The story of a third generation migrant in the UK. The twenty-two year old granddaughter of migrants from the Caribbean was born and raised in England, but feelings of disconnect from both Britain and her ancestors’ homeland have kept her belief of where she belongs torn.
Her father’s parents came to the UK from Jamaica, while her mother’s parents relocated from Grenada. As a third generation migrant of Black Caribbean ancestry, Bethany Gordon has at times felt a struggle to fully integrate into British society.
For Gordon, life in England has been slightly easier than it was for her grandparents who worked hard, earned little, and confronted a lot of racism.
Although blessed with many more opportunities, Gordon has still faced instances of discrimination – causing her to wonder how different life would be if she lived in a country where people of her race made up the majority.
Yet having only visited the Caribbean a few times, and not feeling fully connected to its culture, an inner conflict over where she is truly from burns within her. Bethany spoke to The Prisma.
Are you still in communication with your grandparents?
I am only in contact with my grandmother from Grenada on my mother’s side.
My father’s parents moved back to Jamaica before I was born, so I do not have much contact with them now.
Have you ever visited Jamaica or Grenada?
Yes, I visited Jamaica when I was three years old. However, I do not remember the experience at all, so I do not feel connected to Jamaica.
But I have visited Grenada twice. Most recently was when I was twelve years old – so I have more of a connection with Grenada.
Well, when I go to Grenada, I do not feel like I am from there – I do feel like I fit in more when I am there – but I would still say that Britain is my home.
I feel like Britain is a hostile country. In a way, I just feel like I do not fully integrate. There is always some kind of racism – I have experienced it in my life at times.
But when you are in a country that is made up by a majority of people who are of your background, and the same race as you, you do not really experience hostility.
Do you feel more comfortable in Grenada?
Yes, definitely. In the future I would love to move there for a while, see what it would be like to fit in, and not worry about what people think of me just because of the colour of my skin.
Do you think it is easier for people of European descent to fit in here as third generation migrants?
Yes, I would say so because on first glance, you would think they were completely British, and the only way you could tell they were not would possibly be from their surname. But with me, people simply look at me and think, “obviously you are not from an English background”.
I know that my grandmother experienced racism when she came here. She could not go into certain shops and she could not do certain things because of the way she looked and where she was from. People would also make fun of her.
For my mum, it was slightly easier. Things improved over time – but there was still quite a bit of [racism].
I have only experienced racism a handful of times in my life. Perhaps less than ten, so nowadays, it is not that bad.
Do you experience any language barriers when you visit Grenada?
In Grenada the English is sometimes mixed with a bit of French, so there are certain words that I cannot understand.
There are also slight language barriers caused because they have a certain way of speaking, and saying certain phrases that I cannot replicate.
I speak with a British accent that is completely different to theirs, so again, there is another slight barrier.
England is all I know. I was raised here and this is what I am used to. Despite some of the issues I have faced, this is still where I feel most comfortable and safe.
How do you feel knowing that others may look at you and consider you a foreigner?
Without even speaking to me, people sometimes assume that I am not from here.
I even had an experience today at a business competition when one of the mentors only asked me and another black man “Where are you from?” He did not ask anyone else where they were from, so in his mind, I am not from here.
I do not think it affects me now that I am older, but when I was younger, I feel like it affected me a little bit more.
Do you feel you belong here (England)?
I feel like I belong in Grenada more. Although I feel like I am from here, and this is where I call home, I do not feel like I fully belong here, and I have felt this way all throughout my life.
Are there any parts of British culture that you feel a person’s race or ancestral history could stop them from being a part of?
There is one example that until recently did stop me from doing certain things, which is going into pubs. I have always felt that was a very British thing to do.
But I have sort of overcome that now. Sometimes I do get stared at because I look completely different to the people who are in there.
Definitely. My grandparents, literally just came to Bedford to work in the steelworks, they made parts for the train tracks.
I can see that each generation’s educational levels have increased. My mum, for example, although she did not complete higher education until she was older, now has a degree.
I am currently getting my degree, and I will hopefully be doing a masters.
Do you feel you will have better job opportunities than your grandparents?
Yes, definitely. Qualifications definitely help you to get better jobs.
My grandparents came here with nothing, and when they arrived they had no job, so literally took any job they could and worked a lot of hours.
I have more opportunities to look around and search for jobs that I want to do, rather than those I have to do.
Why do you feel jobs and qualifications improve with every generation?
Each generation works harder to get their children onto the same level as other British children.
It has made me more determined to get what I want in life. If my parents were to pass away, I would not be getting much money, property or much of anything.
When British people with a long line of British ancestors experience a death in their family, they usually inherit a house or a ton of money.
I cannot rely on other people; I have to rely on myself, which is why I work hard to get to where I want to get.
Are there any parts of your grandparents’ culture that you still feel close to?
The only two things that I feel close to are food and music. When I am at my grandmother’s house she cooks Grenadian food and listens to Grenadian music. These things have also been passed onto my mother, so I have been around it my whole life.
Is there anything about you that you would pinpoint as being quintessentially British?
The only thing I would pinpoint would be my accent. I sound very British. If you were speaking to me on the phone, I don’t think you would know where I was from.
I definitely feel more connected to British politics. I do not know much about the politics in the Caribbean.
Because I am experiencing British politics, I feel more involved and also like I should do more to counteract some of Britain’s inequality issues.
Are there any ways in which you are fighting against discrimination?
I do not feel like I am experiencing much discrimination, but I know that other people are – especially when it comes to jobs. I know one or two third generation migrants who are trying to get into certain industries – one of which being fashion – where there is still a lot of discrimination.
Many first generation migrants had aims of one day returning back to their homeland….
I would love to travel and live in Jamaica and Grenada, and experience life there. I would love to live in Africa for a while also, as that is where my forefathers are from.
Although I am British, I do not feel that British culture is fully mine. I would love to find and explore myself. (Jan 9, 2017 @ 07:16)