Prejudice and discrimination based on skin colour is still alive and kicking the world over. With a worrying wave of violent white supremacist rallies and growing intolerance sweeping across the globe, Lovin Malta spoke to a handful Maltese citizens to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be the target of racism in your own country.
“We boast about advancements and stuff but there are areas which are far behind”
Anon, Student and Waiter, 16
“I’ve just started a summer job at a restaurant, it’s my first job so I was very enthusiastic. On my second night I was working my usual six-hour night shift when a table of six British tourists came into the restaurant. I greeted them by the entrance and showed them to their table and gave them some menus. By that time I had already noticed dirty looks and light whispering into each others’ ears.
I gave them a little time to look at the menu and went to take their order when one of the men sitting on that table, of around sixty-something years of age loudly pointed out that he doesn’t want a dark person to serve him and his family.
My manager had to come over and intervene. It shook me for a while but at least the manager apologised for them to me and I continued to serve the other tables. They didn’t get asked to leave but thankfully they didn’t take long to finish their food…”
Jake Mizzi, DJ, 23
“I’ve had several episodes where people picked on me or made fun of me because of my complexion. At a very young age I rarely had any problems, young kids my age would ask me why my skin had a different colour than theirs but that was it. I once asked some teenagers who were playing football if I could join their game; I introduced myself as Jake but they decided to call me “Guinness”. Since I was still about 9 years old at the time, I didn’t realise that they were actually making fun of me.
I spent my teenage years playing football, and I received verbal abuse from supporters and even players. I remember one time a player from the opposing team got sent off two minutes after kickoff because he was shouting “Dal-l*ba iswed skurjalna“. He kept on provoking me from outside the football field during the whole match.
I got beaten up once together with my friend outside a nightclub for no reason. I remember the aggressors calling me “iswed, iswed, mur lura pajjiżek.”
Nowadays, it doesn’t happen that much. People seem to know me since I DJ. I only get a few racist comments here and there from older people. There’s one thing that I really can’t stand. People tend to be mean when the subject is a black person. And sometimes I even argue with a few friends of mine. They tell me “U le, int okay int Malti” as if I’m not black. I just don’t get that.”
“I have been in an interracial relationship with my husband for these last 10 years. He used to live abroad. In the beginning it was not easy… 10 years ago and still even today it was not easy for the family to accept that their daughter had a relationship with a foreigner especially a “coloured” person. It took me a while before I told my family but once I told them they eventually accepted our relationship.
Outside it was a different story. Some friends stopped speaking to me because of my relationship. We used to go out and hear people passing comments like “Ara din biex tgħabbiet” or “Ara issa fiex wasalna…“. Many times we were denied entry into clubs, and when I used to ask why they used to tell me “Dik l-ordni, dawk inkwiet biss“. It used to be very hard for my husband since we used to go out in a group and he used to feel so sad to hear such comments.
At work he always used to get employed from employers but the problem was from the workers who used to say comments like “go back to your country”. Six years ago we got married and 4 years ago we had our first daughter, followed by our second the year later. Now we experience different things. When I am alone and people see me with my two daughters they just stare and stare as if we are aliens…some people comment either out of ignorance or out of curiosity- “Ara kemm huma helwin. Min fejn ġibthom?” or “Jahasra hawn żgur ikollhom ħajja ahjar“. When I tell them that these are my own children and they are mixed race because my husband is foreigner they just stare and reply “eh ehe mela biex joqgħod hawn” or “issa kieku jaħrab bihom“.
I also hear comments such “heq imma dawn Maltin allura“. I believe that there is a sense of ignorance beside people being racist. Things are changing slowly but there’s still a long way to go. When we are all together people just stare at us, and sometimes I notice they talk behind our backs. I’ve learned to ignore it and carry on with our life, but it’s not easy.
My husband finds it more difficult. He experiences discrimination on a daily basis, especially when he is alone. We’ve had to learn the hard way, and to fight for rights in a good way. To be tough and strong, to fight for the person you love and now fight for my daughters to have a good life in their own country. Until now, thank God, my children are happy at child care and school- totally accepted. But yes, I’m scared about how things will go once they start growing. Children are not born racist. Adults teach them to be.”