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Denise Palmer


Growing up in Rotherham with foster parents

Colour photograph of the head and shoulders of Denise Palmer.
Denise Palmer © Carl Rose


Denise Palmer was born in Sheffield to an Irish mother and half Jamaican, half First Nation (American Indian) father. She talked to Saskia Baker about her experiences of racism as a child in an interview for the Burngreave Voices oral history project in October 2006.

This sound clip lasts for 2 minutes and 20 seconds.

And what was it like growing up in Rotherham?

Um, I suffered a lot of racism... but I do fully understand it now, I mean, at first when you, like, you start school, you don't realise that you're a different colour to anybody else. I always thought I was the same as everybody else until I started to be aware, when I started school, that I was a different colour and I used to wonder why they used to call me names, but as a small child I just didn't realise that I was a different colour. But now, as you get older, you know, you learn to accept things and understand why people say things to you. And now I've got mixed children myself so I feel better now that I can help them when they have problems about their colour. And sometimes it's, people don't know; they can see your skin colour and they don't really sometimes know how to react or what to say to you and sometimes they can say things what's not very pleasant. But my foster parents was really good, I did suffer with a lot of racism through living in Rotherham, going to schools and sometimes my foster parents' family's family, they found it hard to accept that, you know, that me mum wanted to foster a mixed race child. They, you know, preferred it if she would have had a white child, they said it wouldn't have looked so bad. But my mum, she's absolutely brilliant lady and she wasn't bothered what people said to her, she'd just hold her head up high and said that she didn't care. She loved me for who I was, not because I had a different skin colour and I have a lot to thank them for. And when I used to come home, upset from school, you know, they was always there and say 'it doesn't matter, just, you know, try and ignore them' but as a child, you find it difficult to ignore because, you know, sometimes, it's still there the next day but my parents were good, you know, they'd go up to school and sort it out and that. And things have just got easier over the years.