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 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 Blog

Roxanne Pallett (Celebrity Big Brother) Accusing Ryan Thomas of Domestic Violence

I had planned to come out of my short-hiatus with a different post, however I had something that I urgently needed to get off my chest.

 

I stopped watching Big Brother quite a while ago, before it even moved channels in fact. Yet, I did try to watch one episode of Celebrity Big Brother earlier this week because I’m suffering from withdrawal symptoms following the end of Love Island last month LOL. It didn’t hit the spot.

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(Image source)

But on social media this week, I noticed a lot of tweets about Roxanne Pallett and Ryan Thomas. For anybody unfamiliar with them, both are soap opera stars (on rival programmes actually!) Roxanne is apparently known for being a bit of a drama queen off-screen (who would’ve thought of a soap actress??), as well as on-screen while being on Celebrity Big Brother and last week, Roxanne clearly didn’t think that she had enough attention, so decided to accuse Ryan of violently attacking her. I had to watch. 

 

So, it was another case of Love Island, where the audience watching saw what really happened, while everybody else in the house for a while only had the words of Roxanne and Ryan. In case you haven’t watched it, this is what happened: they were both in the kitchen and Ryan playfully did some jabs near her side, but his hands never touched her. Roxanne, after laughing, then screamed

“ow that hurt! Woman-beater”.

She then went into the bedroom and asked Big Brother if she could be called to the “Diary Room”, where she told Big Brother that Ryan had just violently attacked her and she was in pain. Following this, she asked to be sent to another bedroom for the night, because she couldn’t be in the same room as “her attacker”, while Ryan was given a formal warning from Big Brother. I’m guessing this action was taken by the Big Brother production team to appease Roxanne

 

Unbeknownst to Ryan, over the next subsequent days or so, Roxanne had begun to tell some of the other guys what had happened to her, which included an over-exaggerated demonstration on her friend Ben and lots of shaking and sobbing while having to “relive the ordeal”. It was noticed that she never approached the other women in the house, because she knew that they wouldn’t have believed her. Ryan soon became ostracised from the majority of the group of men (the older men stood by Ryan, but the younger guys sided with Roxanne), until Big Brother finally stepped in, when one of the guys – Dan – who had initially been on Roxanne’s side, went into the Diary Room to bitch about Ryan, only for Big Brother to ask Dan if Ryan had really done anything, would he even still be in the house? Dan then saw the light and informed the rest of the house that Roxanne had been lying.

 

I have seen many white women using their fragility when it comes to spinning stories. I am furious with Jermaine in particular – the only Black man in the house – because even after he was told the truth, he was the only one still swayed by Roxanne’s white tears; he took A LOT of convincing and I feel like this is a common occurrence with Black men who like to jump to the rescue of white women.

I am also sick and tired of women like Roxanne using their privilege of fragility to make false accusations about violence, tarnishing the authenticity of real victims and survivors of violence inflicted by men, while simultaneous damaging the reputation of the men they accuse. Can you imagine if this hadn’t have happened on camera? Ryan’s career would have been ruined.

 

I used to have two girl-friends who would often accuse a guy of being physically violent towards them and throw around the term “woman-beater”, when they had just been play fighting and barely touched (we all saw). They then admitted that they had been joking, but this was only after a few days or WEEKS of punishing the guy they had accused! It is sick, just because you are so desperate for attention, to use accusations of violence to gain that attention. Watching Ryan destroyed by the accusation was not only heartbreaking but incredibly uncomfortable and infuriating to watch. I rarely jump to the defence of a man, but in this case, I was on Ryan’s side 100%. 

 

I’ve also seen women accuse their partners of verbal abuse because of jokes and bants (banter) from the man’s side. The woman will happily give bants to the man, but as soon as the man gives it back, they’re accused of abuse. I’m not saying that insulting somebody isn’t abuse – fair from it, as I’ve been a victim of both physical and verbal abuse – but bants IS NOT THE SAME because bants is a two-way street! Bants is affectionate in fact; affectionate teasing, while verbal and emotional abuse is one-sided means to dominate, undermine, threaten and control. Of course there is a very thin line here, but for clarification, if the joke hurts then fair enough, but on its own, a joke cannot count as abuse.

 

Going back to Big Brother, something Roxanne said after she realised that the tide was turning against her in the house, really riled me up. In the Diary Room she made a comment about the reaction she was now receiving after everybody in the house had found out that she was lying:

“this is why women don’t speak out about things like this, because nobody believes them”.

FUCK OFF. Women don’t speak out about this stuff because they live in fear, not only that they won’t be believed, but also that there will be consequences from their abuser. Wanting to be believed is on the list, but a low priority when your life is in danger.

 

Roxanne has now walked out of the house and her career is rightfully in tatters. Furthermore, stories have come out from ex-partners who have said that she has done the same to them (accused them of abuse which has ruined their reputations), while colleagues of her’s have said that she is a compulsive liar and constantly seeking attention. Emma Willis, the host of Big Brother, also gave her a brutal grilling in her exit interview. Roxanne now insists that after watching the footage back, Ryan didn’t actually punch her, but it felt like it hurt at the time. It’s ironic that the show has taken its name from George Orwell’s Nighteen-Eighty Four really. 

 

I’ll leave it at that.

XOXO

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

What Do I Want, Like, Really REALLY Want?

Even though my sister and I haven’t spoken for just over four years, not a day goes by where I don’t think about her; sometimes it’s a song or film that reminds me of her and all of the memories connected to that come flooding back, overwhelming me with grief. For example, over the weekend I was making my girlfriend watch the “Twilight” film: for her it was the first time; for me it was the God knows what-teenth time. The Twilight saga literally took over me and my sister’s lives! We were both obsessed with Edward Cullen, while my best friend at the time was infatuated with Jacob Black, so my sister and I would cackle at how anybody could choose a smelly werewolf over an oppressively loving vampire (of course I realise now that Edward’s behaviour was borderline sociopathic, and he and Bella deffo had an unhealthy relationship…) and we would obsessively watch the films over and over again. There’s a particular song at the end of Twilight by Iron & Wine which my sister absolutely loved and hearing it on Saturday absolutely broke me.

 

Probably also because I’m forever reminded of her in my dreams, which could be why hearing this song affected me so. Sometimes I dream that I’m apologising to my sister for abandoning her; my mother in these dreams is crazy to the point of feral, while my sister is so stressed she’s become severely underweight. In most of my dreams I’m chasing her for her forgiveness while she ignores me, until recently actually: last week I dreamt that she wanted to come to my birthday party (my birthday was recently) and I told her no, because I only wanted true family there (my friends). This was the first time I’d shown any authority towards her subconsciously, which is symbolic because showing authority and standing up for myself against her in reality was one of the reasons why she stopped talking to me.

 

Considering I’m a Psychology student, I should probably through some Freudian theory into this: most psychologists believe that dreams are just random brain activity while sleeping, but Freud’s psychoanalysis on dreams argues that our dreams are symbolic of hidden impulses we desire to enact and while asleep, thoughts from the id (subconscious) slip into our ego (consciousness).

 

Growing up, my sister and I were extremely close however, we did fight a lot, mostly over banal things such as each other’s toys, but also because of jealousy – I saw my sister as my father’s fave and she saw me as my mother’s fave – while being played off against one another by our parents. But I always promised myself that we would never end up like our mother and her sister (our aunt) – who no longer speak to each other and haven’t for years – so even when I knew my sister was in the wrong, the majority of the time I would be the one to make up with her, desperate to keep our relationship in tact.

 

As close as we were and as hard as the separation is for me, (according to my mother – when we were speaking – my sister was also struggling with our separation, but where I’ve made many attempts to reach out to her, she has slammed the door in my face and hasn’t made any attempts to reach out to me either) I need to come to grips with the fact that we may never speak again. On the other hand, it has only been four years which in the grand scheme of life is not really that long, so there is still time to reconcile.

 

But do I really want to?

 

On Saturday as I was crying to my girlfriend and sobbing that I couldn’t take not speaking to her any longer, my girlfriend thinking that it was coming from a good place advised me to try one more time to reach out to her. So I did plan to give it one more go on Sunday (yesterday) by calling the house to speak to her while my mother would be out of the house at church, but then on Sunday morning I had two seizures and couldn’t do anything for the rest of the day and forgot about our plan until later on in the evening. The strange thing was, I didn’t seem to distraught about having forgotten about it.

 

I also religiously listen to Kelechi Okafor’s podcast called “Say Your Mind” and this week, during her tarot reading section, she talked about self-worth and knowing who should and shouldn’t be “on the [life] journey with you”. She advised that sometimes people leave your life for a reason and if they cannot see your self worth, then they shouldn’t be on this journey with you and this led me to reconsider my actions regarding my sister.

 

My sister doesn’t see my self-worth; she doesn’t consider my feelings; she only loves me when I’m being a “yes man” – remember she made the decision to stop talking to me after I moved out of the family home and growing tired of her shit and lies I finally stood up to her.

He was a good man

This is also the same sister who even though grew up in the same household of tyranny with my father, claims to not believe that I was sexually abused by this man because according to her warped memories, “he was a good man”. Her memories are extremely selective though, because she does appear to remember him beating us and shouting, yet I guess because he bought us nice things (while getting us into debt) he was a great father.

 

This post has been extremely cathartic for me actually, because now that it’s all written down, I can see our relationship for how fucked up it really was and I do deserve better. I was saying to my girlfriend today that I would never chase an ex, so why am I chasing after my sister? I have too much dignity and self-worth for that.

 

So bringing this back to Freud (I’m not even a Freudian by the way, however I do find his theory on dreams quite interesting) what could my dreams mean?

  1. Do they mean that I do desperately want to reconcile with my sister?
  2. Do I just want to speak to her so that I can tell that I deserve to be treated with respect, how she’s rejected me is below par and that I deserve more?
  3. Or is it just a whole load of random thoughts?

 

I’ll probably still grieve, because it’s a massive loss regardless of how fucked up the relationship was, and as much as I wish the whole science from the film: “Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind” existed, it doesn’t. Therefore things are going to trigger memories, which I have to accept and learn to cope with.

 

As for my dreams, I am seriously considering hypnotism to get this bitch out of my subconscious, because it’s driving me INSANE!

 

On a serious note, as of tomorrow, I’ll be seeing my old therapist again. My lovely girlfriend has agreed to help me out with the fees and I’m putting my pride aside to put my mental health first. So this will definitely be something to focus on. Clearly there’s something deeper psychologically to this which needs to be worked on.

Perhaps I need to realise that me living my best live and focusing on that instead of being able to say this to my sister’s face is actually the best therapeutic fuck you. My therapist is amazing at what she does, so I’m positive that I’ll be able to move on from this loss, both consciously as well as unconsciously.

XOXO

Posted in Blog

How We Label Black Boys

I found out today through Twittter’s moments, that 23-year-old Saddique died in Camberwell (London) from a fatal stabbing this week.

I want to address the way that black boys and young men victims are labelled by the media following their death. Once again, Saddique has been labelled a rapper, this time in the Drill music genre.

Many will not understand why this is a problem, so I’m going to explain: the connotations of the label “rapper” as I explained in a previous post, are extremely negative; it dehumanises the victim and promotes the racial bias that because these black boys are involved in a particular genre of music, they are looking for trouble and thus deserve to die.

I also want to address negative assumptions within our own community. I personally haven’t listened to much Drill music, however one person today told me it’s quite violent and another person has also said that some gangs use the genre as a method of communicating their violent intentions to other gangs.

Yes, gang culture is a problem; nobody is denying that. But my problem is that we are falling down the same trap as the white people by saying things like: “they’re not helping their situation”, or “they bring it on themselves”.

Again, we’re dehumanising these boys and young men and ignoring the fact that white supremacy and institutional racism plays a massive part in keeping black men in a place of inferiority. Remember, I trained to teach in a boys’ secondary comprehensive school, where the majority of the staff were white and would openly bully the black boys by telling them that they were stupid, that they would amount to nothing because of the colour of their skin and that there was nothing for them because they did not belong in this society. They were also constantly labelled as aggressive troublemakers (even the quiet black boys who were just trying to live their lives). Mainstream media is also constantly telling us that Black boys are the largest group of underachievers. Some of those boys told me that I was the first teacher ever to come along and tell them that they were worth something and to encourage them to aspire to be something more.

If you are told something enough times, eventually you’re going to believe it, so if you’re being told at school (or even at home, because we have to admit that there is a problem with psychological abuse from parents within our culture) that you’re worthless, but older boys are telling you the opposite and giving you the acceptance that you’ve been craving your entire life, which leader are you going to follow?

Don’t get it twisted; I am in no way excusing the path these boys and men are taking. What I am saying is more needs to be done to change the direction they are being forced into.

I’m going to end with a quote from Maya Angelou’s “The Heart of a Woman”, which I happen to be reading again, where Angelou’s son Guy has been threatened by a gang (called the Savages) and she is actually contemplating the concept of who these boys are behind the facade of violence:

First I had to understand the thinking of the Savages. They were young black men, preying on other young black men. They had been informed, successfully, that they were worthless, and everyone who looked like them was equally without worth. Each sunrise brought a day without hope and each evening the sun set on a day lacking achievement. Whites, who ruled the world, owned the air and food and jobs and schools and fair play, had refused to share with them any of life’s necessities – and somewhere, deeper than their consciousness, they believed the whites were correct. They, the young black youth, young lords of nothing, were born without value and would creep, like blinded moles, their lives long in the darkness, under the earth, chewing on roots, driven far from the light.

I understood the Savages. I understood and hated the system which molded them, but understanding in no way licensed them to vent their frustration and anger on my son […] something had to be done to contain the lawless brood of alienated teenagers. 

Rest in power Saddique.

XOXO

Posted in Blog

Fighting The Good Fight

Over the weekend I went to a picnic with some of my girfriend’s friends. It was a lovely afternoon in Hyde Park – apart from the weather; after sweating through the London heatwave for many weeks, it was now absolutely fucking freezing following a thunderstorm the night before; I was also inappropriately dressed for a heatwave, having not checked the weather app beforehand (!!!) Some of these people I’d already met on a previous night out so it was good to be around people I already knew; some were new faces, and very welcoming.
We had a great afternoon of munching on a picnic brunch and listening to good music on a portable speaker.
Until the conversation turned sinister. One of the older women began a debate on legalising drugs; some of the group were for legalising while others were against. There was already some tension as the woman who had initiated the conversation was incredibly forthcoming with her opinions and dominating the debate. Myself and another girl removed ourselves from the conversation as it became more and more heated, by lying down and talking amongst ourselves, however I could still hear my girlfriend very much trying to get the woman to see her point of view while agreeing with some of the opposing points, which the woman clearly couldn’t see, because she wasn’t actually listening to my girlfriend and instead was just raising her voice to oppress my girlfriend.
Then suddenly, the debate turned even more sinister as the woman brought social economic status as well as race into the debate. Although she said that she believed the middle classes were to blame for the drug problems within the working class, she also said believed that Black people were a major problem with their gang culture wars and “nonsensical murdering amongst the community”. She then brought up the recent murder of an eighteen year old in Brixton (Latwaan Griffiths, 18) and said that this had been related to drugs, therefore the boy was clearly no angel as depicted by grieving family and friends, but:

“a little shit who had trouble coming to him”.

Imagine my surprise that she could be so open about her views on the murder of a young Black man in the presence of a Black woman. However, for the sake of keeping the harmony, I kept silent.
She mentioned that she had read about the incident in a news article in that day’s Evening Standard, a copy of which she had. I asked if I could see it and as I read it, nowhere did I see any mention of drugs being related to the death of this Black young man. It did however mention that he was a rapper. BINGO! I thought. She clearly read “rapper” and made assumptions based upon the connotations of the colour of his skin and his occupation.

*I was going to link the article here, however the online version is EXTREMELY different to the printed version. E.g. the online version doesn’t mention Griffiths being a rapper, neither does it have any of the positive quotes from his loved ones*

As I finished the article, she continued to make derogatory remarks about the Black community to me. This time only to me. At this point, I then said to her “I don’t want to speak about this anymore”.
She ignored me and carried on. By this point, I was clearly visibly distressed, which she continued to ignore as she insisted on to making her derogatory opinions heard. I then said, you do realise that there is more to this story? She replied:

“yeah, that he was involved in gangs and drugs and had no better aspirations, just like the rest of them.”

Me:

“well no, there’s more to it than that, especially in terms of the societal problems within the community.”

However, she wasn’t getting the hint and she continued in her argument that boys like this were just little shits. I then said to her that she clearly couldn’t see the bigger picture, so there really was no point in having this discussion any further, to which she replied “well why don’t you tell me?” It had earlier become clear to me that she had no interest in my opinion and that she was just baiting me for a reaction, hence I told her that I refused to engage in any further conversation and walked away. She then went back to the rest of the group and still within earshot, I could hear her continuing her debate and derogatory remarks. My girlfriend came over to me to apologise for this woman’s behaviour and asked if I was ok, to which I responded nearly in tears that no I wasn’t and that I really didn’t want to make a scene so I’m just going to go home. My girlfriend begged me to stay, but I felt so uncomfortable that regardless of how lovely the rest of the group were, I just didn’t want to be around them. I felt like I’d been attacked and felt raw to the touch.
Having decided to go home, I wanted to say my goodbyes to the rest of the group, but I could still hear this woman ranting away, so after thinking carefully about what I wanted to do and say, I then said to my girlfriend: “I’m going to say something” and before my girlfriend could respond, I walked up the woman and said:

“Can I just give you some advice? In future, you really need to be careful of how you speak about Black people around a Black person, because sometimes what you say can be harmful”.

I did not call her racist, I just informed her that her comments were harmful. Immediately her response was to become defensive as she accused me of calling her a racist and acted offended. This made me extremely upset. To top it off, she then said to me “I’m sorry if I offended you, but I’m not racist” which is when my girlfriend jumped in and said:

“hold on! Saying ‘sorry if I offended you’ is not a real apology! If you’re going to apologise for what you’ve said and really mean it, you don’t say ‘I’m sorry if you were offended’ because that’s not accepting responsibility”

The woman then responded “well I’m sorry, but I’m not a racist! I have black-”
And before she could finish that sentence I cried “oh here we go! The ‘I’m not a racist because I have one Black friend’ argument. Well guess what? You are a fucking racist because you’ve proved yourself to be one”.
She then became angry at me for calling her a racist again (even though this was actually the first time I had said it) and approached me to touch me. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps to pacify me, however in that moment I did not want to be touched, especially by a fucking racist. As I stepped back and told her not to fucking touch me, she had the caucasity to look affronted, while saying, “I just want to calm you down” – because I’m an angry Black woman right, and like bears, racists think we need to be calmed down and tamed, to which I repeated my request that she do not touch me. She then stormed off, yelling that she had been victimised.

Having not wanting to cause a scene, I was petrified that everybody except my girlfriend would be angry with me for “spoiling the afternoon”. However, all of the group bare one person, were completely on my side. They completely sympathised with me and understood where I was coming from. In fact, I’d felt so guilty and embarrassed about the entire altercation, that I was contemplating going home so that everybody else could enjoy themselves without me. However, the rest of the group insisted that I come out for drinks with them.

The one person who wasn’t on my side, was of course friends with the racist who had stormed off and she decided to go and follow her friend to see if she was okay. The rest of us decided to find a pub in which to hang out. Eventually the friend caught up with us and started filling everybody else in on what had been discussed. I decided to walk away from the group at a near distance in front, to also distance myself from the drama, because I was still feeling raw, but at the same time I no longer wanted to be part of it. However, I could hear this woman saying that her racist friend had told her that she hadn’t done anything wrong and had been called a racist for no reason. This woman then started calling my name.

I ignored her, hoping she would get the hint.

She didn’t. She came running after me and asked if we could talk about what had happened. I replied that I really didn’t want to and just wanted to move on from the situation. However, this woman REFUSED TO LISTEN TO ME and proceeded to tell me that her friend was not a racist and didn’t understand what she had done wrong, and that she was hurt by being called a racist, plus she’s worked with black people for years –

Before this bitch could rant any further I cut her off with the following:

“Okay, I’ve just told you that I don’t want to talk about this anymore, but you’ve ignored me. You need to understand that I AM the victim here, not your friend and when I tell you that I do not want to talk about this, it’s because it’s extremely upsetting for me. Okay?”

She said okay before skulking off with a hurt expression on her face. (Classic white fragility – why the fuck is she upset in this situation????)
She then decided that she could no longer come to the pub with us (although she had planned to before this latter discussion with me) because she suddenly had to meet a friend.
To say that the rest of the group were not disappointed by this would be an understatement.
I spent the rest of the walk praised for my heroism and confidence, before sitting down in a lovely pub in Kensington having drinks and having some cheeky girl chat.
However, as much as I appreciate the compliment, to say that I was brave is incorrect; standing up against racism isn’t about bravery, it’s about having to remind racists that Black people are human beings and fighting for my right as a human to just live my fucking life. That doesn’t take guts, it takes fucking stamina because it’s fucking exhausting. I’m also not as confident as I may come across online, and therefore try to avoid confrontations; as you can see from my account of what happened last weekend, I purposefully tried to remove myself from this situation MORE THAN ONCE, however I was bombarded with aggressive white fragility to not only victimise and dehumanise me, but to also put me in my place. As the only Black woman in the group, I was being told by these two women that I was not wanted in this space. It was actually like they were telling me: What’s it going to take to get you to leave?
On the positive side, the best thing about the situation is not only that the group were on my side, but also my girlfriend had my back for the first time ever in an altercation with a racist. She paid attention not only to the situation but also to my feelings, without me having to communicate them and she’s now realised that not paying attention and then making excuses for white people’s racism just doesn’t cut it. You can’t NOT be a racist and still say racist things. As white people, you are conditioned to think about Black people and POC (people of colour) a certain way and act around / towards us a certain way, sometimes without you even realising. However, this is no excuse because if you refuse to realise and make an effort to unlearn these insidious racist messages and propaganda – especially as an adult – then I’m afraid you are a racist.

You can also see that from the way my girlfriend spoke up for me, you can speak out against racism while also keeping the attention on the Black person, as opposed to taking the spotlight for yourself because you want to paint yourself as a white saviour or ally.

It really isn’t that fucking hard.

Rest in power Latwaan Griffiths 🖤

XOXO