Posted in Blog

Clearing Out My Inner Circle: Avoiding Racists

I met this person about a month ago who seemed to just latch onto me. It was during a night out so it was fun at the time; we were all drinking and having a good time. This new potential friendship came as a surprise to me because I tend to not hang out with white people if I’m honest and you’ll realise why very soon.

On our way to the tube station at the end of the night, we began to talk about hip hop. The details of how we arrived onto the topic are kinda hazy, but then we moved onto the perceptions of black people and I said how much I hate that people think rappers are just thugs when actually most of them are intelligent poets. I’ll admit that this is an assumption I had myself; growing up my mother told us that rappers were all like Biggie and Tupac, ignorant troublemakers, into drugs and heading towards one destination: death (we all are ofc but I think you know what I mean). Thankfully I realised how wrong this was but admittedly it took growing up and finding my own mind to figure this all out.

Anyway, the person heard what I said but then replied

“well they shouldn’t act like that then. They give black people a bad name just like those in gangs. White people look at those people and assume that all black people are thugs. It’s the same with the Latinos too, all they do is fight and kill each other”.

I was shocked.

Sometimes I feel like white people forget who they are speaking to. I think: If they knew they were talking to a black person they would tread more carefully. However now I’m starting to believe that there are certain people who just don’t give a shit about what they say to you, especially when they’re white. Unfortunately they have the privilege of saying whatever they want without worrying about the context or consequences (just look at Piers Morgan for example). Realistically, it’s common sense and basic understanding of socio-politics to recognise that not all gang members are bad people as I’ve mentioned in a previous post; some get caught up in that life and not because of fucking hip hop; sometimes it’s the only way to survive in this white supremacist society we live in.

The person had also previously told me that they once had a black friend in college (who they conveniently stopped talking to once they left college) and that they had also been a member of the MLK society at their college. Perhaps that was the reason they felt they could say such ignorantly racist things; they’d paid their dues to the black community and played the part of ally for long enough. Now they had a free pass to go all ape-shit.

It gets worse.

During a bad week mentally, in a bid to escape from shit I agreed to meet up with this person again; we met up for drinks but I felt on edge, because I knew that something racist was going to be said at some point of the night. I began to realise that no matter how shit things were at home, drinks with this person really hadn’t been a great idea. Then I was proven right. Within an hour or so, we began talking about intelligence (interesting cocktails talk I know) and the person said that “all Korean people are born smart because it’s in their genes”.

I questioned how they knew this to which the response was “well it’s scientifically proven”.

Me: “so it has nothing to do with culture where it’s encouraged to work hard” (which has also been scientifically proven in many articles analysing the influence of culture on psychology and achieving goals within collectivist societies).

The person refuted this and said that they had read many articles confirming that it was in their genes, “you can’t argue with science” was their counter argument.

Then I replied “well science can’t always be believed. Science also reckons that the reason why black people can run fast is purely because of genes, which is obviously rubbish” (in fact it’s partly to do with work ethic as well as muscle) to which they replied

“well science is never wrong”.

 

I was silent for a moment, to collect my thoughts because I was almost falling off my chair at this point and desperately wanted to walk out. But I knew I couldn’t without first saying one thing: “what you’re saying is incredibly racist, you realise that right?”

Note that I didn’t call them racist.

However the response was “but I’m not racist”.

They went on to say that they were entitled to an opinion.

Yes, yes you are, but not when it’s fucking racist.

I haven’t spoken to that person since, regardless of them having sent me messages after that last time we saw each other and liking pretty much all of my Instagram photos. I can’t be around people like that and I don’t owe them an explanation either.

And this is why I tend to not hang out with white people. Yes my girlfriend is white but I’ve invested A LOT of time in educating her on what racism is, and what it means to be with me as a black woman and what it means for me to be with her as a white woman. It’s fucking exhausting, but she now knows that although she can say a million times that she loves the bones off me, if she doesn’t show respect to me as a black woman then her words mean absolutely nothing, thus she knows that she must take on board things she’s learnt from me as she’s unlearnt the unconscious bias she grew up with; she knows that certain things cannot be said to me or around me if they hurt me or my community. And the fact that she has put in that effort means more than saying the words “I love you” in all honesty.

This person who said this stuff was with the same mouth telling me how awesome I am and calling us bffs. How can we be bffs when this is what you think of me?

My girlfriend is a prime example of a white ally. She’s not shouting about racism and #blacklivesmatter from all of her social media accounts, but she doesn’t tolerate racism either; if she had been with me when that person was talking such shit to me, she would’ve been right by me correcting them.

It blows my mind how some white people can just move mad because they truly believe themselves to be superior to you. Take this woman in the toilets at the Curzon Bloomsbury Cinema. We’d all just come out of the theatre having watched Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman which not only preaches on implicit racism, it also ends with a shocking montage on the explicit racism that’s reared it’s head in America, following the election of Trump (and is also very applicable to the current post-Brexit climate in U.K.). I always wonder why certain people watch films like this, particularly Lee’s films because you’re guna get served up tea on a plate. But I guess some people think they can let it go over their heads because they’re not saying the n-word, therefore it just doesn’t apply to them. So this woman came out of the theatre and was in the toilets standing behind the door; I came in and seeing no queue I walked to wait as first in line. I hadn’t seen this woman because she had been behind the door, so when she suddenly emerged I was surprised. She then gave me an obvious dirty look and said to me very slowly and condescendingly like she was talking to a to toddler:

“DON’T. YOU. KNOOOOOOW. HOW. TO. QUEUUUUUUE?”

Of course I know how to fucking queue, I’m not a moron.

My polite British side took a very deep breath and replied calmly “I didn’t see you” then she said “well I didn’t want to get hit by the door”.

I could see the white woman tears welling up in her eyes. I took a few more breaths… and I don’t know if it was the unnecessary tears or the fact that I had yet to receive an apology for her earlier tone but something inside me snapped, so I said: “You’re standing behind the door to not get hit by the door? And then expected me to see you? That’s a really stupid place to stand isn’t it?” Pause. “And yes I do know what a queue is so don’t talk to me like I’m the idiot here”. The shock on her face was a picture and suddenly there were no more tears! (Or an apology for that matter.) But why the fuck was she crying in the first place!

Afterwards, I came out of my cubicle first and when she came out of her’s, although the other sinks were free she approached the one next to me. She asked “how was I supposed to say it then?” I looked at her then replied: “I’m not going to teach you how to speak to people. If at your age you don’t know then that’s your problem” and left.

She was standing in the wrong place, yet was talking down to me because in her mind she’s the one in the right, because her privilege tells her that even when she’s wrong she’s right. She doesn’t need to talk to me like a human being because society doesn’t see me as a human being, so why should she?

Same as the “bff”: she didn’t see me as a human being, so she doesn’t see a need to treat me as such; I’m not human, with feelings and emotions.

These two people are also examples of the type of racism we have to put up with every day. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been called the n-word, but I am still dehumanised as a black woman on a daily basis:

  • When you say something you don’t think is racist just because you haven’t said the n-word;
  • When you push me out of the way to get onto a train/bus before me, because you apparently didn’t see me (that actually happened to me over the weekend at the ticket barriers and I pushed the bitch back);
  • When you sit next to me on public transport and elbow me repeatedly because you’re entitled to more space than me;
  • When you tell me that racism isn’t that bad in this country and whatever I’ve experienced is all in my head…

The list goes on, and this post is already long enough; if I carry on going we’ll be here until Christmas.

I can avoid friendships with problematic people but I can’t avoid people in everyday life (I’ve tried). They’re out in the streets, on public transport and are even my neighbours. So what is the solution?

I just have to focus on what I can and cannot change; I can’t change the minds of people who don’t give a shit about me, but what I can focus on, is protecting myself and continuing to ensure that my immediate environment isn’t a toxic one, which is why I will always be ruthless when it comes to who I choose to have in my life and I will never apologise for that.

XOXO

Posted in Poetry

Lost Your Mind

You call me angry

When I am actually inconsolable

Broken, inside my heart is crying,

Crying out for love.

You call me aggressive,

When I am actually desperate,

Begging to be heard.

You call me loud,

But you don’t hear my cries of pain,

The agony of my mind breaking into two.

You call me unpredictable,

While others have the luxury

Of bad days and good.

How can I possibly predict

What each day will bring?

You call me fine

And capable of life without support.

Yet, inside I’m already dead,

Because what is living

When you have lost your mind?

© Cece Noel, 2018
Posted in Poetry

Lanes & Races

 

You say that you expect more from me,

Implicitly saying

That black women like me are expected to work

10 times harder.

Normal status quo standards do not suffice

When it’s my efforts as the subject line –

The progress bar slows to a crawl.

You expect me to pedal faster

To gain the same distance as my peers on the same track,

Because it’s the same track but a different race –

Same ground covered but different lanes;

Lanes with potholes,

Continuous uphill terrain,

Unrelenting, steadfast obstacles,

And character assassinations.

My eyes are now open.

My skin is now raw to the touch.

My joints and limbs ache

With age beyond my years,

Yet I won’t stop running. I refuse to stop running.

My open eyes can look around

But I also keep looking forward,

To prove that your head would be spinning

If you were to run in my lane.

So I keep looking forward,

Because that is what I expect from myself.

 

© Cece Noel, 2018
Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Like A Phoenix

On 1st September 2018, I got my fifth tattoo.

Screen Shot 2018-09-09 at 18.45.25

Like a phoenix, I rise from the ashes.

2018 has been an incredible year of ups, downs, struggles, celebrations, births and deaths.

Like owls, phoenixes have been a symbolic bird to me because of their ability to rebirth; they burst into flames after living for centuries and then from the ashes, they rebirth into renewed youth, to live for another cycle of life.

I feel like in 2017, I finally succumbed to  everything that had aged me and died a metaphorical death. Then in 2018, I used those ashes to recreate a new me, more youthful, wiser and with renewed energy, to begin life anew.

I’m laughing more, I’m dancing more, I’m flying and soaring. And when things have weighed me down such as family, relationship problems, falling under the pressures of academia and battling with the DWP, I’ve carried on fighting. Hence the tattoo.

Each time I look at it, I feel like a mother gazing down at her new baby (LOL); I forget all of the pain I’ve gone through, because now all I see whenever I look at this tattoo is beauty and love.

2018 has also been a symbolic year for me, because I’ve been published (again)!! This time in an anthology raising awareness for Black and minority mental health in the UK. The anthology is called “The Colour of Madness” featuring artwork, poetry and short stories, including mine called “Matriarchal Dreams“, a story birthed from my mental breakdown last year and recurring nightmares about my mother and the member of staff who tormented me during my teacher training year. It’s now available to buy on Amazon so make sure you grab a copy ASAP!!!

Peace and love.

XOXO

XOXO

 

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

Focus

It’s been a minute since I’ve been able to update you! As I mentioned in Friday’s post, I was intending for this to be my first post since my hiatus, but of course shit happened which I had to talk about! Anyhoo, many apologies for my lack of writing! I’ve been caught up with assignments and trying to get healthy around that.

So where do I start??

I’ve had a hair cut!

New Profile Pic 2

And I fuckin’ LOVE IT! I’ve wanted to do it for years, but I’ve always been too scared. This is when I realised that I attached waaaay too much of my beauty and confidence to my hair, so I finally decided to have it cut before my birthday in July.

 

My yoga classes took a break over summer, so in the interim I’ve been going to the gym; I’ve found a great one local to me, part of the Energie Fitness chain. Membership is really cheap and you’re not bound to a contract either so you can cancel any time. I’ve always been a little bit petrified of gyms; full of super fit people, I often felt like as soon as I walked in, people would be staring in shock at how unfit I am (not caring that I haven’t always been like this), especially when I get on the crosstrainer LOL. But of course it’s not like that; everybody’’s in the zone, doing their own thaaang and I’ve actually become quite addicted to it! It’s not only great for physiology, it’s also great for mental well-being. Plus it gets me out of the house so I’m winning on all fronts.

 

My body is also getting to used to my new AEDs (anti-epileptic drugs), Lacosamide. So I’m only on 100mg twice a day at the moment, finally off Keppra (wooooooo). But, when I first started on Lacosaminde, I developed a strange side-effect of urinary incontinence. Imagine my horror at the age of 32, suddenly leaking and having to purchase incontinence pads! I’m not ashamed to admit that I did cry a little and the only advice my Epilepsy Nurse could give was go to the internet, while my GP advised me to go to the toilet more. The latter only helped with the fact that as well as leaking, I was always bursting to go. It didn’t help with the leaking in between go’s. However, it seems to have finally settled down… until my next dose increase I guess….

Other than that, my epilepsy seems to be responding to the medication. I’ve had four seizures in almost two months which is INCREDIBLE!

 

Don’t get stressed

Another piece of advice my GP gave me was “to not get stressed” in order to reduce the seizures; people do not seem to realise who fucking annoying it is to hear that, as if we look for stress. For fuck sake.

 

However the GP did give me some good advice in terms of what I focus my energy on. At first what she actually said was that I didn’t have a focus and when I challenged her on that considering it was only the first time we’d ever met, she then rephrased: be careful what you focus your energy on. With this in mind, on Tuesday I saw my therapist and she said something very similar. She noticed that I tend to focus a lot of my energy on what other people are thinking about me and what they’re doing, very futile things. Instead of doing this, what I should be doing is focusing on myself: my journey of self-discovery, and what I’m doing now, in the present (Gestalt therapy is great for this, focusing on the present, being in the present).

Guilt and shame

I also don’t give myself enough credit for what I’m doing or who I’ve become: I’m a highly intelligent and incredibly creative woman. When I put my mind to something, I do whatever it takes to get there and I think that sometimes I give the people around me more credit for that than myself. My therapist told me that she’s observed that I carry a lot of guilt and shame, which is why I don’t like admitting the positive things that I’ve accomplished. And I think she’s bang in with that observation considering the psychological abuse I was subjected to all of my life. As a child and adolescent, although I was ambitious I was also very submissive and scared to rock the boat because I would be second-guessed and put down, so I would bend and sway to the music of others. A lot of this was also in seeking approval and validation from the people around me, whether they be on social media or real life, be they white, black and my family in particular.

 

Furthermore, guilt and shame is generational: many Black women before me have been prohibited from speaking out, speaking up and drawing attention to themselves, for fear of being shamed or bringing shame to the people around them. They’ve been forced to retreat into themselves which is a behaviour they’ve passed onto us, their daughters and granddaughters.

 

Now I’m going out on my own, drawing a lot of attention to myself and although at times I’m soaring high, I also doubt myself and look down at the ground beneath me, looking for reassurance but also scaring myself shitless. When what I should be doing is focusing on what I am doing, not what is happening around me.

 

I felt like I needed to share this epiphany with you all, because I’ve been trialling this new mindset since my therapy session and although at times it’s incredibly difficult, it is also incredibly liberating. In a way, I had already started the process when I stopped making YouTube videos a few months ago; I was responding to every single negative comment especially and with all the negative I get on Twitter sometimes, I was really taking the opinions to heart, allowing them to beat myself up. When I first decided to stop, it was to protect my mental health, but now I realise it’s about me focusing on what’s important: me and what I’m doing. My videos were not only a critique on the institution and society; they were a celebration of the person that I’ve finally learnt to embrace. I’ve also learnt not to respond to everything on Twitter, because it’s not only taking the focus away from what I do on social media, it’s also taking my focus away from myself.

XOXO

Posted in Poetry

When You Look Like Them

Reflections of headlines in the dull eyes of the right

“It is un-British to mourn so publicly and for so long!”

But there’s no need to fear

When you look like them

 

There’s no need to fear that you will burn inside your home

That the state will taunt you for the colour of your skin

 

There is no need to cry

When you look like them

Everyday brings a fresh beginning.

 

Like peacocks they walk with swagger past the ashes

The tragedy plays no part in their lives

Holds no impact on their existence,

When you look like them.

 

Forgotten are the screams, the inferno, the betrayal,

Forgotten are the broken promises

The cries that came long before the tragedy.

Dull eyes filled with forgotten lives.

 

The conveyor belt continues, carrying essentials,

Essentials rationed to certain citizens

The rest of us thrown off the merry-go-round

Life goes too fast when we look like us

 

There’s no need to wonder how long the roof

Over your alien head

Will exist, until the carpet is tugged from beneath your feet

 

When you look like them

There is no need to lie

To the babies relying on you

Innocent of their birthright poverty

 

Like peacocks the neighbours in their castle

Swagger, clothed in privilege and entitlement

Race holds no impact on their existence

When you look like them.

© Cece Alex 2018

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(Image source)

Posted in Poetry

Black Skin

No means on when you have black skin

Slimy hands like tentacles slide up my leg

As tears like rain slide down my face

Black women like me should know our place

Our place of submission and regression

One step forward and two steps back

Our bodies were never meant to be our own

With white kings and queens on the throne

On the streets they watch with hawk-like eyes

They stare, licking hungry lips like predators

Watching their prey, waiting, ready to attack me

Black women like me are never let be

They move, quickly across the street

Like a “Great White Shark” in water

The chase is on, I run fast, fast, fast,

But he loves the chase and wills it to last

“I just want to say hi”, he cries from behind

“I love your black skin” he froths from the mouth

He begins to slow, the hard rock between his legs

Weighs him, betrays him, so he stops and begs

“I just want to talk” he cries once more

But what’s the point in me saying no?

Because no means on when you have black skin

In this game, a woman like me doesn’t win

 

© Cece Alex 2018