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

Doctor Whiteface

You’ve diagnosed me as pain less

But I’ve told you that it hurts when you remove my heart.

I can feel the scorn in your hands of oppression around my neck.

When you pierce my eye with your surgeon’s scalpel,

so that I can’t see you remove my brother’s life from my side.

It hurts.

 

You say we can’t feel pain

But it hurts when you stare

And when you pretend we don’t exist.

When you call us stupid degenerates regardless of having more years of education than you all.

We can recite the law you constantly break upon our backs.

And it hurts too

And when you force us out of our jobs because of our melanin skin.

 

And yet you all continue to stare like spectators at a match.

It’s the FA cup final and you’re chomping at the bit

For some black blood.

 

But this is Britain, so your excitement is reserved.

And you expect us to keep a stiff upper lip, while denying us our British heritage to our faces.

All bets for black blood are “under the table”.

 

Like a mental institution Doctor Whiteface,

Your island really is full of crackers.

 

 

©The Wallflower Speaks Loudly, 2018

 

 

Posted in Blog

MUNROE BERGDORF IS SPEAKING UP FOR BLACK PEOPLE EVERYWHERECHARLIE BRINKHURST CUFF1ST SEPTEMBER 2017

http://www.gal-dem.com/munroe-bergdorf-speaking-black-women-everywhere/

This is black, trans model and activist Munroe Bergdorf’s statement released after she was trashed in a Daily Mail article (which we won’t link to here), for calling out white people’s racism following the events of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. She was dropped by L’Oréal Paris’ “diversity campaign” after the article was published:

“Sit still and smile in a beauty campaign ‘championing diversity’. But don’t actually speak about the fact that lack of diversity and is due to racism. Or speak about the origins of racism. It’ll cost you your job”.

This makeup brand cares about nothing but MONEY. I urge you to boycott L’Oréal Paris. I can’t express how disappointed I am in the entire team in dealing with misquotes that were entirely placed out of context.

First up, let’s put my words in context, as the Daily Mail failed to do so. This ‘rant’ was a direct response to the violence of WHITE SUPREMACISTS in Charlottesville. It was not written this week.

Secondly, identifying that the success of the British Empire has been at the expense of the people of colour, is not something that should offend ANYONE. It is a fact. It happened. Slavery and colonialism, at the hands of white supremacy, played a huge part in shaping the United Kingdom and much of the west, into the super power that it is today.

Whether aware of it or not, in today’s society the lighter your skin tone (people of colour included) the more social privileges you will be afforded. Whether that’s access to housing, healthcare, employment or credit. A person’s race and skin tone has a HUGE part to play in how they are treated by society as a whole, based on their proximity to whiteness.

When I stated that “all white people are racist”, I was addressing that fact that western society as a whole, is a SYSTEM rooted in white supremacy – designed to benefit, prioritise and protect white people before anyone of any other race. Unknowingly, white people are SOCIALISED to be racist from birth onwards. It is not something genetic. No one is born racist.

We also live in a society where men are SOCIALISED to be sexist. Women are SOCIALISED to be submissive. Gay people are SOCIALISED to be ashamed of their sexuality due to heterosexual people’s homophobia. Cisgender people are SOCIALISED to be transphobic. We do not need to be this way. We are not born this way and we can learn to reject it. We are just socially conditioned to think this way from an early age. With the right education, empathy and open mindedness we can unlearn these socialisations and live a life where we don’t oppress others and see things from other people’s points of view.

So when a transgender woman of colour, who has been selected to front up a big brand campaign to combat discrimination and lack of diversity in the beauty industry, speaks on her actual lived experience of being discriminated against because of her race and identifies the root of where that discrimination lies – white supremacy and systemic racism – that big brand cannot simply state that her thoughts are not “in line with the ethics of the brand”.

If you truly want equality and diversity, you need to actively work to dismantle the source of what created this discrimination and division in the first place. You cannot just simply cash in because you’ve realised there’s a hole in the market and that there is money to be made from people of colour who have darker skin tones.

The irony of all this is that L’Oréal Paris invited me to be part of a beauty campaign that ‘stands for diversity’. The fact that up until very recently, there has been next to no mainstream brands offering makeup for black women and ethnic minorities, is in itself due to racism within the industry. Most big brands did not want to sell to black women. Most big brands did not want to acknowledge that there was a HUGE demographic that was being ignored. Because they did not believe that there was MONEY to be made in selling beauty products to ethnic minorities.

If L’Oreal truly wants to offer empowerment to underrepresented women, then they need to acknowledge THE REASON why these women are underrepresented within the industry in the first place. This reason is discrimination – an action which punches down from a place of social privilege. We need to talk about why women of colour were and still are discriminated against within the industry, not just see them as a source of revenue.

Racism may be a jagged pill to swallow, but I suggest you force it down quickly if you want to be part of the solution. Doing nothing, does nothing and solves nothing. Empowerment and inclusivity are not trends, these are people’s lives and experiences. If brands are going to use empowerment as a tool to push product to people of colour, then the least they can do is actually work us to dismantle the source, not throw us under the bus when it comes to the crunch. At times like this, it becomes blindly obvious what is genuine allyship and what is performative.

I stand for tolerance and acceptance – but neither can be achieved if we are unwilling to discuss WHY intolerance and hate exist in the first place.

Posted in Blog

I’m Black, I’m Not Stupid

I wasn’t going to write about this, however I feel like I’ve been backed into a corner and the more I think about it, the more angrier I become and if I don’t get it down “on paper”, then I’ll probably have a seizure.

Last week, I posted a picture of myself with my new glasses, and alluded to the racial microaggressions I’d suffered in my previous employment, to the point where comments were made and I was forced to alter the way I looked, in order to fit in. When the post was shared, one of my white friends responded with:

“are you sure that’s what they meant?”

Eye Roll

Why do white people do that?

 

I’m not going to apologise if that comment upsets you, because I suffered for EIGHT MONTHS.

Every single time I went to one of my University tutors with my concerns, who were both white, their response every single time would be:

“are you sure that’s how you heard it?”

or

“I’m sure that’s not what they meant”

or

“I think you heard what you were feeling, not what was actually said”

 

My concerns were about comments made about my epilepsy, as well as my race.

I may be black, but I’m not fucking stupid.

 

I’m currently reading “Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Racism” by Reni Eddo- Lodge:

Reni Eddo-Lodge

When people say that this book was begging to be written, even after everything I had been through this year, as well as the hype on social media, I still thought that it was all hype. I wasn’t expecting to be so blown away. I remember struggling to get through the first chapter, because it was so hard-hitting. I actually had to take a break from reading it and now, I can’t put it down. I remember thinking: “why the fuck don’t they teach us this in school????” (Speaking of school, did you know there were black Tudors??? Because I didn’t! I used to teach about the Tudors as a Learning Support Assistant to young, disillusioned black girls and I had no idea, that there were black Tudors – that’s not in the book by the way, I just happened to stumble upon this book: Blackamoores: Africans in Tudor England, Their Presence, Status and Origins by Onyeka, which is on my Amazon wishlist.)

Reni’s book and this year, has made me realise how much of an immigrant I am.

It doesn’t matter that I was born here in Britain, or that I have a British passport; it doesn’t matter that I have a white partner; it doesn’t matter that I’m highly educated; it doesn’t even matter that I have more white friends than Black friends. White people will question my intelligence, my identity, my authority to abode all the fucking time.

This week I went on my first racial protest, following the murder of Rashan Charles, on Saturday 22nd July 2017, at the hands of a white policeman. He was a young Black boy of twenty years old. I’m not denying that he lived a straight life, but I’m definitively and loudly crying out that he did not deserve to die. The people on social media who were saying that he did, were all white – they said he was scum. Thankfully, the white people who were on the protest with us, were not narrow minded, right-wing, heartless, awful people, but brothers and sisters, standing with people of colour, who are tired of being murdered by the state and by white people in authority. I overheard one black man say to the man with the megaphone, that instead of shouting “Black Lives Matter”, we should be saying “all lives matter”, to include everybody who had joined us on the march. Rightfully, the man with the megaphone said no, and I say thankfully because we do have to keep on shouting “Black Lives Matter” until somebody fucking listens.

 

Before the march, we stood outside Stoke Newington Police Station in protest and I was so proud to hear young people of colour, bravely speaking up about their stories of persecution, at the hands of the police, and at the hands of others in authority (especially teachers). As a teacher, I’ve seen young Black people ruthlessly persecuted for “attitude problems”, for the way they stand, the way they wear their hair, etc, etc.

And then get told it’s all in their head. 

Crazy Eyes

When the Government are cutting funds and closing down community centres and youth projects, where else are young people going to go but onto the streets? Which are run by older men and gangs, who bully young people into doing things either they don’t want to do, or make them believe they need to do, in order to survive on these streets they’ve grown up in, with their families?

The role models they need aren’t around, because everything is being gentrified: their towns, even their schools. My school didn’t even want their one of two token black teachers, because I was fucking defective. My kids looked up to me – they told me every day, how awesome it was to finally have a Black English teacher in the school.

The reason why I went on that march on Monday, was not just for Rashan, but for the kids who I used to teach, who I still miss every day. Because what happened to Rashan and SO many others before him, could happen to them.

We need justice.

I’m going to stop now, because I feel I’m ranting.

But for now, I’m going to keep talking about race, because this year I’ve finally woken up thirty-one years too late.

RIP Rashan and love and peace to your family, especially your daughter.

XOXO