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

Posted in Blog, Mental Health

When Your White Friends Turn Out To Be Racists

Last year I was extremely angry about the way that white British people were treating me for speaking my truth: why am I getting abuse just for saying that racism exists in our country? Why are you telling me that I do not belong here? I soon then realised that I could not fight every single troll that was coming at me, especially when it was becoming detrimental to my mental health. Some days my phone would be going crazy with notifications from threads I had become involved in, because I thought that I could reason with such people, only to end up in them abusing me even more.

Mostly the abuse was coming from strangers on social media, most recently on my YouTube channel: 

Screen Shot 2018-06-29 at 07.02.51

I no longer engage in accusations from strangers.

In regards to my white friends, I had either fallen out with them or just withdrawn from them. Because I had never wanted/ needed to be seen as Black, my colour, race and culture had never been an issue in our friendship, but now I did want to be seen as Black, which surprised the friends I ended up falling out with because suddenly they were not allowed to make racist comments around me while I laughed it off, but died inside.

I’ve stayed friends with some old friends, some of who have now revealed themselves to have only pretended to be onboard with my newfound Blackness; some of these people still think that they can get away with saying anti-black things to me, because they cannot perceive my blackness.

Here are two examples: 

One guy was a friend I knew from church (this was years ago). He knew that I fancied him, but led me on knowing that he was going to emigrate indefinitely. To say that I was heartbroken is an understatement. I was devastated because I had genuinely thought I had a connection with this guy, however now in hindsight I realise that it could never be because I was black and he looked down on me. After a couple of years in Australia, he moved to Zambia, to begin a career in ministry work. I didn’t want to believe that he was a ‘white saviour’ who looked down upon the people he was working with and claiming to help, however the more and more emails I received from him talking about the Zambians, the more it became clear that he was racist. Still, I was in denial. I was once in love with this guy (or so I had thought), how can he be fucking racist? I would’ve known, surely. So when he shared his number, I decided to send him a message to see how he was. His emails are generally addressed because he’s emailing a group of us, so I wanted to see how he came across on a personal level; was he the same guy I knew years ago? Would I be proved wrong?

When I asked him about Zambia, he replied that he couldn’t believe how modern it was and that it surprised him that there were supermarkets and a stadium. This is problematic for two reasons: one, because he had confirmed his racial biases which hadn’t changed even though he was now living in an African country, and two, because he had clearly forgotten that he was talking to a black woman – why would you tell a Black woman of Caribbean and African ancestry that you are surprised at how capable her people are???? When I called him out on this, he became defensive, including pointing out the fact that the Zambians were more racist about themselves than him and if it wasn’t for him they would have no self-esteem, (only proving the ‘white saviour’ trope and their beliefs that Black Africans are incapable of being anything without the white man) which obviously upset me more:

Screenshot_20180627-213232_WhatsApp

Notice that he mentions the “race card”… can somebody please enlighten me on what this “card” actually looks like and how I can get hold of it, because according to white-supremacists, it is this powerful card which can be used to change the direction of the game of life!

The Race Card(Image source)

Note to white people: don’t tell me about your black friends just to prove how un-racist you are! IT DOESN’T WORK! He’s also clearly lying about black people agreeing with him. 

He also made some homophobic comments (unfortunately I forgot to screenshot them), in an attempt to conflate how gay people hate themselves just as Black people hate themselves and I ended up having to block him and calling him a c*** on facebook so that that all of our mutual friends could see what he had done to me and who this person really was. I also blocked him on there and via email so that he couldn’t contact me again. Our Black mutual friends actually weren’t surprised to hear what he had done and now that I admit it, neither was I.

The second example was a friend I met on social media. We appeared to get on so well that we actually came close to meeting in real life at one point, however as always life gets in the way. Plus, soon warning alarms signalled when he once asked me if he guest post on my blog, because I had more followers than him. Considering that my blog is unapologetically written from a Black perspective, I found it strange that as a white man he thought that blogging on my platform would be appropriate. It hence became clear to me that he wasn’t paying as much attention to my posts as he had initially claimed. He also commented on one of my youtube videos, with a “not all white people comment” when I was discussing how traumatic it is to be British but feel unwanted in my own country and the country I was born in, and perceived as an immigrant because of the colour of my skin. The video was about how watching the movie Black Panther had only enhanced this feeling of unwant. Again, I found his commentary to be inappropriate, because I clearly wasn’t talking about all white people and the video was about my feelings not his as a white person.

The final straw came when he commented on a tweet I posted of an clip from an LBC radio show, where a racist had called in to say that he wouldn’t be supporting the England football team because there were too many Black players on the team, therefore he was hoping that they would lose because of this. Again, this same guy comments on my tweet, being defensive about this not being all white people and that in his opinion racism was no longer as big an issue as it used to be, because he had never experienced it or seen it in his thirty-odd years. Let me remind you that this guy is white.

Joe1

But they do exist? Actually, more racism happens than white people tend to believe which is why non-white people are consistently gaslighted. To ignore this fact, is problematic.

Joe4

This white guy is telling a Black person who suffers from racism on a daily basis, that the amount of people like this is decreasing, when actually in the age of social media, it isn’t. Furthermore, racism hasn’t always been labelled as wrong because there is a constant conflict between white people and people like me who suffer from racial trauma on what counts as racism. In fact, racism in the UK is extremely insidious, making it just as psychologically traumatic as the explicit racism we see in other Western countries. Therefore, this comment is extremely harmful. 

A friend who is also a Black woman came onboard because she also found his responses to be problematic. In the end, I blocked him. He then sent me an email with the subject line “you’re overreacting” and demanded that I unblock him, while also attempting to assure me that he was not a racist. I never called him a racist, he had just chosen to expose himself as one on multiple occasions.

Now, I have been accused of being rash when it comes to my reactions to situations like this. When people start to act wild around me, I cut them out of my life, which voyeurs then link to the angry, irrational Black woman stereotype. But, firstly I need to put my health first and anybody who claims to be a friend or family member whose negative behaviour is provoking my conditions, needs to be cut out of my life. Secondly, I’ve come to a point in my life where I will no longer put up with shit. Up until my late-twenties, I was letting every tom, dick and harry walk all over me, just so that they could have an easy life, while disregarding my own feelings, which is also why I let my white friends be racist around me and pretend to be in on the joke – I used to be so afraid of calling them out and “causing trouble” that I just let them carry on. But now I know who I am and I have a lot more self-respect for myself.

Also, my actions are not rash. As you can see in the two examples I’ve given, I don’t want to automatically write off all white people as racists – especially when they are in my life. And I gave them plenty of chances to fix up, look sharp. It’s also why I put up with my family’s abuse for so long. But there comes a point where I have to snap, because like an elastic band, if you stretch me enough I’m going to fucking break and catch you in the eye.

XOXO

P.S. If you’re not already following me on social media, why the heck not???

Twitter: Cece_Alexandra

Insta: Cece_Alexandra

YouTube: The Black Wallflower in Wonderland