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You’re being watched

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‘Why are young black people in Britain six times more like to suffer from schizophrenia than the rest of the population?’ Colin Grant was asked by a lecturer in pathology when he was at medical school in the 1980s. When Grant didn’t respond, the pathologist answered for him. ‘It’s because black people are schooled in paranoia,’ he said. Decades later Grant and the Guardian’s Amelia Gentleman debate whether the pathologist was right.

‘You’re being watched,’ Grant’s father told him when he was growing up in 1970s Britain. As the child of migrants, Grant was warned that the nation’s curtain-twitchers were scrutinising him to determine whether he would conform to the stereotype that they held of black people. Namely, they were considered feckless, work-shy and destined for a life of crime. Under such circumstances then, it was best to keep your head down and make yourself invisible. But what are the physical and psychological consequences of believing and acting as if you are under constant surveillance? For the Burgh House Book Lab in London, Grant is joined by Amelia Gentleman, author of The Windrush Betrayal to talk about whether, how and why black people are schooled in paranoia, as revealed in his latest memoir, I’m Black So You Don’t Have to Be.

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