Woman to Woman: We Got This by Lauryn Omeike
Lauryn Omeike is a 19-year-old student at the University of St Andrews in Scotland studying Financial Economics. Lauryn's mother grew up in Scotland and her father is Nigerian and moved to the UK in 1995. She would describe herself as a self-assured and positive woman with a lot of ambition, however she wasn’t always like that and as a young girl was closed off and it has taken time to get to where she is today. Her mission is to reach out to young women like her and help them to find their voices when they may feel they do not have one, to give them a stepping stone into a better and more confident future.
Over the past few years, I went from a very anxious, self-conscious and hesitant little girl to a powerful, headstrong and self-assured young woman.
Society did not make things easy for girls like me. I looked different to my peers and some of them made it very known. At a young age, I was exposed to racism, often from individuals who were in my age group themselves. A child so young can only learn such behaviours from others around them such as parents and guardians. It pains me to see that some people implement these evil ideas into their homes and tell their children it is acceptable. As a young girl, I believed that life would have been better for me if I was like the people around me, if I was white. I wanted to “fit in”. It seems that for a lot of young BAME children growing up in predominantly white areas, they also feel the same. I have spoken with people in a similar situation to me and have found they experienced similar feelings of alienation. It is time to make changes.
When I was younger, a lot of my insecurities stemmed from my skin colour. I was unable to completely be myself for fear that I was being judged. The insecurity started after I was bullied for my skin and features. The rude and inconsiderate comments stuck with me for years and would hold me back wherever I went. The effects of racial abuse are not spoken about enough. As well as being taught how wrong racism is, children should be educated to understand the impact that it can have on the mental stability of their BAME peers. If they knew how long one comment could haunt someone for, I’m sure a lot of children would think twice before making distasteful racist remarks. I began to gain more confidence when I grew older and started learning more and more about my African culture and heritage. I spent time with my African aunties and learned lots about the way that African women live. The beauty of the culture became apparent to me and I was so proud to be part of it. I started attending university in 2018 and met lots of people from all over the world from all different backgrounds, being from a small town with little diversity, this experience really allowed me to express myself.
It has been a long process for me to be the woman I am today. The confidence did not come overnight. I now have a lot of optimism for the future of BAME women, however I did not always have this. I now see active change and the implementation of more inclusive policies. I live very close to the city of Glasgow and it seems that the local councils are taking on board the criticisms regarding the glorification of slave traders via street names and statues. There are plans to potentially replace these with civil rights activists' names instead. I believe that education is extremely important when it comes to tackling racism. Glorifying individuals involved in the obscene oppression of black individuals helps to normalise a racist society and can contribute to the belief that it is acceptable and justifiable. Small changes like these can lead to big ones.
With the recent Black Lives Matter Movement, there has been a focus on the amplification of black voices. Seeing the change that this movement has made makes me very hopeful. I do not want other BAME children to grow up with the mindset that I had when I was young. I want them to feel connected to their cultures and to never be made to feel ashamed of themselves. It is so important that we, as a society, create a welcoming and open environment for everyone, no matter their skin colour or culture, only then can we truly break down the negative stereotypes and structural racism that results in the continued oppression of the BAME community. I want to see more role models who look like me. I want more women of colour in politics, in science, in finance, in computer sciences! We want to be recognised for our talent and our intelligence. The increasing platform that women of colour are gaining is great however, this needs to continue in the long term, not just as a passing trend. I am passionate about leading a long-term movement that will enable long-term change.
How can you help?
- Check out @taiiybaali on Instagram. She highlights lots of important modern issues around racism and culture and her instagram is very educational.
- Read "Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race" by Reni Eddo-Lodge.
Our blog posts do not necessarily reflect the views of all participating organisations/projects, and all language used is the author's own. Bloggers have received some editorial support from the group, and may have received a fee from the Women's Resource Centre’s social action project budget.