Black Lives matter. Black Life Matters.
Where do I start? The pandemic and this week has bought up more emotion and soul searching than I ever expected. Hope and pain in equal measure. My own identity has more to do with my work than I thought and must be part of my work going forward.
I wanted to speak about racism, as for the first time I have seen the conversation between white people regarding black lives matter begin to change. This glimmer of hope is why I too need share my experience in order to promote change. Our experiences are all very different. And I have been unbelievably privileged.
This is what I publicly said on social media on the 1st June 2020
Another person was murdered because of the colour of thier skin by the very people they pay to protect them. It’s 2020. This time it was George Floyd and there was a camera.
If your skin presents as white, it’s time we take responsibility for racism in all its forms. POC should not STILL have to fight for equality and to be heard 50, 60, 100, 1000 years on. Skin tone and culture should not EVER be a persons problem.
Our white privilege means it’s OUR problem to fix. The burden must be on US not the victims. We cannot continue to stand by thinking it’s not our issue.
Yes we are all human, all the same but our experiences because of skin tone have been vastly different.
My experience being white is very different to that of my mothers.
Educate yourself. Listen. Don’t assume, acknowledge experiences other than your own, actively fight racism (in all its horrid little forms) stop being scared you’ll say the wrong thing, be interested and apologize.
I am sorry that racism and prejudice still exists. I am sorry that hundreds of years of governments, royalty, business and institutions have abused and neglected people who are seen as ‘other’. I’m sorry it became OK. I’m sorry they haven’t been held to account and haven’t apologized.
I promise to make choices every day to stand in the way of racism.
This is my personal experience.
I present as white and therefore I have had all the white privilege and then some in my life. My Grandfather is of South Asian, Hindu Indian heritage. My Grandmother was White, Red Headed Welsh heritage. My mother is mixed heritage.
Society in 1950s Britain didn't allow my Grandparents to have an open relationship. This was racism in action.
My Grandmother had to place my mother in care, society also didn't allow single women to rent a home with a baby of colour. In fact adoption was advised. This was racism in action.
My mother endured racism at some of its worst as a child of the 1950s. Children would cut her skin to see if her blood was black, grown men slammed doors in her face as a little girl saying 'no w*gs here'. My grandmother had to give up her daughter through no fault of her own and my mother had to survive parent-less.
This was racism in action.
My Grandmother out of desperation married a bad man. She was reunited with her child but the damage was all ready done. This was racism in action.
My mother learnt to pass as Spanish, to fit in, to step back and not draw attention.
This was racism in action.
The bad man threatened my mother with deportation if she didn't obey his rules. He changed her birth certificate and she had no idea of her heritage.
This was racism in action.
Eventually escaping and making her own life. My mother put up with slurs, put downs, every day comments and was made to feel she was second class.
This was racism in action.
Having me, my mother prayed I wouldn't be black. She was terrified I would have to experience the hate she did.
This was racism in action.
Racism took away my
Grandmothers relationship and friendship with a good man
My Mothers parents and culture
My Grandfathers partner and daughter
My Aunts sister
My cousins Aunt
For me a good Grandfather and culture I needed to know about.
That is what racism does.
Only in her 50s did my mother meet her father and only last year did I have the courage to contact my Aunt and tell her who we were. We were still held by the fear we wouldn't be wanted. And also the not wanting to take anything away from my Grandfather and his family by existing. We didn't want to bring shame on them. (still, 70 years on a victim is made to carry the cruelty of society's rules).
I can't change history and I wouldn't want to (other than the racism and hurt) because my Grandfather met a wonderful woman, had a successful life with beautiful children and grandchildren, who I have the privilege of getting to know now. I do need to change the course of the future by having a meaningful relationship with my family and culture.
If you have met my Mum you will know this tiny lady full of incredible kindness, care and strength. She went on to have a successful career and worked hard to achieve the happy life she has now. In talking about Black Lives Matter she said - 'Sorry won't be good enough'
Being OK now doesn't change the destruction of racism, it just means people survived it.
Black, Asian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, Jewish and indigenous families have endured hundreds of years of hurt from racism far, far worse. Due to the systematic racism and colonialism of white European perpetrators.
Would Aboriginal people stand up and say the white man brought anything positive to Australia? Or would native Americans? Or Africans? Its a question that must be considered with my heritage.
Racism hurts every second of every day for generations. It hurts big grown men and tiny babies and everyone in between. Its worse than any virus as it affects peoples lives and whittles down over generations. It takes an immense level of personal strength to succeed despite this.
And I don't just mean all the horrendous acts of murder and brutality, I don't just mean the vile use of language as a weapon against people and stripping of culture.
I mean the little judgments every day on someones CV, the privately sharing of a racist joke or fake media clip. The crossing the street from a black man in a hoodie, the 'where do you come from, really?' the 'oh I couldn't tell' , the impressions of someones accent, the not matching 'nude' underwear, not seeing yourself in films, fashion culture. The words half caste make me shudder.
Saying ALL lives matter.
The problem with ALL lives matter is that it dilutes the peoples voices who need to heard. People have had to go lifetimes experiencing this pain.
On top of the everyday struggles people have due to poverty, ill health, religious persecution etc.
Being white I have witnessed abhorrent racism and all its little subtleties. Things white people would never say if a person of colour was in the room. But what did I do to shut it down? Sometimes I fought it but most of the time I swallowed it. Too scared to make a fuss or be unsociable. I must carry that guilt and change.
That is the racism that grinds people down and many people of colour are exhausted. This is why people are also quite rightly angry, you would be angry too if you'd had to experience so much worse than this all your life.
I'm angry and upset. I'm angry my amazing Mum who has dedicated her life to helping others in need, had to experience this in her life. I'm angry this happened to a tiny little girl. I've been angry for 23 years. This is why I get so angry about politics in the UK and US. We were making some tiny progress and I was scared the bad men of the 1950s would come back. And they did.
As a white person I must acknowledge my white privilege, my real British history which isn't so great and LISTEN and LEARN. We must all educate ourselves. NO BUTS!
I grew up and still live in a very white, middle class Somerset. I'm not a people person so I traded social interaction for nature and culture I could access from my sofa.
However, I grew up with positive black role models all over the TV - The Fresh Prince, Desmonds, The Cosby Show, Heartbreak High, not to mention presenting the News, in fashion, films and music. I saw people of colour in the mainstream, having normal successful lives and when Barack Obama was elected I thought it was job done. This blinkered idealism made me fail to see how things outside my bubble changed and systematic racism was existing.
Now, I want to see more young black and Asian leads in films that aren't just about so called 'black' issues? I was to see a Spielberg movie where the leads are all BIPOC.
Colour blind casting like in David Copperfield made an old Dickens tale exciting and fresh and brilliant instead of stuffy and old. Painful stories of history must be told too. If Beale Street Could Talk is still one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. We see must see more positive stories of diverse cultures in the mainstream.
The talent in (all sectors) is there in bucket loads so why aren't people being represented? An end to 'who you know' is needed. Its all of us who miss out on the talent.
I have thought about positive discrimination, it mustn't be tokenism or tick boxing for businesses. Blind CVs are needed. Picking the best person for the job AND they happen to be a person of colour is so easy. Just look outside your bubble.
I've just booked a model for a shoot. Not because she is black but because she is beautiful and has the face, body, hair, poise, personality and skills that are exactly what I am looking for to model my work.
I didn't used to book any models because of budget, I asked people I knew, in Somerset, which is why everyone is white! Pretty lazy on my part.
It is my responsibility to make the effort to find the talent and open my world. I have been missing out on so much.
History needs to be rewritten to put people of colour and culture back in. Ask where they are? When I was at school in the 90s I chose to study 'Religious Education' over history. Not because I believe in God but because it was the only way I could learn about other cultures. BIPOC and cultures should be included in every single subject! Our countries children have been missing out on this essential education.
Governments and institutions, education and society as a whole must change and put a stop to racism for good. I'd like The British Government and The Queen to say sorry, to take a knee and ask themselves every day what they are doing to help BIPOC ensure future generations don't suffer the past.
We must all call out racism whenever you hear it. Talk about it. Talk to people who are different to you. Support and champion people of colour and their business's long term. Stand in the way of racism, be anti-racist and put yourself in someone elses shoes, always. LISTEN!!!!!
Only then can we build a society that promises an equal, safe future for people of colour. We will all benefit from this.
I need to go and find the beauty in this world. There is so much out there when black lives matter too. Don't miss out!
Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
The 13th State on Netflix
Little Fires Everywhere on Amazon Prime
N.B this is a note to self and I hope a note to others. I have purposely not used the term BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) as I feel uncomfortable about the term and its negative tone. BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Colour) feels more positive.
This article as I learn and educate myself more will continue to be updated. I have already adjusted my language.