How to articulate feelings over such an issue? How not to cause offence? How not to be misconstrued?
These are all thoughts that have crossed my mind when approaching this topic and oftentimes, they mean I hold back when engaging. I am sure many can relate.
It’s especially difficult when here in the UK, racism isn’t always overt. It is often subtle, ‘swept under a rug’ and sometimes difficult to pinpoint. As a result, we run the risk of believing it isn’t that big of a problem.
The horrors of imperialism, the reparation awarded to slave owners rather than slaves, the police using force disproportionately against Black people. How often do we talk about this in the UK?
There comes a point when the difficulty to express views on racism is not a good enough pass for silence. When the need for an audible cry for justice far outweighs the need to appear ‘correct’.
In light of recent world events, it becomes very apparent why Black people get tired, unhappy and angry.
Racism is embedded within the very fabric of our societies.
‘But I’m not racist,’ many are quick to counter.
Sadly, it’s virtually impossible to be entirely devoid of racial prejudice given the society we are in. And that’s regardless of your skin colour. Even if unintentional or subconscious or very faint, there are differently shaped biases within us all and this all still counts as racism. Scott Woods says, ‘Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white [or indeed any other race] person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you.’ I would even add, the people that do look like you.
Even if you do not consider yourself racist, this quite frankly, is not enough. Unfortunately, being ‘non-racist’, doesn’t stop people being mistreated on the basis of race. Being ‘non-racist’ doesn’t stop people being racially profiled by the police. Being ‘non-racist’ doesn’t stop the murder of Black people for the colour of their skin.
And I know this isn’t an easily solvable problem with obvious solutions. But it remains that speaking up, questioning decisions and your own judgments, genuinely listening to Black people, calling out racism within your families and in private spaces, may help. It may bring us closer to shining a light on injustice and ensuring it doesn’t continue.
To my non-white brothers and sisters. I know you have your own race related challenges and although I can’t fully identify with your experience because I haven’t lived it, I understand some of the pain. The feeling that there is a problem much bigger than just you. But, and here’s the but. Our experiences and issues are still so different. The Black experience is marred with centuries of slavery, oppression, widespread systemic injustice- and we are still reeling from this today. And that’s not to ‘one up’ you on your suffering. That’s dangerous and unfair. But I continue. If we are being completely honest, it remains that within some of your own communities, Blacks are often still considered ‘beneath’. The grapple towards ‘whiteness’ is undeniable as is the deeply ingrained belief that you are at least closer to Whites than the Blacks are. I know not all of you hold onto these beliefs and for that I am grateful. Please acknowledge these issues and please speak up. Please challenge harmful views which can easily be passed off as cultural norms. Please stand with Black brothers and sisters.
To my White brothers and sisters. This is everybody’s problem; not just one for people of colour. The systemic lack of regard for Black rights is a human problem and so responsibility for solution rests just as heavily on you. In many ways more so, because in this currently skewed system, your voice often carries more weight in certain spaces. Please don’t turn a blind eye because it’s awkward or uncomfortable. Please don’t forget just because you have that luxury.
To the Church. If love and justice are more than mere words to you and sit deep within your core, as they should, please let this be known. Please let this compel you to make a stand. Silence speaks volumes and people are watching. It’s not enough for race issues just to bother you or upset you.
To us all. I realise that many of us feel unsure where to start in actively dismantling racist constructs. Here are a few ways I feel we can begin:
1. Don’t be afraid to engage in conversations about racism. We won’t always get it right but listening and engaging is still so important.
2. Educate yourself. In the UK, it seems we know so little about the country’s colonial past and the context within which racism sits. I have cited a few resources at the end of this blog but there are so many others you can read. A simple Google search is a good start.
3. If you are a believer, pray. Pray for justice, share your honest feelings with God and draw strength from the hope that He brings.
Imani Shola has put together a much more detailed list of active steps to take which I highly recommend reading:
Endemic beyond this Pandemic: The Fight against Racism
Please be reminded that this is a daily battle. The momentum stirred up by social media coverage is helpful but it will inevitably die down. The fight against racism must not.
Other helpful reads:
- Why you should stop saying “all lives matter,” explained in 9 different ways
- Editorial: Stop focusing on looting in Minneapolis. Be outraged that police keep killing black men
- Black and British: A Forgotten History- David Olusoga
- We need to talk about Race- Ben Lindsay