A day to forget, a day to remember

Normally, I get up and get on! However tired or anxious I am, I wake up with the thought- let’s be having you, day!

It has been a few tough days as I am dragging some pretty hefty complex feelings and I am about to do four Fallen Fruit shows back to back. Tough days not just because I haven’t slept well, but because I am livid, angry, ashamed. I feel like the hard work I do to be a kind of a cultural ambassador for Bulgaria was undone, shat upon by a bunch of far right racists I condemn from the bottom of my heart.

I don’t follow football (nor am I interested in much other sport) but what I saw on the 10 o’clock BBC news on Monday night reduced me to tears, to sleepless nights and to days where I am navigating the streets feeling anger and shame and embarrassment roaring within me all at the same time. It is a time when football’s racist ugly side has followed me and I have barely any idea of how to deal with it.

So much of what I do, what we do at Two Destination Language, is about creating and bridging gaps between cultures and contexts. I feel personally implicated and personally responsible to apologize for what a small bunch of fascist racists from the country I come from did to people on the pitch and to millions off the pitch. To all of us, really. Their actions were a jolt, because they seem to come from a past nobody I respect wishes to return to.

All sorts of places have their problems with bigoted populism, but it was thrown in my face so unexpectedly, and it hurts. And I’m not even the target. It is ugly, unacceptable and completely deplorable but I was wondering about why it hurt me.

It took a while to click. I’ve lived most of my life in the UK, a Bulgarian abroad, making my home here. The racism I’ve witnessed over the past 20 years has been varied, in its targets and its perpetrators. I’ve been on the sharp end of discrimination, many times. But I’ve hardly ever seen Bulgarian racism. I’m not pretending it wasn’t there until this weekend, but I didn’t see it: not when I was here in Britain and not when I visited Bulgaria either. I’ve complained about corruption and bad government, but I’ve always thought of myself as on the side of the people. This weekend, it felt some of the people – my people – had turned. It wasn’t just that I didn’t want them reflecting badly on me, but that I was seeing something I had the privilege of not having had to watch. When there was a problem in the English game, it was a nationhood away, and that safety net had been ripped away.

So I’m wondering what I should have done. What my responsibility is in this: where I could have taken action on a visit home, or a conversation with friends here in Britain and conversations back at home. Because bigotry doesn’t begin with fascist salutes and crowds chanting abuse. It begins with jokes and excuses. It begins with things that need calling out, long before anyone thinks of organising a trip to a stadium. It begins with celebrating difference, and the complexities of the heritage each of us brings.

It begins with me, with us. All of us.

With much love, Kat x