Being Black and British feels different now I’m at an Ivy League university | Amandla Thomas-Johnson

The responses to my London accent show how UK Black culture is changing perceptions in the US – but only for some

I hadn’t even reached Ithaca, the tiny university town in upstate New York – my home for the next six years, as I studied for a PhD – when the confusion over my Blackness and British accent began. I was ill-prepared for Matt, the skinny white American in a cap sitting beside me on the plane. “But you don’t seem like you’re from London,” he said (I’m from Hackney, and very proud). Matt had never been to the UK, let alone London.

This response emerges from the US’s own unique history of race and class. The British accent remains for some the epitome of white privilege, reviving memories of high-born English settlers and exuding an air of aristocracy. Blackness signifies the opposite. The property of those settlers. The lowest of the low. Slaves. And so I was violating the US’s time-worn prejudices. Matt was trying to put me back in my place.

Amandla Thomas-Johnson is a freelance journalist, PhD student and author of Becoming Kwame Ture

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