I have been feeling low lately. I’m talking incredibly, monumentally down. With the outcome of the EU referendum coupled with the horrendous spate of murders of black men and women by U.S. police (let’s face it, the cold blooded killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile was nothing short of assassination) I’ve slowly begun to fall out of love with Britain. My home of 30 years. Like a jilted lover who has been tossed aside, I feel used, worthless, unwanted and unloved. I am also scared. Truly fearful. I’ve always known and felt racism, but until now it has been a subtle, covert enemy as opposed to this overt, boisterous one. My grandparents came to England from Jamaica in the 50’s. Both my parents were born here. I was born here. This is my home. Yet with recent events I am increasingly feeling like an unwanted house guest who has outstayed their welcome. Hate crime in the UK is up 50% in the wake of Brexit. Paranoia has set in – I feel vulnerable. I feel the need to escape from the incredible despair and hopelessness of the injustice of it all. It’s times like these that I take solace in the beauty of nature, switch off from the world and get lost within my own thoughts.
I was born into a completely different world which probably seems alien to those who were not born into it too. I was taught by my family from as early as I remember how to navigate my way through this racist world, avoid pitfalls and danger. Kind of like the matrix, there is a perceived reality and an actual reality that black people know all too well and that some people (irrespective of race/ colour) refuse to see. Racism exists. It is real. Not (just) because of the Charleston shooting or the unjust deaths of Black people by police. Racism is real to ME because of what I HAVE experienced and lived through. From outright prejudice, general profiling or simply battling the negative stereotypes that have tarred black people for years. So conscious am I of these aspersions that whenever I meet someone new, I find myself going out of my way to prove that I am not that angry, ghetto, black girl so voraciously depicted in the media. Every black person rich or poor, gay or straight, short or tall are all bonded silently by the secret plight of the racism matrix. We glance at each other with knowing looks. What is understood doesn’t need to be explained, so we don’t talk about it.
But as tensions rise, modern day Morpheus’ and Neo’s are altering reality in droves, smartphone in hand, capturing racism and sharing it across the globe for all to see. The silent plight of black people has now found its voice (though many attempt to silence us once more with all lives matter rhetoric). My social timelines have become divided and I find myself debating whether or not to like or repost pro black updates for fear of offending my non black friends or inciting a ‘hate-filled’ debate from an ignorant random. I was conflicted. I struggled. But in the end, the calling was too great. I feel the injustice of systematic racism down in my soul. It moves me to the core and affects me, my family and every black person I have ever known. Despite having white friends, white colleagues and white family members, when the topic of racism is broached I shy away, fearful of that invisible wall between us growing ever taller. Truth is, I yearn to know why white people don’t want to talk about racism? I want to know how my non black friends feel about what’s happening to their black peers and loved ones? I want to know if my pro blackness offends? I want to know how #blacklivesmatter makes white people feel? I want to know why the white people I love dearly have gone eerily quiet? Why do they not feel comfortable to lend their voice to this dialogue?
It’s time we address the elephant in the room. It’s a conversation that needs to be had. Reading this article and the comments from white people who have also read it gave me hope (which was in very short supply) that we, black and white, can have a honest, healthy conversation about race. A conversation that is way past due. A conversation that will allow us to define and explore the key issues and factors intrinsic to systematic racism as a whole, with the view that one day we can implement change.
PRO BLACK VS. ANTI WHITE
For most of us, the two are mutually exclusive. Our culture and where we are from are an inherent part of our identity, how we see ourselves and how we portray ourselves to others. To be proud of my ‘blackness’ doesn’t mean I detest another person’s ‘whiteness’ or ‘non-blackness’. The same could be said for Muslims, Jews, and any other denomination that has experienced oppression and subjugation. It is simply who we are. We shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed of who we are. We should be allowed to celebrate and express our culture without reproach just as white people so freely do.
ALL LIVES MATTER
Yes. Of course they do. Gorilla’s lives too. In fact, one would think that goes without saying. I am passionate about #BlackLivesMatter not just because I am black – but because it is highlighting the affliction of one particular group who need support against a corrupt system who covers up their murders with propaganda and lies. We supported France (multiple times), Turkey and Brussels without question. We didn’t encourage people to ‘pray for the World’ because that would have been belittling and insensitive to the grief of said focus group. Focussing on one denomination should be okay. So why is it not okay when black people are the focus? If all lives TRULY matter – shouldn’t Black lives matter too? If police were unlawfully killing people of all races then in this context ‘all lives matter’ would be the appropriate stance that I would wholeheartedly rally behind. But the sad fact is, police are targeting black people in their acts of brutality and murder and this is why #BlackLivesMatter is an important movement that should be supported by people of ALL colour. Needless to say, any variance of BLM is insulting, counter productive and serves to empower and mask the systemic abuse that Black people are subjected to. If you wanted proof that racism exists and that black lives aren’t valued, there it is in plain sight, disguised as a hippy loving, tree hugging, liberal totem of tolerance and acceptance for all. It’s both ironic and insulting.
WE ARE NOT EQUAL
We once fought for our freedom – now we fight for equality. Whilst racism isn’t all about slavery, the sad truth is that the legacy of slavery lives on through systematic racism and white privilege and so we are forced to continually revisit it. Many of the systems (in relation to policing) and laws that are still in place today were born out of slavery. Inequality can take on many guises from disproportionate pay in the workplace to reduced facilities/ funding in underprivileged areas. Black people simply want and deserve to be treated equally – particularly by the law enforcement that are sworn to protect ALL people.
SPEAKING ABOUT RACISM DOESN’T MAKE YOU RACIST
As soon as the word ‘racism’ is uttered, both communities become defensive. It’s a sensitive and divisive subject – terribly difficult to navigate. l personally know many amazing white people who have sadly adopted the silent approach. It frustrated me, hurt me and confused me. Was their silence a show of complicity? Were they the enemy in disguise? Speaking to white people I know, it seems to be the exact opposite. Just as ethnic minorities are scared to talk too loudly about racism, so are white people. My white friends have told me they feel ashamed, guilt ridden and let down by the racist’s in their community and don’t want to be associated with it in any way. Some said they weren’t sure what to do/ what to say without being labelled racist themselves. I don’t think white people need to declare that they aren’t racists, just as l don’t think black people assume all white people ARE racist. In fact, I believe that the more non-white people speak up and use their influence and privilege, we will really make important strides to the eradication of racism.
‘OPPRESSION CAN ONLY SURVIVE THROUGH SILENCE’
– Quote by Carmen de Monteflores.
It it is important now more than ever to show solidarity by lending your voice to the cause. I can’t help but feel disappointed at the many people who have ignored the issue for fear of how it may affect their social following and/ or career. Hardly and bloggers or youtubers I follow have spoken on the subject publicly. I understand the dilemma (I mentioned it in the third paragraph of this post), but if you stand for nothing you will fall for anything. If you can lend your face, voice, time, talent to big up a brand every week on your instagram then surely you can do the same to support a just cause? I commend the public faces big and small who have potentially put their livelihood on the line to speak out against police brutality and racism. The more we continue to break down the wall of silence, the closer we get to racial freedom and equality.