Roy Campbell, a Surrey resident, explains his experiences growing up and living as a biracial man. (submitted photo)

Roy Campbell, a Surrey resident, explains his experiences growing up and living as a biracial man. (submitted photo)

‘Racism, it destroys your soul’: Surrey man looks to youth for change

Roy Campbell explains his ‘unique perspective and experience’ as a biracial man who has faced racism

Roy Campbell says the “greatest voice comes from young people.”

Campbell, a Surrey resident, wrote a letter to the Surrey Now-Leader about his “unique perspective and experience” as a biracial man who has faced racism.

The Now-Leader spoke with Campbell Friday (June 5), as protests and marches in honour of George Floyd, who died while being restrained by police in Minneapolis, took place around the world.

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C., June 5, 2020

READ ALSO: Protests shift to memorializing George Floyd amid push for change, June 5, 2020

“They are there making a difference and I am with them all the way,” said Campbell.

“We’re all learning as this moves along now. I think we’re in a state of transition. I hope we’re in a state of transition more than ever, even more than the ‘60s with Martin Luther King (Jr.) and all the marches and the deaths that proceeded that,” Campbell said.

“I hope this is a turning point, and not one of those, ‘OK, let’s go back to where we were,’ and all the deaths that have been highlighted, just fade away.”

He believes the difference now is that people have cellphones to document the racist acts and “show the world that there is injustice out there.”

Campbell was born in Manchester to his white mother from Liverpool and his Jamaican father.

At five years old, he and his parents sailed to Jamaica where they lived for 10 years before moving back to the U.K. There, racism wasn’t a problem for Campbell, but was for his mother.

“It was devastatingly hard for her to deal with racism. My unique perspective of being biracial, living in a black country and living in a white country, and I can see both sides — to a certain extent — of the fence.”

Then they moved back to England, where the neighbourhood wasn’t so inviting. A petition “to get the black family out,” was launched, and his family moved to a different community to build a business. Campbell attended a nearby school that was “99 per cent white.”

There, he was met with daily beatings by school-yard gangs.

“That was because of the colour of my skin,” said Campbell, adding that he had no protection, no after-school programs to avoid the gangs. So, he joined one of the gangs who let him, and he grew up in “avoiding” the police.

“For me, it was all about being accepted … when you’re a young kid and you’re different, racism, it destroys your soul.”

Campbell is now a youth worker in the Delta School District, helping at-risk kids – a job he’s had for the past 27 years.

“The young people are powerful. Our kids in our school, I tell each one of them they have the opportunity to change the world. I think you’ve got to say it over and over and over and over before they start to believe it.”

But it can’t be a one-off.

“Because if you don’t get loud … George Floyd is just going to get swept under the carpet again, and there’s going to be another black person, there’s going to be another Indigenous person getting hurt, there’s going to be another racial attack.”

“If it’s a one-off, people are waiting for you to quiet down. They put the file in the back of their cabinet, and they move on with their policies. If you want the government to change, you’ve got to be loud, and you’ve got to insist and demand change.”

Campbell added that he also wants people when they go home from the marches and protests, “to stop and take a deep look at their inner biases.”

“We can hold placards up and say this matters, that matters, but at the end of the day, it’s here inside of us that truly matters. How we treat each other when no one’s watching … We’ve got to stop and hold ourselves accountable and just make some adjustments about how we talk about people, how we treat people, how we’re making jokes about people, whether it be sexism, homophobia, racism. We’ve all personally got to take responsibility and also hold people accountable.”

One of the best decisions Campbell ever made was leaving the UK and moving to the Lower Mainland – but to think Canada isn’t home to racism would be inaccurate. He’s been the target of “subtle” racism, and felt tension when he’s the only visible minority.

“I think Vancouver is a little bit more accepting. I think we do have racism here but it seems to be more of a subtle kind of racism. It’s not in-your-face kind of racism. I think people say more (ethnic) jokes about people.”

Because the Lower Mainland has a smaller, visible black community than the rest of the country and across the border, Campbell thinks “we’re lacking a lot of black leaders, black perspective.”

“I think the black community here needs to hear more of people of colour, such as myself,” said Campbell, a public speaker who presented at TedX Bear Creek Park in 2019

“How did I get from the place of where I was to where I am? Because I really hated the police, without a doubt, based on my younger experiences. Now, I have the utmost respect for them.”

He said that a lot of kids need to know, “How do you make that transition of hatred based on your experience? What is it that we can do to live a more productive and safer life?

Where can they go when they feel accused, harrassed or any sort of injustice.

“Can we go to a white community leader? Will they understand what we’re dealing with?”

READ ALSO: ‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S., May 31, 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP is investigating after a serious three-vehicle crash at the intersection of King George Boulevard and 128th Street Thursday afternoon (May 6, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Police watchdog investigating serious collision in Surrey

Incident happend May 6 at King George Boulevard and 128th Street

Surrey Fire Service firefighters quickly contained a fire on 75A Avenue. (Shane MacKichan photos)
PHOTOS: Surrey firefighters extinguish second house fire in Newton

Second fire incident reported in Newton Sunday morning

Surrey RCMP are investigating two ‘suspicious’ fires in Newton Sunday morning. (Shane MacKichan photos)
(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

Vancouver Giants celebrated a Justin Sourdif goal Saturday night in Kamloops. Giants dropped a 3-1 decision to Kamloops, a game that clinched the 2020-21 B.C. Division banner for the Blazers. (Allen Douglas/special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Vancouver Giants drop 3-1 decision to Kamloops

Third-period rally should have come sooner, said coach of Langley-based team

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country’s crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
IHIT investigating after man killed in Burnaby shooting

Police looking for more information on fatal shooting

After Bobby Henderson apologized online for his comments to a Toronto reporter, the Langley Rivermen announced that he was no longer team coach and general manager and in fact, had ‘parted ways’ with the franchise in March. (file/Twitter)
Former Langley Rivermen coach and GM apologizes for comments to Toronto reporter

Bobby Henderson blames stress due to the pandemic for his ‘disparaging’ remarks

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Most Read