Black Lives Matter
This is a private page I have created in response to the questions I have been asked in context of the growing awareness of the Black Lives Matters Movement and the encouragement from my yoga students to talk about my experiences and share my story. I'd like to thank my students for proving, against the noise of people who would like me to be quiet, that there are others interested in a movement that is simply trying to create a more fair and just society no matter what the colour of your skin. In short to practice Ahimsa; to do no harm, to be kind. (July 2020)
It is important to state at the very beginning that there are, sadly, many other circumstances where injustices lie and these should not be ignored. I hope that once you become aware of what may be an invisible (to you) injustice in one area, your awareness of others will become more accessible as a result so that the whole of society and all "othered" people will benefit.
When I started this I didn't realise how big this article would become. I know there are many gaps simply due to the subject being so large, complex and all-encompassing, so please forgive me if there are inconsistencies and recognise that there has been an emotional payment to make as 50 years of micro and macro aggressions have been stirred up and it has been impossible to share them all.
Before we go any further I'd like to take this opportunity to ask you to sit with any feelings or judgements that automatically arise. Practice our yoga of observation and try to understand where these feelings come from. For some of you it may awaken a recognisable feeling of injustice, of being unheard; for others there may be a feeling of guilt at not knowing something; there could be a mixture of these or a desire to move on either to do something or move past this. PLEASE take notice of how you feel and then spend time exploring why you feel like this and practice Satya (Truthfulness) with yourself.
I am pleased to be working with my governing body, the British Wheel of Yoga (BWY) on improving diversity and inclusivity within the yoga community, and the organisation in particular, as well as striving to do the same in my day-to-day life. There are many issues that lead to discrimination but the colour of your skin is one that is very visible, currently in focus and is always IN ADDITION to any others that may affect an individual. It is not a competition about who is worse off, just an acknowledgement that if you do not present as white, you will be worse off than your equivalent (recognising all other intersectional bias and discrimination)
I am writing this article to concentrate on how the colour of your skin affects all areas of your life and try to help give some suggestions for the most common question I am asked: “What can I do?”
"I don't see colour"
In response to discussions or conversations about racism people can use phrases that are intentionally (and sometimes unintentionally) dismissive, like “I don’t see colour” or “all lives matter”. I think this means you don’t identify people by the colour of their skin or maybe it means the colour of someone’s skin doesn’t affect your behaviour or attitude to them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t grasp, acknowledge or accept the experience of racism encountered as a person of colour. When this is said it enables the person to distance themselves from "bad" racist people; "I am not like them" and closes the door to any discussion that could uncover an ignorance, naivety or genuine lack of knowledge.
However well intentioned, this comment - often used by people who identify as not being racist and believe that is enough to make a difference - is a way of pushing away the issue of racism as not being relevant to them because they don’t think or understand how they are part of the problem. Often the desire to believe enough people are likeminded means you can, perhaps unwittingly, be enabling it to continue unchallenged. If you are not actively being racist but do not want to get involved with stopping others being racist, I would suggest you should also not feel comfortable ignoring it. As Dr Martin Luther King said “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
Recognise your white privilege and use it wisely. Stop feeling accused as if you have any choice in the matter! As a minority a black person has to shout much louder to be heard – use your advantage. Not be their saviour, but to stand by another human being.
A good source of explaining privilege is the $100 race. I think it is important at the outset to help reduce the sensitivity of the word "privilege" because it appears to create a defensive stance. "Privilege" seems to be commonly associated with the image of being "spoilt" or born "with a silver spoon in your mouth" but in this context it is not that, and it is not something you can choose to give up. In the same way I can't choose whether some people see the colour of my skin before all else, a white person experiences a world where "white' is the norm, the positive, the "good guys". Anyone can share the life experiences described in the experiment but it is worth noting that these disadvantages are disproportionately experienced by people of colour. What we are currently calling "privilege" may be better described as the removal of things that cause disadvantage and trauma – it is a shorthand that unfortunately turns some listeners off.
Google “The 100 dollar race” or try this link https://www.youtube.com/
An example (American) of how to make a difference, and it involves recognising it is happening and to call it out.
http://www.allreadable.com/ for those who don’t like Facebook.
From a personal perspective all I can say is that I can’t imagine a day that hasn’t been affected by racism, or living a day where racism isn’t an issue in what I say, what I do or where I go. How I deal with it depends on how much energy I have. If you ever see me and I seem to be ignoring you I have probably put my blinkers on to avoid having to deal with the looks I get or the comments made for my earshot, however I pretend to look like I am walking tall and full of confidence. I don't want to have to think about it all the time so I do have to use different tools to manage the daily grind so that it doesn't get to me. I am a happy person, generally, and I am determined to remain so.
If you have never had a defining point in your life, probably in your childhood, where you realise that your skin colour alone makes people hate you …you have white privilege.
If no one has ever questioned your intellectual capabilities or attendance to an elite institution based solely on your skin colour … you have white privilege. My whole life I have read things that I don’t have a mechanism to relate to, despite my dual heritage, and even the images on birthday cards to the "Great" artists I was taught about at school and in galleries and online were nothing like me but, for all of us, learning should include trying to understand other people’s perspective.
Our education and media primarily focus on the achievements of white men so to grow up with a myriad of material that reflect you in the school and mainstream media… you have white privilege. If you’ve never had to mask your success to avoid being stopped by police on your way home from your gainful employment … you have white privilege. It is there to protect white people economically, physically and emotionally and it is possible that the more you believe in fairness, the less likely you are to realise it is happening.
“Racism isn’t as bad here”
If you mean the-authorities-don’t-carry-guns-so-can-not-so-easily-take-your-life-as-part-of-their-job, then it’s not. But the police here still kill disproportionately more black people in custody than white people. It is not reported in the press and you do not see it around you in the same way as a white person in America may, for example. If you mean that people of colour do not experience daily occurrences of both aggressive and passive-aggressive racism, then IT IS as bad here!
Particularly in America there is a recognition that you are disadvantaged in all ways if you are black. Famously, Jane Elliot asked a room of white students "If you white folks want to be treated the way blacks are in this society, stand. Nobody's standing here. That says very plainly that you know what's happening, you know you don't want it for you. I want to know why you're so willing to accept it or to allow it to happen for others."
The UK has no history of segregation enshrined in law, however legislation has had to be developed in response to the problem of racism acknowledging its existence. The UK's longer history may make the picture less clear but the result of the racism is the same - if you are a person of colour in the UK all anecdotal, research-based and statistical evidence demonstrate that your chances of social and financial success are much less than your white counterpart.
If you’re not black you can choose to believe racism isn’t as bad “here” (whether you mean your country/ region/ town/ village/ street) but it doesn’t make it true. This is one example of white privilege. As a black person I can’t pretend to believe that because it is not my experience or that of my black friends and family. For example, in the 1990s one of my relatives in London had dog poo left on her step (after she blocked her letterbox) daily by neighbours who did not want her there. This still happens today. I know there are certain villages local to me that I cannot move to because anyone of colour who has moved there in recent years has had their windows broken, their cars scratched, their businesses boycotted and their lives made a misery until they moved.
Institutional racism (or sexism or any other ism) can be taken to mean an institution acts in a racist (or sexist) way. "A number of orchestras adopted 'blind' auditions whereby screens are used to conceal the identity and gender of the musician from the jury. In the years after these changes were instituted, the percent of female musicians in the five highest-ranked orchestras in the nation increased from 6 percent in 1970 to 21 percent in 1993. Given the low turnover found in most symphony orchestras, the increase in female musicians is significant"(https://gap.hks.harvard.edu) It was institutional sexism because as an institution what had gone before was brought forward as a group belief that men were better players than women. It turned out not to be true. In 2003 the Rooney Rule (named after Dan Rooney) required all recruitment short-lists for senior American football positions within the NFL to include at least one candidate from an African American (now any ethnic minority) background – especially poignant considering the prevalence of this group amongst the players! It has been applied elsewhere in America (not quotas, just a stop to all white shortlists without excluding suitable white candidates) and interviewers reported discovering suitable candidates they would not have considered before which meant where this approach was employed numbers of ethnic minorities in senior posts rose. However, it has been strongly objected to in the UK mainly as a result of being mispresented as a quota system, particularly in many tabloids.
To deny the extent of racism in your environs is a way to make it more comfortable for you not to address issues and make changes.
There are two main issues here:
In the UK it is reasonably easy, depending on where you live, not to see racism if it doesn’t affect you because the more aggressive form is usually performed within “safe” (for the perpetrator) environments, as any bully would. The passive-aggressive form requires a level of awareness to notice it when it is not directed at you.
Once you identify yourself as non-racist and you accept racism is still very alive and active, it can create feelings of guilt so it is easier to believe it isn’t happening since you don’t experience it.
Once you decide not to reduce or dismiss the experiences of people with colour and you identify as non-racist, it requires a decision to be anti-racist or, by default, ‘your awareness’ + ‘silence/inaction’ = ‘complicity with racists’.
The video of the killing of George Floyd illustrated this position in such a way that had not existed before. There has been film of other murders by authorities and there have been plenty of deaths in custody all over the world, disproportionately of black people. This time there was no option to turn away – even while watching people literally turning away, not intervening, not stopping it, the world was forced to look. The down-time created by the Covid-19 pandemic meant there was time to take this in before the media could rush onto the next big story; to ask questions as to why the police officer felt so invulnerable while fully aware he was being filmed; why other officers or public didn’t intervene and recognising it was because what he was doing has happened regularly and with impunity for many years and the status quo was expected to continue.
And despite thinking it doesn’t happen here the recent film (July 2020) of the UK police officer using his knee on a black suspect’s neck (particularly considering the sensitivity at this present time so soon AFTER the George Floyd murder) should let you know that it does happen here and again, that this was not the first time that restraint in those circumstances has happened HERE. Disproportionately more black people are stopped and searched, are found guilty if charged, are imprisoned for longer if jailed and are more likely to die in custody than white people. Our justice system is just one institution that has so many subtle and not-so-subtle racist threads running through it to make it endemically unjust.
Listen to the experiences of people of colour with an open mind. If you still want to dismiss our stories, ask yourself why. Why would I lie? Why would I make it up? Why wouldn’t I understand the nuances of someone being horrible. Honestly...it is easier for me to pretend it is for 'some other reason'!
Some personal examples:
Do people explain something to you with the prefix “That’s because I’m British”, as if you’re not? Or do they touch your hair without asking you? Do people assume you have family in a predominantly white country that you are visiting? I’ve even been told I’m lying and that my eyelashes are not real! These are examples that I hope demonstrate the mundane, everyday level of "What rubbish do I have to deal with today?" purely because of the colour of my skin.
In a local shop one of the shop assistants would go out of her way to avoid serving me. You might think I should have complained immediately, and it would have been sorted but remember how many people like to believe ‘racism is not as bad here’? In addition I cannot afford, emotionally, to be so sensitive - the first time she avoided me I assumed she must have had to get something from the store room, the next time perhaps it was her break, the third time she cannot escape and goes to great lengths not to touch me when serving (pre Covid-19) and the fourth time I realise I am almost chasing her around the store and accept the most likely reason is the colour of my skin. I haven’t recorded the times and dates of the previous experiences so to make a complaint now I know, and she knows would be difficult. A “reasonable” excuse, perhaps pretending she hadn’t noticed me, would be easier for all to accept because no-one wants a fuss, after all ‘racism isn’t as bad here’ or is it? (She isn’t there now.)
The day the Brexit vote was announced, which has emboldened racist behaviours, I met with an old (white) school friend who was visiting from her (now) home in Italy for our school reunion. In the café where we had lunch we discussed with the waitress how we hadn’t seen each other in 30 years and were meeting because of the local school reunion that evening. My friend ordered a cheese scone and I chatted with the waitress about how scones are great for cafes because they freeze so well and I recommended they look into getting wholemeal stem ginger scones, because they are delicious. Her response, without a pause, was “I only know about plain, cheese and fruit scones. That’s because I’m British”. I politely replied (in my local accent!) that I too was British and I’d discovered them in the exotic environs of Richmond in North Yorkshire. OK… I wasn’t narky enough to describe Richmond as exotic.
Be aware when these passive aggressive (sometimes described as microaggressions) are happening so you can call them out. Intervene, help others identify what they are doing at the same level of unacceptability as when someone uses the word “Nigger”.
Support the person overlooked in the queue; insist on equal treatment in a restaurant, café or hotel; boycott companies you know are not acting fairly; don’t send your child or grandchild to the birthday party where the only children not invited in the class are black, encourage others to do the same…and say why!
There are many sources you can read in articles, listen to podcasts, view on web sites to learn about the more everyday experiences of racism for people of colour. Most of these are relevant no matter which country you live in and will help you recognise when it is happening around you. The first two articles mentioned brought to mind equivalents in my life without effort or intention .
Please find your own sources and recognise that some of your usual sources of information (many mainstream papers and TV news) incorporate a racial bias either deliberately to get “clicks”, build readership, stoke feelings of ‘them-and-us’ and/or to support a blame culture of divide and conquer. Throughout history those in power who have usually been responsible for wars, economic downturns use this technique to divert attention and give unhappy people someone else to blame. Remember that although we hear it a lot at the moment, we really are all in this together!
BOOK: “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge
BOOK: "Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible" by Elizabeth Uviebinené and Yomi Adegoke*
BOOK: "Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire" by Akala*
BOOK: "Black and British: A Forgotten History" by David Olugosa*
BOOK: "Black, Listed: Black British Culture Explored" by Jeffrey Boakye*
ARTICLE: Anti-racism protestor from Northallerton tells her heartbreaking story (available online)
ARTICLE: Yes Magazine “My white friend asked me on Facebook to explain white privilege, I decided to be honest” (available online)
ARTICLE: Esquire “A letter to my white friends” by Chris Lambert (available online)
ARTICLE: The Guardian" How blind auditions help orchestras to eliminate gender bias"(available online)
WEBSITE: www.joe.co.uk search for Akala on the long racist history of the UK
PLAYS: Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame
*recommended to me and on my "to read" list.
Why haven't people said anything before?
We have protested peacefully (taken the knee, raised a fist), we have rioted/protested (usually after every publicised killing), we have told our stories (books that have existed for a long time, are only now selling out), we have tried to join the system to change from within (and are used as examples to suggest that by a few managing to overcome systemic racism means the barriers didn’t exist. The same argument is used for the number of women in boardrooms), but until now enough people weren’t willing to listen.
Many of you will have felt uncomfortable at some point of this article. People are willing to feel uncomfortable and move past that now. However, I remember my Mum warning me "not to go on about it too much, people don't like to hear it." That was her experience, I hope mine will be different now.
The same racist beliefs and actions that people feel comfortable acknowledging to have occurred “in the past” still exist. The overt forms exist and I am still told to “go home”, described as a “Nigger” (usually used together) but the equally damaging actions that mean I am still less likely to be hired for a job, and if hired to be paid as much as my “white” equivalent. In a very recent conversation I had, the other person said that companies are nervous about hiring a black person “because if things go wrong the black employee might play the race card”. I explained that if a company needs to dismiss or discipline someone, they should be following their procedures, whatever the person’s colour, negating that argument. I would suggest that a company with that consideration in recruitment is aware of racist issues but does not want to tackle them.
Invite people you know are in a minority group to activities they may feel excluded from (whether you understand why or not) and actively make them feel welcome. Ask them to join your yoga class 😉
Question your company’s recruitment. How much diversity is there? Why?
Look at other groups and organisations you belong to. With your new awareness can you audit how and why their communications and actions mean they may not be welcoming to all people. Ask for change or walk away – it works! (Facebook responded to loss of advertising revenue over hate posts, but not earlier requests for change.)
This video of Kimberly Jone covers some of the issues raised here and more in her Monopoly analogy
“It’s better than it used to be”
I remember a fellow black student at University in the 1990s asking me “Is it any better now than when your Mum arrived in the 1950s?” and I wanted to say yes but in reality, the change was so little and so superficial it wasn’t enough for me to confidently answer with a simple yes. In fact after the results of the Brexit referendum the behaviour I encountered in the street became much more like the overt racist behaviour I experienced as a child in the 1970s.
My (white) husband says that of course it has improved, look at all the legislation, the fewer shouts of "go home" I receive but I think it is more accurate to say it has changed. It is definitely less overt. However it is easy to see and hear the backlash against political correctness in the comments you see on social media, with contributors supporting each other about how hard it is to say anything without it offending someone, demonstrate these thoughts and feelings exist and are just as widespread as ever. (TIP: follow or search out commentators that support opposing views to you and observe. Social media feeds are designed to support your opinion, whatever opinion that is, so you can easily become sheltered from opposing views.) I commented on one of these online complaints. They had said they didn't like having to worry about offending people so I replied that "what they used to say then, used to cause offence then but you were enabled to remain oblivious to it". The result of suppressing the overt statements from people brought up with these ideas has become more subtle, only expressed openly where it feels like-minded people will support it, but the level and extent of this subtleness is one of the differences between countries at different stages of racial tension.
Instead of educating people and trying to explain that “they” are not taking "your" jobs, or “they” are not dirty, or discussing why “they” are an immigrant but a white British immigrant is an “expat”; racist comments were silenced without explanation. Having not had a black voice that could be heard until now, I know how damaging that is. The racist beliefs continued where the environment was considered safe to do so, hiding racist ideas and ignorance from scrutiny, enabling the press and other racist institutions to exploit and fuel a feeling of being silenced to benefit their own purposes. The intention was good, the method flawed.
Have the uncomfortable conversations.
Challenge, with explanations, racist comments and behaviours with the purpose of creating change so that the person can think about why they say or do something instead of feeling under attack.
Accept some people will not change but you can still influence others and our institutions so that they hold themselves accountable and actively and address any lack of diversity.
Support organisations set up by or run by Black people – they had to work harder to get there so your support is simply trying to level the playing field (a little).
“We can’t change history!”
We are already fed a whitewashed history (pun fully intended). It is a lie by omission. What is being requested is a fuller, richer history to be presented in our school education and also in our films, books and other media. Remember Jesus was an Arab, not a blond, blue-eyed man and Cleopatra was not likely to be milky skinned, even if she bathed in the stuff!
George Orwell's famous quote from his novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four proposes "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past." As Jane Elliott says "we educate in a way that says white males have done all the adventures, have made all the inventions and done all the discovering... a lie to maintain the myth of white superiority".
There doesn’t seem to be a problem discussing the barbarity of slavery in Ancient Rome and its part in the growth of that Empire but we are not prepared to dissect how the British Empire was built on the exploitation of others. And yes, Africans had slaves and sold slaves – there was a market for it! No, we can’t change history and judge a 19th century activity by 21st century values but we can learn about all the aspects, good and bad; about how and why these things came about so we can learn from it and make better decisions about our future and how it could help when dealing with Modern slavery. None of these "revelations" enhance or diminish the significance of the West's involvement in the trade of black people from Africa and the huge amount of wealth created in the West as a result, fuelling the ongoing devaluation of black lives by people in positions of power. Those people who have these positions of power thanks to the money created through slavery by their ancestors, including David Cameron's family, were recompensed when they were no longer able to trade. It was calculated that repayments to British families for the loss of income from the slave trade were only completed in 2013! Compare that with how Windrush has been dealt with.
If we want to concentrate schooling on the World Wars, include the contribution of the Commonwealth soldiers and discuss how badly they were treated in comparison to their white British counterparts and why. What would we do now? Is there anything that can be done now since it is more practical to make amends for more recent history? We have only this century finished paying off the slave traders’ families for loss of income, after all! Windrush is still happening. Include the feel-good stories where some UK towns refused to kowtow to the American demands for segregation, but recognise it did occur in the regiments and assignments.
When you present the heroes of the past include their human side – their flaws and how acceptable, or not, they were within that period of history, as well as how we would judge them now. Discuss Churchill and Gandhi’s brilliance as well as their racist ideals! Debate how to deal with statues that celebrate people who in our current time and with more information available are not to be idolised without question. Include those whose names were deliberately hushed because they were female, or gay, or black and learn about them.
Educate yourself. There are black historical pioneers you can learn about, a parade of Kings and Queens of Africa history (Marie Antoinette should not be your limit of non UK royalty); there are forgotten and deliberately side-lined black inventors; innovative black scientists and consider issues like how and why Nelson Mandela moved from terrorist to statesman.
Recognise that if the majority of success stories and historically important figures are presented as white (men - I digress) it affects our perceptions of ourselves and influences the choices of our children.
BOOK: ‘Stamped from the Beginning” by Ibram X. Kendi provides evidence of how our society manipulates history to its own benefit. It refers to American history from the beginning of European colonization to present day and how racist notions from England on the inferiority of Black people affects their history… you can consider how those racist notions from England have affected British history!
Questioning the origins of yoga
In looking at my own occupation, even yoga is presented as only having Indian roots, yet what look like recognisable yoga postures were found in Kemet (Egypt) pyramids and unique styles of yoga poses and breathing techniques were found in Africa’s pyramids and ancient text. The Yoruba, of Nigeria (a long way from Egypt), referred to Ríró, meaning elasticity or Lati (to be elastic) to enhance the body and healing plus a form of meditation called Riri and philosophies we attribute as yoga philosophies are embedded in everyday life. When I first heard the 8 limbs of yoga they seemed strangely familiar because it was basically how my Yoruba Mum had brought me up but she had not known or used the language of the limbs. I assumed that it was just a common approach to living a decent life probably found throughout the African continent, but for some present they were an epiphany. Why are the Indian roots more acceptable than the African ones? It is fully dismissed because the theory was proposed by a doctor of Theology, Dr Muata Ashby, who is a self-proclaimed advocate for “the concept of the existence of advanced social and religious philosophy in Ancient Africa comparable to the Eastern traditions”. But surely that would obviously be the case? No-one else will ask the questions. As mentioned before, black Africans have a lot of experience of being dismissed, ignored or passed over!
The African continent is the birthplace of human life so it shouldn’t be a surprise. I don’t know “the truth” in the way people want to know and I doubt it is a simple one, but perhaps it was more acceptable, yet still exotic. Or perhaps while Indian politicians saw the value in exclusively claiming what was beginning to be a popular practice as their own, Africa was still fighting for independence. There is plenty to read about the issues of Hindu appropriation of yoga and the effect on other minority groups within the Indian subcontinent mainly as a result of the caste system upon which a lot of yoga theory, as practiced in the West, is based on. It is recognised by many yoga practitioners that the current leadership in India is using yoga to promote their violently divisive, right-wing nationalist, Hindutva agenda on the world stage (leading into the next section of ‘Black on Black’ quite neatly!).
It is highly unlikely that a universal phenomenon involving spirituality would have one single lineage just as in more modern scientific enquiry it is common for two separate laboratories to reach similar discoveries. After all, these ancient civilisations needed to find ways of keeping the mind and body healthy purely to survive. What we practice may have Indian lineage but to dismiss equivalents and possible linkages could mean knowledge lost forever.
“What about black on black crimes”
A classic tabloid approach! At no point does anyone think that being black stops you from acting badly, illegally or simply being in the wrong. In fact the systems are in place to encourage just that! However, similarly, being white does not make a saint (despite imagery to suggest otherwise, but I digress again). Just like white people, black people are not a homogeneous group, but just as white people share the privilege of not being disadvantaged by the colour of their skin, black people are disadvantaged by the colour of their skin and the extent varies, so despite being lumped together these differences are played out within the various acts of racism and therefore are being recognised!
As Patrick Benjamin says in his essay "Dear White People": "It often sits with “It’s awful but...” - No. No buts. In the English language, the word “But” is often used to deflect or to justify behaviour. Police murdering black people in the street is awful. Period. End. of. discussion."
Again, consider this: a farm in the north-east of England reports, on my Facebook feed, a suspicious looking car that seems to be scoping out the farm. The description is not of the car registration plate but that there were four men in the car, two of whom were black and although you could argue a less common sight in the north-east the inference is that their being black supported the suspicion that they were up to no good. I couldn’t help but wonder whether the other two were green. It could have been described as two of them were white…but it wasn’t because that is not what is expected.
If you don’t understand how the history presented to you, the reality of who you see in positions of power, the effect of a lower expectation on you, all plays out please watch or read about the controversial original blue eyes/brown eyes experiment by Jane Elliot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebPoSMULI5U
BOOK: “Open Season: Legallized Genozide of Colored People” by Ben Crump (an attorney for Trayvon Martin (FL), Michael Brown (MO), Terence Crutcher (OK), George Floyd (MN), Breonna Taylor (KY), Ahmaud Arbery (GA)
ARTICLE: An interview with Arundhati Joy - Indian racism towards black people is almost worse than white peoples racism https://www.dalitcamera.com/
Having read critiques of many of the books and articles referred to here I'd like to include a quick reminder that there is no competition as to who is worst off. Unfortunately there are many other causes of injustice but I am limiting this piece to the issue that is pertinent to me, that I have most experience of and have been asked about. The signposts are meant to be a starting point but you can find so much more, if you want to.
I am not going to defend my comments or become argumentative because, if you feel that way, I know our paths of consciousness as so far apart we cannot possibly hear each other, never mind listen to each other. I will practice Ahimsa and do myself no harm. This was all written as a personal understanding of my experience in the world as it exists for me, and it seems to be the case for many others with the same skin colour as me. People of colour are not a homogenous whole so with our various heritages and our individual intersectionality with other issues it means each one of us is still unique. This morning a friend and I discussed, in the context of feminism, how being equal does not mean being the same; being equal means our unique qualities are equally valued: 2+2 = 4 and so does 1+3 = 4
Unfortunately institutional racism, individual racism and systemic racism do exist and hopefully this has helped you work out if and how you want to become aware of and whether you wish to do anything about it. If you do, it is important to practice that awareness AND then take action.
Please don’t exhaust yourself trying to learn about everything in a short period of time. I have been aware of and experienced racism all my life so to incorporate 50 years of awareness in a month or two of learning will only turn you off. Instead, keep going at a sensible pace for you, become more aware of what is happening around you now and question it from this new vantage point. Take actions while you are learning. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes because as long as you are listening you will use these mistakes as opportunities to learn more. To paraphrase Maya Angelou - “Do your best and when you know better, do better”.
When I read a lot of these things, I am identifying similar experiences or recognising histories I was already aware of, whereas I can only guess what it must be like for you, with your own histories and life experiences so I’d like to sum up using a quote I found on scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org
Tre Johnson’s Washington Post Op-Ed, “When Black People Are in Pain, White People Just Join Book Clubs,” reminds us that learning and listening is only effective when followed by action. Johnson writes:
The right acknowledgment of black justice, humanity, freedom and happiness won’t be found in your book clubs, protest signs, chalk talks or organizational statements. It will be found in your earnest willingness to dismantle systems that stand in our way — be they at your job, in your social network, your neighborhood associations, your family or your home. It’s not just about amplifying our voices, it’s about investing in them and in our businesses, education, political representation, power, housing and art.
Finally, be aware that for some, when you are used to privilege, equality feels like oppression. If you always got to start the race a few (or a lot of) paces ahead of others YOU ARE giving something up when we all line up at the same point. It is a levelling of the playing field, not oppression.
My soul honours your soul,
I honour the light, love, peace
and beauty within you,
because it is also in me.
We are one.
Credit: There have been many sources to which I am unable to give full credit to because they have provided information to me over many years and I simply can't remember. Key players not directly named above include my parents, Felice Laverne, David Lammy, Rosa Parks, Lola Hendricks and many others whose names escape me since I am rubbish at remembering names. (Images used are copyright of the originators and are used here for educational purposes only, solely to illustrate a point.)