‘You get stared at’: What it’s like growing up black in the South West

Everyday racism faced by black and mixed-race people living in the South West has been highlighted in a new film.

Maia Thomas, from Exeter, produced the film to educate communities in the region on what it is like growing up as BAME.

The 21-year-old says a lack of diversity in the South West compared to other parts of the UK has meant some people “refuse to acknowledge racism”.

“Racism is happening, and now people can hear first-hand experiences from people who are experiencing it everyday,” she told ITV News West Country.

Maia Thomas speaking to ITV News West Country Credit: Maia Thomas

The short film, which has been viewed more than 16,000 times on social media, features a number of Maia’s friends and family, who talk openly about their experiences growing up in the region - including villages in Devon and Cornwall as well as Exeter and Bristol.

Some talk about being abused at school, others said they felt “judged” based on the colour of their skin.

Maia, who also features in the film, explains: “In Devon, as there aren’t many black people or ethnic minorities, you get stared at all of the time. In London, you wouldn’t get that same reaction.

“It was important for us to highlight what it’s like in the South West because a lot of people have refused to acknowledge it’s happening, and education was always an important aspect for us when speaking about Black Lives Matter in the South West.”

In June, following the death of George Floyd in the United States, Maia co-founded a Black Lives Matter group in Exeter and helped organise protests in the city.

It led to her and her co-founder, Sam Draper, receiving death threats and abuse from people online - the most serious of which were reported to the police.

Maia (right) speaking at a Black Lives Matter protest in Exeter.

Undeterred, Maia says she will continue campaigning to end racism.

'Racism is happening' - Maia on why she made the film

“I hope people now know that it is happening, and have seen the video and think ‘what can I do now, beyond a protest? How can I continue to educate family and friends?’ 

“What movements can they make themselves to contribute to what we’re trying to do as activists ourselves? Because racism won’t be solved only by one person. 

“It’s about the community and the world coming together, so I really hope people share the video, understand the messages within it and work towards changing society so we don’t have to go through the experiences highlighted in the video.”

To watch Maia's short film in full, click here.

Read more: