It took me a while to figure out a title for what I wanted to write and have decided that this is a first of a few posts to come. I have a LOT of plans of what I want to do with my blogging platform and trying to piece everything together, albeit slowly but surely.
I wanted to start by writing something about why it is only RIGHT to say, Black Lives Matter and not all lives matter. I’ve been silent since George Floyd’s murder, since the BLM movement started and Blackout Tuesday to amplify the voices of my melanated family and friends. There’s been a lot of pain, hurt, anger, frustration, exhaustion – so much more than people realise because no-one has ever really looked deep enough to understand why.
Why Black Lives Matter
So why is it right to say Black Lives Matter and not all lives matter? I hope the below meme sums it up but I will break it down below:
This was posted on imgur.com in 2017, so as you can see.. this is not something new. It’s something that has been raised before and even prior to 2017 it has been known but like most things we do nowadays – we roll with the momentum but as soon as it stops we forget about it. Anyway, my point is that you cannot believe in the statement – and it cannot be true – that ALL lives matter UNTIL you believe that black lives matter. When someone raises awareness for brain cancer, we don’t say all cancers matter. Or when someone’s mum dies, we don’t tell that person everyone’s mum dies.
I understand that people have seen the looting and rioting in America and make statements like that is disgusting behaviour and it’s not acceptable – I get you. You may be right in the sense that it wasn’t the best behaviour displayed but to believe it was ‘unacceptable’ is questionable. Was it acceptable for George Floyd to be murdered? Was it acceptable for all the other countless innocent, unarmed black men and women to be killed without receiving justice for their deaths?
I feel like if the George Floyd’s murder did not spark the reaction that it did, today would be a very different story and his name would be a mere ushering in the back of our minds. Which then brings me onto my next point; why is it so easy for us to brush off something so cruel and unjust like that?
When we see animals being harmed, dogs and cats being abused, we protest for their quality of life and now have laws to protect them… yet where are the laws to protect the innocent black men and women slaughtered at the hands of the law? And don’t get it mistaken, it’s not just in America that this happens – this is just as real in the UK. I will get onto this later on in the post.
The peaceful protests against racism in the UK has been amazing to watch on the TV – seeing thousands of people risking themselves in the middle of a pandemic fighting for a just cause. My heart has been heavy for the past couple of weeks and is only starting to feel a little better now as I can see the ripples of the cause taking effect. Since then, other people of colour have also voiced out on their own experiences. As more people became ‘woke’ and realised how subconsciously racist they’d been, the pour-out of apologies and empathy from the people, particularly white people, grew. As an East-Asian person, I too have had my racist experiences (and have witnessed a lot too)… and I grew up in a relatively diverse community.
Why you need to be ANTI-RACIST
There’s a lot for all of us to unlearn when it comes to racism. Nobody is born a racist so that should tell us that it’s something we learn as we grow up. Now, that could be due to our own ideals, stereotypes and implicit racial bias, or it could be from what our parents have taught us. My dad used to tell me that black people were no good, aggressive and disrespectful but growing up in a diverse community and being around the black people throughout my teenage and adult years, I disagree with his biased comments.
So why do we all need to be anti-racist and not just non-racist/neutral? With the deep-rooted racism that the UK and US was built upon, it will take a very long time before we are all singing from the same hymn book. However, learning to accept that there is a need to pick a side (the anti-racist) helps. You can start becoming an ally by looking at your own network. Do you associate yourself and your social circle with other ethnic groups or are they all/mainly white? Do you only support or buy from white businesses? Do you subconsciously support or offer help to white communities and their causes or include BAME communities?
A non-racist person might also make the statement “I don’t see colour”. However, by saying that you don’t see colour is a more damaging message than you think. You are then denying those people of colour the experiences they’ve had based on their race or skin tone. You are subconsciously dismissing the pain, mistreatment and injustice they’ve been through.
Another way of putting it, as Clara Amfo – BBC Radio 1 presenter rightly puts it…
You can’t enjoy music like jazz, blues, R&B, pop and even rock without acknowledging, agreeing and/or accepting with the injustice, brutality and pain that black people have been receiving since their slavery days.
If you’re not sure where to start with all your new knowledge and need some pointers on what to read, etc here are some suggestions:
Ways to be an Ally:
- Start reading up on black history and racism in the UK, systemic racism, and racial microaggression, racial inequality and white privilege. There’s a good selection of books on my resource page here: http://supportukbbiz.carrd.co/
- Anti-racism books you can educate your children with
- Films that reflect on anti-racism, racism, and bias [on Netflix] – “The Hate U Give”, “Self Made”, “Selma”, “Malcolm X”, “The BlacKkKlansman” are just some you can check out
- Take a test to find out whether you have any subconscious bias you may/may not know of: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/uk/takeatest.html
- Show support to your local BAME communities
- Expand your social circle or network of people to include people from all ethnic backgrounds
- Buy from or support black-owned and BAME businesses
The insidious reality of British racism…
We tend to look at the US and be appalled at the mistreatment towards BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) people and communities but when you look closer, you will see the cracks forming in our own. Here in the UK, racism experienced from BAME people are quickly brushed under the carpet, or it’s so discreet and insidious that BAME people get reprimanded for speaking out and then are forced to keep quiet.
Not sure what I mean? Just google or type into Youtube “racial microaggression examples” and you’ll see what I mean. Below are just a few examples – I’ve experienced some of these myself too:
“…but where are you really from, like originally?
[to a British-born individual with an ethnic background]
“You’re Asian so you must be good at maths or playing the piano or violin right?”
[to an Asian individual]
“I’m not racist! I have lots of black friends…”
[denial of individual racism/racial bias]
“I’m quite scared of [a black woman]. She’s just comes across too aggressive and loud…”
[racial microaggression against a black woman]
There’s also non-verbal microaggression such as walking past a black man and clutching your handbag or crossing the road to avoid a group of black youths standing around together. This type of non-verbal microaggression occurs due to the racial bias that is ingrained within you and it can be very extremely damaging or destructive. We all have our own implicit biases, it’s how we make sense and judge the world around us. However, some of those biases can be negative and then form into negative stereotypes towards a certain race, skin colour or country – this is can then manifest into racism whether intentional or unintentional. The insidious reality.
I have black friends who’ve told me that before travelling they have to research how racist a country is towards black people before they can think about visiting. Others told me they wouldn’t attend meetings, parties or conferences where they know the attendees are predominately white because they will get prejudged, looked at funny or be subject to snide-y comments, microaggression and sometimes even blatant racism.
A friend and I once attended a chocolate tasting event just prior to London’s lockdown and as the only non-white attendees in the room, the others looked at us like we shouldn’t be there or we didn’t belong, totally alienating us. They excluded themselves from us. When we had to pass the chocolates around, one lady handed the piece to my friend in such a way that she was disgusted by the treatment this woman had given her. I heard another lady say to her friend, “I am not ready to catch coronavirus right now, I can’t afford to get sick” – whether or not she knew I could hear her and was directing it at me is another thing. I should’ve said something back or acknowledged her comment but I didn’t want to be the one creating a bad atmosphere for the others so I shut my mouth and dealt with it.
White privilege and ‘whiteness’
Alongside microaggression and racial bias, there is ‘white privilege’. Something all white people have, whether you are rich or poor. Even people like me that are deemed closer to ‘whiteness’ will also have it or some of it too. It’s the privilege(s) that’s given to you automatically based on our skin colour and close proximity to ‘whiteness’.
Why it’s easier for white people to be homeowners, why white employees are more likely to be promoted or recognised than their ethnic colleagues for the same level of hard work, or why in schools BAME (especially black) children are more likely to be called out for causing trouble than their white friends. If you looked at the examples links for white privilege and say that for some examples, any race can gain that privilege, which can be true but you must then also accept that people of colour are more likely to NOT have those privileges or it’s not the the same extent as white people.
There is a lot of material out there to research on white privilege, so have a look yourself and draw your own conclusions. This post is already long enough… I could go on forever haha!
The closer you are to ‘whiteness’, the more the system plays in your favour.
It’s not just white people that will experience white privilege; this is where colourism and colonialism has its own game play. The closer you are to ‘whiteness’ the more likely you are to receive some of those privileges. Example: a lighter-skinned black woman dishing criticism will seem less aggressive than a darker-skinned black woman. Colonised countries like Vietnam, the people will treat the ‘whiter’ Vietnamese folk with more respect and admiration for their beauty than their darker, tanned counterparts.
Raising mixed children in a white-privileged world
My children are mixed – Daddy P is African and I am Asian and from day one, it had never been smooth sailing for us. We’ve had our fair share of awkward looks and negative comments but that was never enough to put us down. We have been having more talks about race with Little Man since the movement started. I’m sure it won’t be long before he is subject to some kind of microaggression from the outside world.. if he hasn’t already.
At least now he’ll know how to spot it and call it out when it happens, instead of dealing with it by himself or without knowing why it happened. We will also have to have the talk with Little Miss in a couple years too. If we had white-privilege, preparing them for the negative racial experiences wouldn’t even be a thing but I don’t think they will be able to have that luxury just yet.
For parents, I’d highly recommend adding this book to your bookshelf or home library. It’s written by my fellow lifestyle blogger, Uju from BabesAboutTown.com – the book will be released September 3rd 2020 but you can pre-order now on Amazon UK: http://babesabouttown.com/2020/06/bringing-up-race/ (She also has a helpful resource list you can check out too!)