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“How was your holiday in Barbados? Wow, you look so dark. You look like a nig- nog.”

‘Nig- nog’ is a pejorative term used to describe a black person. It dates back from colonialism when Britain claimed half the world for itself and reminded everyone of their superiority.

These were the first words a close White relative uttered as I stepped out of the car. “He was only joking. He didn’t mean what he said. He wasn’t thinking.” This was my husband’s defence of his relative.

Yes, he did. He knew exactly what he was saying.

I have just had a business lunch with a client. Before I leave, I give him my business card with my Sri Lankan name on it. “Oh”, he says, “you’re Indian. The trouble with the Indians in this country is that they don’t mix with anyone. They stay within their own community.” …


Shanthi Cumaraswamy Streat

On a mission to crush the grammar worrier and release the communication gladiator in international speakers of English. Am at

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