This past week has been heavy for me personally with. It’s been difficult to digest everything that’s going and articulate in a coherent way. I touched on this a bit on my last piece about being a black male in what is mainly a white female space (you can check it out here), but I’m going to elaborate on because it is very important to a bigger conversation that needs to continue.
Some of us may not feel comfortable discussing it perhaps out of fear of being misconstrued or we may not have the words best to describe it. Whilst I understand the many reasons for some people doing so, I firmly believe these issues are too serious and deep-rooted to just ignore or stay silent on.
It’s no longer enough saying you’re not racist. It’s no longer enough not using the n word or calling a person of color a chimp or monkey or not likening them to that of an animal. It’s not enough celebrating Black History Month once or twice (if you’re in the US) every year then putting it back in a box. It’s not enough having friends and co-workers who are people of color or liking a famous person or color and then using them as an argument as to why you’re not racist. It’s not enough saying you don’t see colour when you’re judging others. These are some of the very things that have frustrated a lot of black people in recent times because what it does is make it difficult for other races, especially people from a white background, to see the situation for what it is. It makes it easier for those individual to place the blame on another factor and then call it a day.
But the statistics alone make it clear. Numbers do not lie when they say black people in the US are 3 times more likely to be killed by police. They do not lie when they say black people are 4 times more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than their white counterparts and that death rates from the virus are highest among the BAME community. They do not lie when black and ethnic minorities are more likely to develop long term health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. They do not lie when black people are underachieving in education more compared to white people. Racial inequality goes beyond overt abuse and mistreatment.
Now I feel what’s just as important as raising awareness of the issues is finding and offering solutions. I can’t say I know all the solutions (I wish I did) and dont want to give the impression I know it all (because the truth is I dont) but I can only offer my own suggestions:
Support The Black Lives Matter Movement
Advocate the Black Lives Matter movement and similar movements and campaigns that are similar. When I say support it support with genuine intentions. By that I mean don’t do it for attention, or to be part of a trend do it purely for a good image. Yes that sounds a bit counter-intuitive but doing it for any means messages can get lost. If messages get lost then chances are the movement and campaign starts to falter and then no change. Racism has been going on for far much longer than the modern day trends you see.
You can support it by signing and share petitions that will get governments and local councils to take action (links to petitions you can sign are below). Keep donating to charities and organisations (again links are below) if you are donating. If not then start now. Attend peaceful protests if they’re in your city. Share social media posts on your own social media channels. Use your platform to raise awareness of these issues and keep the conversation going.
Another way starts with independent learning you can be doing. A frustration that I’ve seen with many black people making their voices heard is having to constantly educate others on their experiences with racial injustice. It shouldnt be placed on our shoulders solely. In schools and universities the teachers and lecturers don’t constantly give you knowledge but rather encourage you to do more research when they set you assignments and homework to do.
Make some time to do some research of your own. I’m not asking to devote all your free time, though that wouldn’t go unappreciated. Spare 15-20 mins out of your time to read up on articles and journals of stories and experiences. Find statistics that point towards inequal treatment of black people. Listen to podcasts and audiobooks bringing to light racial issues. There’s many documentary series and films on streaming platforms like YouTube and Netflix that brings to light these issues. A list of recommends from myself will be at the bottom of the pot. I think if we can set time aside to binge all the trending shows at will then surely we can set some of that same time on.
Thanks to the internet, social media and technology there’s never been a better time than now in terms of access to many resources that can help us understand these issues a lot better.
Listen More, Talk Less.
Listen to the experiences of discrimination black people around you are sharing with you. One frustration I think many black people have often had is a white person being a spokesperson on behalf of us on an issue they’ve not had to experience. Whilst it’s often well-meaning they can’t possibly feel what we’re feeling because they’ve likely not experienced racism. The best people who can express the realities of any situstion is the victims or survivors themselves.
When listening try not to categorise it and assume whether it is racism or not, or make it about your own feelings. It is their own experience and none of it should be invalidated. Show empathy and compassion whenever you can. Ask forward-thinking questions, whether it’s encouraging a black person to open up about their experiences, giving solutions to the issues or how you can actively help.
Reflect, Challenge and Change
To move forwards we sometimes have to move backwards first. Whilst educating yourself you may get prompts or flashbacks to times where you might’ve been racially prejudiced, biased or stereotypical towards someone. If that’s so then take full accountability. Ask yourself why you did that or thought certain things, realise where you went wrong and try to consciously do better and change. Also don’t only hold yourself accountability but also hold others accountable if they do the similar and try and make them see their wrongs. In a way I would consider it self-care.
Reflecting and being able to challenge is the best way (though not easy) to overcome one of the toughest forms of racism: microaggressions. Microaggressions refer to subtle behaviours and statements that are prejudiced towards a race or other demographic regardless of the the offender’s intentions. It can be very hard to detect by people and hard to explain sometimes because they’re entrenched within the person’s subsconscious. I’ve personally been a victim of microaggressions. As a matter of fact I dont even realise I’m a victim of it till long after – because they are so subtle but deeply disguised at the same time.
This is why it is so important to educate and reflect on ourselves because they can be stereotypical or prejudiced towards a race or background, even if they’re positive or society has widely accepted them (which doesn’t mean its right) but we’ll be none the wiser to it.
To my fellow black people reading this, when others say the wrong thing or deliver a well-meaning message in my way that’s not helpful for us take it as an opportunity to correct rather than critique with hostility or vitriol. It’s problematic and symptomatic of the issue yes, I agree and I feel the pain too, but education and encouragement rather than discouragement is the way forward to affecting this change. Otherwise we may end up losing more allies than gaining of we’re putting them in circumstances where they can’t seem to win us over regardless.
We need as many allies in the fight as we can get for justice and change. We as black people cant be solely be responsible for tearing part problems that we havent caused in the first place. A lot of white people will not understand racism as they’ve had the privilege of not experiencing it themselves. But not experiencing it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be the ones to help dismantle it. Keep in mind that you’ll likely have black friends, co-workers, peers, neighbours, church members, coursemates, flatmates, friend of a friend, maybe even bosses who have experienced racism themselves.
As a comic-book fan I’ve watched and read up on many fights superheroes have with galaxies and universes at stake. Let me tell you something, this fight is bigger than those ones as well as one I’m gonna fight myself till it’s over.
List of TV and Film Recommendations
Fruitvale Station (Netflix)
When They See Us (Netflix)
Hello Privilege, It’s Me, Chelsea (Netflix)
12 Years A Slave (Netflix)
Noughts and Crosses (BBC)
List Of Charities and Organisations To Support
List of petitions to sign