Alpesh Patel’s Political Sketchbook: The Colour of my Skin

You may have seen my broadcast on BBC that people of my skin colour are simply not on FTSE 100 company boards. It drew some gasps from the presenter and set Twitter aflutter. We must speak out, boldly at every opportunity.

Indeed, the week when, led by Baroness Flather and Lord Bilimoria, the Commonwealth Gates were the scene for commemorating the service of Commonwealth soldiers in the two World Wars, we have every right to be represented in every aspect of British life – in proportionate numbers.

This skin which when I was young and foolish, how I wished it was any other colour. Any other colour, preferably a very pale colour as I was kicked at school, mocked and bullied because of the colour of my skin. The colour of my skin which told people I worshiped an elephant god in my faith.

As I grew older, I realised my greatest asset was the colour of my skin. This skin which is a walking advertisement that I belong to the oldest of all civilisations and religions. The civilisation without which the world would not have mathematics and therefore science or the West its languages. This skin which is a brand, a brand which means whatever I do or say I am a brand ambassador for that civilisation.

You see it has been estimated Britain, which only in the last 10 years finished paying its loans borrowed to fight the second world war, spent in today’s money over 10 trillion dollars to fight tyranny, sacrificed an Empire, all for principle, all because a small Eastern European country was invaded at a time when invasions were commonplace in 1939. So when someone mocks Britain as being a spent power, you remind them of the sacrifices of this island nation, and that this is our home, where people of my colour of skin are welcome and people of the colour of my skin in return volunteer to make it a better country – because paying taxes and being law-abiding is not sufficient discharge of our debts.

Another reason: because I must prove to myself the blood running through these veins under the colour of this skin, is the blood betrothed by good fortune to me by my ancestors of India. That it is the same blood in some small part as the blood of Gandhiji and the Sardar. Bloodlines should be put to the test – voluntarily not just in times of emergency.

It is often said that the greatest generation is the generation which fought in the second world war – the generation of my grandparents. Those who sacrificed their lives to rid the world of tyranny. And they did it in the national service. We god willing will never be called upon to show such greatness, but in times of peace, our proof that we are worthy of being the descendants of the greatest generation is if we too volunteer in the national service.

Because if we don’t do this, how do we look our children’s children in the eye when in years to come they will turn to us, as we tell them to get off the sofa and make a difference, and ask us, ‘well what did you do then?’ We have to be worthy of our grandparents, worthy of our grandchildren.

Alpesh Patel

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