This Black History Month, we end by exploring the life, efforts and career of Hashi Mohamed.
Although a Somali, Mohamed was born in Nairobi, Kenya and moved to the UK when he was only nine years old. His father, who was a salesman, died in a tragic car crash in 1993, which was how Mohamed and his siblings ended up in the UK as refugees.
Throughout his youth, he spent much of his time being raised in poor housing conditions, on state benefits and at a low-rated comprehensive school in London. Mohamed was not shaken by this. Performing outstandingly in his school years, he eventually graduated with a degree in law and French from the University of Hertfordshire.
What happened after this brought about another milestone and gave him a new impetus to progress and enhance. With an exceptional undergraduate degree, Mohamed was awarded a scholarship to study a master’s programme at the University of Oxford. This, you could say, influenced much of his life later on. Whilst a very privileged accomplishment, Mohamed wrote a piece for The Guardian several years ago, discussing that there still remains much inequality when it comes to recruiting those of diverse backgrounds. He mentions, ‘The unwritten rules are rarely shared and ‘diversity’ and ‘open recruitment’ have made little if any difference.’
Since graduating, Mohamed has become an extremely successful barrister, and is a lifetime member of The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn. What’s more, he is a renowned public speaker, broadcaster and author of two books.
In an interview with Andrew Anthony from The Guardian, Mohamed discusses his first book titled, People Like Us. What It Takes to Make It in Modern Britain. Using his personal experiences as a blueprint, Mohamed very carefully unpacks the realities of living as a refugee in Britain.
“I think I’ve got various audiences that I have most hope for. “I really hope that parents and teachers are going to read it. I’m hoping what I’ve gone through and the lessons I’ve learned are going to be useful to people. I hope it will be useful to someone like me when I was 15 or 16 and trying to figure this stuff out.”
Mohamed also mentions in his interview with The Guardian, “There’s a bit in the book about when I went back to Kenya 10 years later, and there was a huge part of me thinking: ‘Gosh, like, if I had stayed here, what would have become of me? What kind of human being would I have grown up to be?’
Facing Resentment as a Refugee
Sure, things did turn out contrastingly different for young Mohamed. After gaining citizenship in the UK, Mohamed travelled searching for answers. He also spent much of his time questioning the quality of life as a refugee in the UK. Speaking bluntly, Mohamed talks about the resentment he faced in the UK as a refugee.
“If you are not prepared to front load that support in a financially significant way, don’t bother helping these people. Don’t bother opening your borders up to them. Don’t bother letting them in. Because if you allow us in, but then leave us to fend for ourselves, without the proper infrastructure support and nurturing and understanding of the country that we’re in, the more likely it is that you will fall through the cracks. The more likely it is that you’re not going to end up like me. And the more likely it is that you’re going to end up like my half-brother, who’s been in and out of prison, had lots of issues and has struggled, like many more Somalis who are struggling.”
Racism and Inequality
Over the years, Mohamed spoke up about many current and problematic issues, with racism being a central one. As a black barrister who was once a refugee, Mohamed often makes it a point to emphasise the realities of both worlds. In his concluding remarks with The Guardian, Mohamed mentioned, “When you start referring to yourself as a person of colour, where does that definition of who you are begin and end?” It begins: ‘Because I’m not white.’ And it ends: ‘Because I’m not white.’ So the whole essence of who you are has been defined by something of an other, something over there. Now, if that is where your self-identification begins and ends, in my mind, that’s not healthy.”
Social mobility is also something Mohamed speaks about very often. In an article for The Guardian titled ‘Telling children ‘hard work gets you to the top’ is simply a lie’, Mohamed tackles some of the ugly truths about hard work and further proffers advice for employers. He says, “Employers must see hiring youngsters from poorer backgrounds as good for business as well as for a fairer society. They must be assisted with a real chance to succeed, in a non-judgmental context and inclusive environment. They must do more to focus on potential rather than polish. More leadership and more risk-taking are required on this front.”
Main Image Credit: hashimohamed.com