Open letter to neighbours who called me “the wrong kind of foreigner”

Forgive any grammatical errors or mistakes in punctuation. I’m a foreigner. No, this isn’t a cry-me- a- river kind of letter. I’m not pissed off. I should be but I’m not. I’m tired; no strike that, exhausted and immensely disappointed. ‘By whom?’ the honourable reader may ask. The answer, readers, is this: By my neighbours.

It is 04:06am, my housemates are now asleep and I am the only one awake in a house of six. Now let’s go back a few hours. It is now Friday, 22:30pm and guests are starting to show up. Music is playing in the background, people have just begun consuming their drinks and conversation is in full flow. I’m having fun and everyone else seems to be having a good time.

It is now 23:30pm; the house is filled with people. All types of music can be heard from one place to another. The lounge is a Wham fan’s heaven (and one housemate’s hell), the kitchen a Bollywood success and the backyard every smoker’s excuse for socialising. In short, it is a regular students’ house party. All my friends have arrived and I am sitting outside with them when I see a flashlight waving up and down. At that moment someone calls me in and I go inside. I don’t give the flashlight another thought.

Next thing I know, my housemate tells me to go outside because the neighbours are complaining about the noise. An elderly woman in her robe, holding a flashlight is shouting at one of my housemates for being loud. Her husband is standing right behind her, silently nodding at everything she says. My friend is trying to apologize and explain that we will let everyone go but the woman will hear none of it. I ask another housemate whether they had asked us to be quiet before she started screaming. ‘No, they never came to tell us anything’ was her response.  It is at this point that I am told by another guest that my housemate’s car was vandalized by one of the neighbours for the noise using a baseball bat a few minutes ago. My friend, thankfully, called the police but while we are waiting for them to arrive, the woman simply continues her rant. Only now it isn’t about the noise.

‘We’ve been in this neighbourhood for forty years, it is eleven o’clock at night and there’s noise coming from this house. It’s always this house’, she spews. ‘We are new tenants here, we have never had any complaints from anyone before’ my housemate replies respectfully. ‘It’s them foreigners. I see you. This is a house full of whores’, the old-wretch continues. At this point, let me clarify that my friend who has been talking with this woman is white British. When my other housemate, who is from India hears this she is furious, ‘Are you f***ing kidding me?’ she answers back to our neighbour as my other housemate, who is British of Caribbean decent holds her back and tells her not to listen. All this time I am speechless. Then, the woman trespasses our property and goes to the backyard to find one of the guests who had told her to stop waving her flashlight at us. I run after her as she continues her racial slurs and beg of her to calm down and move away. It’s as if I do not exist. She only spoke to my white housemate. Another guest, of Scandinavian origin tries to help and the woman tells her: ‘You’re the right kind of foreigner.’ This guest is tall, white and blonde.

I am the wrong kind of foreigner – Short, dark and with brown hair.  I should be ashamed. How dare I live in Britain? How dare I study here? Stealing opportunities from REAL British kids (must I explicitly say that REAL British kids are white?). How dare I rent a house? How dare I hold a house party in this rented house and invite other dark skinned, foreigners? How dare I be? How dare I?

I won’t go into further details with the story. All I will say is that the police arrived and were understanding; the blame was clearly not ours.

If you ask me how I feel about this woman I will tell you that I feel pity. I genuinely pity her. I pity her ignorance, I pity her bitterness and I pity her hatred. How could I hate someone who uses the most ridiculous of excuses, race, to be mad at society for all her own difficulties and frustrations? I cannot hate her. No one should. I can only pity her for being at this stage of her life and having never experienced the beauty of cultural diversity from first hand.

I am proud of having British friends, and not only British friends, who embrace multi-culturalism. I am grateful for having friends who in such situations defend me and don’t remain silent. Nonetheless, I do not know whether next year I will want to stay in a beautiful house, with a great landlord because my neighbours happen to be racist and violent. It is unacceptable that I should feel threatened in my own house, which I’ve made home. It is unacceptable that anyone should feel this way.

My housemates and I will try and take this case by law as far as we can to show that people should not get away with racism or discrimination of any kind. We want to be represented not simply as rightful residents but as human beings. This letter is my call to all students, of all ethnicities and backgrounds to stand together against racism, against xenophobia and against violence of any kind. There is no right or wrong kind of foreigner, there is just the right or wrong kind of person.

The views and opinions outlined in this piece belong entirely to the author, and are not reflective of the views of the wider Editorial team, nor Concrete as a whole.


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April 2021
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