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I haven’t blogged in a month or so. I definitely haven’t blogged about race. Why? Well, you could say I’m suffering from racial fatigue – I’m tired of analysing, deconstructing, resisting and boycotting white supremacy in all it’s myriad manifestations. I’m sick of noticing how pervasive it is. I’m fed up of having to deal with the internalised anti-blackness within my community. I’m just sick of race.

Unfortunately, there’s no escape route.

James Baldwin said it best:

“To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time. ”

Because it’s literally everywhere. And thanks to the resurgence of more overt forms racism in the last few years and the ever reaching hand of social media, the depressing reality screams in my face every day. I can feel it’s breath on my cheek the minute I open a newspaper. I can smell the stench from the biased journalism on my TV screen. I have to exchange smiles with its passive aggression at work every morning. It even manages to invade the sacred spaces of my faith.

There have been a few times in my life where I wished I wasn’t black. Not because being black isn’t beautiful and defiantly joyous in an almost miraculous way, but because to be black and to fight to love blackness can be tiring. To be black and to love yourself and your people and to see the daily and consistent assaults on them – not the videos of black men being shot, or the MP who ‘accidentally’ uses the N-word, but the almost imperceptible drip of a system that attempts to erode at the concrete of our self-worth, is heartbreaking.

Sometimes I envy the people who don’t see it. How don’t they see it? Do they see it and don’t care?

But I’m realising that one of our greatest acts of resistance against any evil is to be able to see all of it, the ugliness, the hatred, the accidental bigotry and the calculated dismissal, and refuse to let it define our existence or steal our joy.

I’m starting to believe that although it’s necessary to understand how white supremacy affects us, our conversations about white people’s acts of overt or covert racism are far too centred on white people. Somehow, we still believe despite all the evidence, that the more information white people receive about us, the less likely they are to be racist, and we direct our conversations about race under that basis. We have become trapped in a continual cycle of outrage in which a white person or people will commit an act entirely consistent with past behaviour, and black people evrywhere (and well intentioned white people), are outraged and angry, berate the offending party, and attempt to have ‘conversations’ about said behaviour. This can’t be healthy.

Racism is literally bad for your health. It is an independent stressor linked with physical and mental illness, and it does that by placing you in a position where you are constantly forced to be aware of the fact that you and people who share the same skin as you are perceived as inferior and therefore treated as such, and subtly suggesting that you must therefore ACTUALLY be inferior. In Britain especially, it is expert at being omnipresent but simultaneously encouraging you to question whether it really exists.

If you refuse to believe the false propaganda that it’s ‘not as bad as you think’  you WILL see it and it WILL make you angry. That’s stressful.

You have a right to your anger. You have a right to sit in your righteous anger at injustice. In fact, I would even advocate claim that, as one young brave women said, if you’re not angry, it’s because you’re not paying attention. There will always be people of all races who are uncomfortable with anger directed at racism. They will frame it as concern about the angry party, when for most of them, their concern is about their own comfort, their own sense of guilt and their own love of white supremacy in its various forms – whether that be Charlottesville style or “light skin is just my preference” style.

But love in its right season is just as defiant as anger. Black love is rebellious and obstinate in its refusal to give in to a system that claims that blackness is unlovable.

Black lust is everywhere – dissecting, carving and reselling bits of blackness to be consumed by the highest or lowest bidder. The objectification of blackness in the form of caricatured celebrities or funny viral videos is not black love. Black love can’t be reduced to learning how to twerk or reading one Maya Angelou book.

Real black love gives birth to black joy and it is being confident, so confident, that existing in this skin is as Divinely willed as any other act of God. Black love isn’t limited to romance between black people, it’s loving black people and black culture despite being subtly told that blackness is undeserving of love.

So while I can and will be angry, and reserve my right to,  I’m trying to be more invested in finding the love and the joy that exists in my community as much as possible. I’m laughing out loud at the woman in the Caribbean takeaway. I’m dancing in my room to Lauryn Hill. I’m letting my favourite gospel song carry me into my prayer time. I’m reading black authors that make me think and cry and giggle. I’m hugging my friends and family. I’m appreciating the good-looking black men in their suits at London Bridge (don’t judge me). I’m being joyful.

One of my favourite passages of scripture, Nehemiah 8:10 says “The Joy of the Lord, is your strength”. I’m holding on to the promise that we are at our strongest when we are at our most joyful.

What things do you do that bring you joy?

rosaparksnah

 

So #brexit happened. Cue weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth etc. The leave campaign have effectively galvanised over 50% of the voting population with a campaign that was essentially a single issue campaign – immigration. Those of you who voted leave for various other reasons are at this point protesting- not all of you voted on immigration, it was do with democracy, sovereignty, freedom, TAKING BACK CONTROL!!!! Sure. But regardless of your very legitimate reasons for voting leave, all the polls show that the majority of people voted based on immigration or issues related to it.

Since #Brexit, many have noted that xenophobic and racist incidents have been on the increase. It’s not Eastern Europeans that are the only targets for xenophobia (which I would add is different from racism and we should no confuse the two), but Black and Asian people have been targets of both xenophobia and racism. People are tweeting that they have been told to go back to their country. I myself have walked into shops in my local area in the Midlands and felt an atmosphere of tension that is palpable – more palpable than before.

What’s fascinating and frankly slightly hilarious,  is watching mainstream media collectively lament this new dawn of racism that has apparently been ushered in by Brexit. The white working class are demoralised and disenfranchised, they say. How awful that neglect from the left wing politicians that were supposed to look after them has pushed them into fear and bigotry. How can we rectify this? By creating more jobs, by ushering in a new semi-socialist dawn. We can TAKE BACK CONTROL!

This is a complete and utter piffle.

White working class racism has always been there. It was there in the 60’s when my Grandad walked through Wolverhampton with his six children and had rubbish and bottles thrown at them. It was there in the 1970’s and 80’s when gangs of working class white youth used to target and beat up young black men and women. It was there in the 90’s at Milwall football matches. It was there when, age 7, my next door neighbour who lived in the bottom flat of the house next door that had been split into council housing, threw a knife at my head and called me a nigger. It was there when a few months ago a patient called me a Paki. It was there when a few weeks later another patient told me the last doctor who screwed up his treatment was coloured.

Framing post-brexit racism as something new is another way of the white middle class pushing the stigma of racism onto the working class instead of admitting that white supremacy is part and parcel of what this country has built it’s legacy on. Overt racism from the white working class is no better than the institutionalised racism legitimised and upheld by the middle and upper classes. The foundation for bigotry was laid many hundreds of years ago and there has been little attempt to destroy the foundation- only half-hearted efforts to build flimsy structures of seeming equality over it’s rotten core.

The positive outcome of this is that maybe for many of the younger generation of African-Caribbean’s this referendum has been a wake up call. Perhaps, the casual xenophobia and racism that has been unearthed will serve as a timely reminder of how tenuous our position is in this country. Too many of us have been comfortable in an identity of Britishness based on the fact that we felt accepted and at home in the bubble of big-city diversity. The cosmopolitan nature of London  is not reflective of the mood of the rest of the country. In London you are British. In Devon you may well not be considered so. For some of us, we are adamant that we will not allow what is British to be dictated by the prejudice of others. For others, myself included, we have decide that Britishness is a label that is fairly dispensable depending on its utility at any given moment and feel uncomfortable feeling attached to a country where a good proportion of the population seem to be uncomfortable with our presence. However you decide to define yourself, now more than ever is a time where we can focus on unity as a community. We need positivity, support and kindness towards each other at a time when the atmosphere seems to be one of hatred and fear. We don’t need to prove to others that we are worthy of respect. We don’t need to beg for acceptance.

Brexit was a reminder that as sinful humans, we react with fear when we feel we have less than others. We lash out and hurt others when we think they have something we should have. We become insular and closed instead of open and warm. I am determined that I will never excuse or be sympathetic to the racism that was always present before Brexit and that will be there long after the dust has settled. Poverty does not excuse bigotry.  I will not be more sympathetic to anyone’s racism because they have less than I have. I will not allow myself to be fearful or hateful. They have chosen to do that.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

 

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It boggles the mind that some people think that you can’t be concerned with more than one cause at time. If you tweet #freethebees someone will inevitably hyperventilate and stammer “How can you be concerned about bees when MILLIPEDES are almost extinct, do you know how important they are to our ecosystem?”

So I’m prefacing this post by reiterating that I understand that one is capable of caring about human lives and animal lives at the same time. I am after all, a vegetarian.

You’ve all heard the news about Harambe the Gorilla. Tragically, he was shot at a zoo after an incident in which a 4 year old managed to climb into the gorilla enclosure. I understand the sympathy extended that an animal, which for all intents and purposes, was minding it’s own business and happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, was shot. Cool. Have your 1 minute of silence before you eat you factory farmed beef burger. (Did you feel the shade? It was intentional)

What I don’t understand (or maybe I do understand, but don’t want to)  is this disproportionate mourning that certain people *cough* will participate in for wild animals in comparison to:

  1. The animals they kill every day for food kept in horrific conditions.
  2. Black and brown people everywhere.

Many were calling for police to investigate the mother and bring charges for the death of the gorilla. Unbelievably, they’ve been successful and the police are now investigating the mum. Never mind the fact that anyone who has looked after a 4 year old should be able to understand that they can skedaddle in the twinkling of an eye. Never mind the fact that zoos should probably have enclosures that are pretty much childproof. Unless this boy was secretly an international athlete, he just shouldn’t have been able to get into a gorilla enclosure.

I wish police officers who killed unarmed black people were investigated that quickly. Isn’t it interesting that many of these same people who are so riled by live video footage of a gorilla being shot, weren’t equally as riled by live video footage of Walter Scott being shot in the back?  Wouldn’t it be nice if it could garner the same level of international outrage?  The only conclusion I can gather from reactions to Harambe the Gorilla and Cecil the Lion (the other animal that made headlines last year), is that for many of these people gorillas lives are more important than black ones. Especially when people are more intent on crying about a gorilla than being thankful that a little boy (who coincidentally happens to be black) was saved from what could have been a horrific death at the hands of an potentially extremely violent animal.

In fact, don’t underestimate the fact that this child was black and that his mother was black in this outrage. Black mothers face tremendous stigma. Black boys are seen as societal deviants and by extension their mothers are tarred with the brush of irresponsibility, regardless of the facts of the situation. Many of you might feel that I’m clutching at straws here, but I honestly believe that the reaction to this would have been slightly different if a blonde hair blue eyed little girl had been trapped in the enclosure and if the mother had been white.

I’m not stating that every person who is concerned about the gorilla is consciously racist.I’m not stating that you shouldn’t care about gorillas, bees or millipedes. I’m not even questioning the hierarchy of concern because I was already aware of the hierarchy. I’m just giving us a short reminder, once again, perhaps like a broken record, of how selective society can be is with it’s empathy. And that we should remember this. And that we should question in our own lives what moves us to mourning.

(We could also have a discussion about zoos and why they’re kind of questionable…but that’s another post)

white dance

I can’t remember the exact day when I decided that it wasn’t my job to ‘break stereotypes’, but it should be marked as a day of rejoicing. It might have been somewhere between the time one of my consultants in medical school emailed me back to say of course I could have a day off to speak to the girls at my old secondary school because she understood why I would want to inspire those from less privileged backgrounds (I went to a private school), or the time my work colleague tried to fist bump me when I offered to check some blood results for him, but either way, the day came when I refused to participate in the lunacy any longer.

Growing up black and middle class, you’ll often experience that many  white people will treat you like a unicorn or at the very least, a mongoose. Something rare and unfamiliar. They are curious. What school did you go to? How are you so well spoken? Is the rest of your family like you? How have you managed to arise from the ashes of your inevitable council estate experience to the glorious present? View Post