks ago but I felt relieved.”
Relationship with her identity
“Identity is always interesting. Most people think it’s a monolith. But actually, it’s very plural and you can combine multiple identities. They just change depending on where you are, and the people around you.
“After Erasmus and becoming friends with people from all over the world, I certainly felt like a citizen of the world and an EU citizen.
“I am a Black woman, and I think my blackness was what defined me when I was in France. But in Scotland, my Frenchness is what defines me first: I feel as if people hear my accent before seeing my colour. My experience as a Black person in Scotland is very different, I think, from the experience of a Black British or a Black Scot.
“Identities can come and go, depending on where you are geographically and in life. It’s very important you don’t have to choose. You can be everything at the same time.
“Because being Scottish is, for the moment, a nationality rather than a citizenship, I feel it's easier here to mix different identities. I feel like a Scottish citizen because I feel I belong to the community, plus I can vote. Last year, I met a cabinet minister in Glasgow and I was asking questions about the election and the prospect of a future Independence referendum. She said she was born in Scotland but as long as I lived in the country, I was as Scottish as she was.
“Of course, I will always be French because it’s my culture and my language, but I also have a Western African heritage, and when I am with my family, it comes out more, and when I am with my English friends, they definitely see a Scottish touch in me.”
Assa’s future in Scotland
“I feel very integrated, with friends across the four nations of the UK. Here in Leith, it’s cosmopolitan and easy to meet people. There is a consensus about what it means to be Scottish and I will probably keep on feeling Scottish. I would apply for Scottish citizenship if Scotland was ever in a position to give citizenship. I am not inclined to apply to British citizenship in the future though.”
About Black Lives Matter (BLM)
“Black Lives Matter is not a new movement (it started in 2013) and in Scotland, it took a different form from the focus in the US about police violence.
“Here, it’s more about how we remember black history, education and representation. I met so many people who were shocked they didn’t know about their own history related to the slave trade in Scotland, which benefited from the transatlantic trade as much as the rest of the UK. We need to remember where we come from and deconstruct bias to promote equality and fairness.”
Should we engage more with the BLM movement?
“We need to have this debate with our friends and families, in the workplace, in our schools or universities. It’s everyone’s responsibility because we are part of society and we need to have this debate on equality.
“I really recommend your readers to watch this video with Bob the drag queen from RuPaul’s Drag Race, where she says that whether we like it or not, we’re all racists. Not because we choose to be, but because we have been taught to see the world with biased lenses.
“We are immigrants and immigrants are often marginalised but because we come from Europe, we do not feel it in the same way African or Asian immigrants do, so we need to join the dots and show solidarity, be aware of the hatred in our society and fight it.”
How can Black EU citizens raise their voice, and disrupt the common stereotype in British society that EU citizens are white?
“I don’t think there is a magical solution. The issue of representation is very important.
“There is a perception EU citizens are white and privileged but the truth is EU citizens are very diverse and people of all walks of life need to feel represented when EU citizens voices speak publicly.
“There is undoubtedly a need for the3million to reach out to EU citizens of all walks of life and show you are a welcoming and open organisation.
“Our voice is legitimate, whoever we are. This is our country and we are just like everyone else. So be engaged, join the3million and speak out on the issues which matter to you as an EU citizen.”🔷
Nicolas Hatton, Founder of the3million to protect #citizensrights.
The3million, the largest group of EU citizens in the UK, with volunteers working on advocacy, policy, legal, media, social media, grassroots and events.
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