Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet)

Bringing together researchers, practitioners and policy makers working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland

My Name is Alison…

During the last 3 months Alison has been working in Ghana, Australia and New Zealand – all post-colonial contexts where questions of race and indigenaity are deeply implicated in the histories, the present and in the imagined futures of the countries. How refugees are welcomed, what happens to displaced peoples and how white bodies make decisions and wield power over displaced peoples have also been strong themes of the work. With the xenophobic election campaigns in both UK (BREXIT) and USA recently many questions have been asked of her in her public lectures, in panel debates and workshops about the role of race in decolonizing contexts of research, arts and culture. This poem is one of her responses to these questions.


My name is Alison,

…and I am a recovering racist,


But I was born with this addiction

because my ancestors were white

and the country I am from grew fat

in every imperial fight.

Money, privilege and power

come through the barrel of a gun.

That wasn’t just in history

it’s still how this is done.


The work which calls me loudly

towards your skins and eyes and tears

is the work which is intention

to assuage those birth-right fears.


So do not idolize my actions

do not praise my words as bold

do not look at the donations

or the papers that I hold.


The thoughts I have of charity

are just part of this addiction

inherited from a line

that is a long and bleached-out fiction.


I do not have to worry when my skin

is in a room

or on a train

or in a car

or in the immigration tomb.


I will be given space and money

and more time,

because I’m white,


because my ancestors were slave owners,

or slave drivers

and right.


While you my friends, my kindred

will be skinned another way,

flayed into diminishments

through ever greater punishments

and all those cruel admonishments.


The only proper meaning of the white man’s burden.

is that for all my days commitment

will be to a healing labour.


on my death bed, in my dying

I will be a racist too.

But its shouldering the burden

that will lead to something new


not denial of what sticks to

every tone, or shade or pore

but the making of relationships

that brim with something more


something giving and forgiving

of the shame upon my skin

something real and raw and honest

that can live with history’s sin.


At times our conversation

will make our skins dissolve

and around us through the laughter

a new world may revolve

when the tears are all that join us

when the skin gives way to bone.


And through the pain we’ll love again

and call this earth our home.



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This entry was posted on December 23, 2016 by in Comment, Personal reflections series and tagged , .
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