Racism: For the sake of our communities, we must not ignore it
Who is George Floyd? Who is Breonna Taylor? Who is Rodney King? Who is Sean Rigg? Who is Sheku Bayoh? Who is Mzee Mohammed? Who is Stephen Lawrence?
You may know some of these names. You may not know others. Before writing this article, I did not know them all. Why was that?
My first internal response is to shoot from the hip…” well, I can’t remember everyone.” While that may be true, I know that I can easily remember the names of my favourite authors. I know the names of actors from my favourite films. I know my neighbours’ names and the teachers at my children’s school. I remember the people who are familiar to me.
FAMILIARITY comes from circumstance OR CHOICE. I remember the names of people in whom I’ve shown an interest. I did not know all the names above because I had not given them enough attention.
Violence perpetrated against Black people.
After the murder of George Floyd in America by a police officer and reading people’s conversations on social media, I was reminded of how easy it is to forget the incessant racist language and violence perpetrated against Black people. Why do I forget?
I forget because I am a white man married to a white woman. I only notice racism when I see or hear it being spoken about in the third person or directed to somebody else. It is a privilege that I fail to notice every day.
It is easy to think that racist violence only happens in the USA, but that is simply not true. Some of the names I wrote at the start belonged to British people. Earlier last month, twenty-eight-year-old Kamyimsola Olantunjoye was pinned down by six police officers in Lewisham. Passersby heard her pleas: ‘please stop…I can’t breathe.
Racism isn’t just police brutality and racially motivated violence. It isn’t only using offensive language. Racism is also acting in ways that prevent people’s voices from being heard. When people are silenced, ignored or criticised for discussing discrimination, it props up the systems, cultures and attitudes that allow the racist behaviour to continue.
I understand why people sometimes do this. I think that they find it uncomfortable or distressing. Sometimes those people say, ‘ this isn’t the time or place. Some time back, I heard about two colleagues who got kicked out of a Facebook group for starting a conversation about racism in mental health. They asked relevant questions, which got people thinking. I found it helpful. However, not everyone welcomed the discussion, and sadly they were removed.
Some discussions create discomfort, and they need to. Without unease, people do not change. I think some people fear that such a debate will damage a community. I believe that repressing these conversations damages communities.
It’s blinking obvious to say that communities comprise people. Some members may fantasise that their groups will always agree. We often want life to be easy, but as recent news has reaffirmed, it is easier for some people in our world than others.
I do my best to avoid criticism and promote kindness because I observe too much of the former and too little of the latter.
What is kindness?
Kindness is being gentle, and it is standing tall. It is showing compassion and being willing to fight. It is challenging what people say while not giving in to hatred.
I want to share some vital resources that turn our attention to race, gender and sexuality issues. It includes some influential authors, websites and resources for you to explore.
I fear I will be pointing out the obvious to some of you. I hope that for others for whom this interest is less well nurtured, it will enliven your community spirit. Our communities depend on it for survival because every life matters.
Here is a quote from Renni Eddo-Lodge in her best-selling book, Why I am no longer talking to white people about race:
- What matters? A series of videos produced by Black Lives Matter combines ‘documentary narrative with interviews to illuminate specific, timely issues, aiming to create a safe dialogue to promote freedom, justice and collective liberation.’
- Stonewall Best Practice Toolkits – resources to help workplaces adopt inclusive policies for people who LGBT
- Why Women Are Blamed For Everything: Exploring Victim Blaming Of Women Subjected to Violence and Trauma. Book by Dr Jessica Taylor, founder of Victim Focus, specialises in victim-blaming and self-blame of women subjected to sexual violence and abuse.
- Take Action: A list of ways to stand in solidarity with the black community.
- ALOK: An internationally acclaimed author who writes about degendering fashion and beauty industries.