I don’t know who came up with ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words shall never hurt me,’ but it’s nonsense – words can sometimes hurt a lot more than broken bones. Sometimes words break things inside us that we didn’t even know could be broken.
It didn’t break my heart, but one incident did almost make me lose my faith in humanity. It was a letter I received near the end of my term, from someone who was clearly still upset about my actions towards Donald Trump.
On 4 July 2018, in advance of Trump’s visit to the UK, I had worn a T-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘Donald Trump is a wasteman’ and a sombrero, before walking into the monthly council meeting in Sheffield Town Hall. I also sent this tweet:
“I Magid Magid, Lord Mayor & First Citizen of this city, hereby declare that not only is Donald J. Trump a WASTEMAN, but he is also henceforth banned from the great city of Sheffield! I further declare 13 July to be Mexico Solidarity Day!”
Although“wasteman” is a term that my friends and many people across the country use, I knew it wasn’t familiar to broadcasters or to the vast majority of people aged 40 or above – I suspected and hoped that it would become a talking point and raise awareness. Was Trump ever going to visit Sheffield? Probably not, but telling him that he wasn’t welcome in our great city was a symbolic gesture.
In response to that gesture, though, I received an anonymous letter full of vile racist language, disgusting homophobia and the threat of harm, not to mention a sinister reference to Jo Cox MP, a great woman who was brutally assassinated by a far-right terrorist.
I decided to share the letter on Twitter – not to ask for sympathy or anger, but so it would to serve as a harsh reminder of the hate and intolerance that has penetrated to the very heart of our communities, a reminder of the difficulties we face in our struggle to build a fairer and more equal society.
Taking a stand like this takes energy, and we all need coping mechanisms to help us see the hope, whether it’s yoga, praying or drawing. For me, despite what my dentist or my waistline tells me, that mechanism is cake!
I have become more resistant to the abuse I get, but I think it helps that I’m always focused on something else. My energy is limited, and it’s always better to focus on the positive things and on the bigger objective. It’s like the idea that when you’re in a rush, you don’t notice the rain. Just keep going – you might get wet, but a bit of water doesn’t hurt.
If you would be open to sharing your lived experiences such as Magid’s, please do get in touch with us via email. We’re currently working on a new campaign, building on our Delivering Diversity research, and your input would make all the difference.
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