Black student in Barking helps the BNP to distribute racist leaflets

Three-minute story

Black student in Barking helps the BNP to distribute racist leaflets

He had settled in well and appeared in one of my classes in the late seventies. The Apartheid regime in South Africa had not taken too well to black journalists who criticised their white supremacist government and Ian’s parents had managed to escape and had brought him to England.

One summer afternoon I took his class to London, to a theatre matinée, and we returned to Barking Station with the first of the rush-hour crowds. As we got off the train I could see Ian walking ahead – at fourteen he was a head taller than most of the class. At the foot of the stairs that led up from the platform Ian stopped and, as I approached, I could see that he was talking to a leather-clad skin-head who was trying hard to push leaflets into the hands of the commuters.

“Let me give you a hand. You’ll never reach everyone from one side.”

The skin-head looked quickly up at Ian and his Mohican hair cut quivered aggressively. Why, I wondered, why was Ian so keen to help out? It all looked like a stunt by the right-wing *BNP to me.

And then Ian was standing there, on the other side of the stairway handing out leaflets. By now I had got hold of one and had read the first line – Blacks Go Home. What did Ian think he was doing, was my next question and then I saw people holding the leaflets as they slowed and made their way up the stairs. They were laughing and looking back at Ian who had handed them this rubbish. Opposite Ian, his newly-found skin-head friend continued unawares.

We waited at the top of the stairs until the leaflets ran out and set off for home.
Next day, back at school, I asked Ian about it.

“Well,” he said, “Those leaflets – no skin off my nose. I only live round the corner from the station.”

*The British National Party

What does the writer mean by the words, “….had not taken too well to black journalists,” in the first paragraph?

Can you explain what Ian was doing?

Return to Mini Stories main page
Share this: