Firstly, if you’ve clicked on this post, I assume you’re either black or POC or someone at least interested in learning more so thank you for your time.
Secondly, I’ll start by saying that I am ignorant. It’s not the small few who are ignorant; it’s the majority. Me included. I haven’t read enough about my own history and my own people. It’s sad but it’s not odd. Most of us haven’t because our society hasn’t allowed those stories to be shared so easily; to be the norm in classrooms. So for now, it’s our responsibility to provide that education for ourselves.
Education is perhaps the strongest and longest lasting change we can make.
EASY WAYS TO LEARN MORE:
Watch shows like Black-ish where they always tackle black issues and don’t shy away from hard topics, while also making you laugh and smile and root for the characters.
Watch films and shows on Netflix that address these issues (link here to some). Read or watch The Hate U Give which is a Young Adult/Teen book, so it’s not a hard, complicated read. Same with the likes of Ghost Boys and Dear Martin etc. (reading list later in this post).
I have experienced racism. I think every POC has even if it’s mild; but mild is still too much. Racism may be more subtle for some people, but it is there.
- Token black friend status
- Reduced to black stereotypes
- Hearing “I’m not racist, I have a friend who’s black”
- “Friends” touching your hair and putting things in it because it’s curly or a ‘Fro
- You must be good at sports
- At the end of black “jokes” and told to take it as a joke while they never get any white jokes sent their way
- Researching if a country is racist before going there (I do this because my partner is black, dark skin at that)
- Being called a Paki and a Mars Bar
- Called a sexy black girl, as if they had to specify my race
- Being told by a girl in class “I like black people and I like white people, but I don’t think they should mix…” I’m Mixed Race…
My experience is the low end of the spectrum, but it makes me feel OTHER nonetheless, which is a horrible feeling. I feel safer, more me and accepted, in the black community even though I’m equal parts black and white.
It’s not that other races don’t face racism; of course they do, especially POC and other cultures bar Western ones. But the FACT is, white people do have a privilege to not have to worry about their skin colour posing a problem or threat as they simply go about their lives.
Again, White Privilege does not mean you haven’t suffered or that you’re rich or whatever other wrong assumptions. It means your skin colour means you don’t face struggle BECAUSE OF YOUR SKIN.
And it’s not enough to not be racist; you have to be anti-racist. As in, sticking up for your black and POC friends. It means doing your research so you can understand their struggle better. It means checking your privilege and assumptions and miseducation.
It means when you’re called out for saying something racist, that you don’t get angry and defensive.
Please, for the love of god, if someone calls you out on something racist, it does not mean you ARE a racist; it means what you said was. You don’t get to argue against that, because my experience is not dictated by you.
Instead, listen, try to understand and honour my experience and feelings. We all say things we don’t mean, or things come out wrong, or we don’t realise how we make others feel. So when we’re called out on that, we must listen.
All of us.
And open your mind, allow yourself to be uncomfortable as you’re learning. Uncomfortable having discussions. Uncomfortable with the truth. No one said change is easy and you’re part of the problem if you keep running from that.
Feeling shame or guilt is horrible, and it’s not personal in this case, but feeling it means you understand the pain we feel and that’s a good, negative emotion to honour.
And it’s okay to realise that you had things wrong before; it’s great actually, it means you’ve grown. Embrace that.
And As Ibram X. Kendi says, it wasn’t your fault that you had it wrong; all of us have been brainwashed to believe the wrong things about race.
It’s not just protests and social media sharing – which are absolutely great and thank you if you have. It’s about educating yourself and your peers.
For me personally, it’s me no longer allowing “casual” black jokes. No longer being the token black friend. No longer shrinking to let others take up space. No longer hiding my blackness.
It’s putting money in black people’s pockets! Please, this is so important. It’s celebrating and honouring the work of amazing black people and voices. There are so many books (fiction and non-fiction), films, artwork, poetry, businesses, TV shows, products etc. that were made by black hands and need to be given a platform to be shared by millions just as easily as it is for white stories.
People of Colour deserve to be represented on TV as the norm, too.
Check out my post of the importance of representation.
My TBR black voices list:
- How to Be Anti-Racist, Ibram X. Kendi
- Me and White Supremacy, Layla F. Saad
- Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism and You, by Jason Reynolds
- White Tears/ Brown Scars, Ruby Hamad
- Well-Read Black Girl, Glory Edim
- This Book is Anti-Racist, by Tiffany Jewell
- Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
- White Fragility, Robin Diangelo
- Anti-Racist Baby, Ibram X. Kendi
- Citizen: An American Lyric, Claudia Rankine
- Black and British, David Olusoga
- Natives, Akala (currently listening on Audible)
- The Good Immigrant, Nikesh Shukla
- Brit(ish), Afua Hirsch
- Black, Listed, by Jeffery Boakye
- How to Argue with a Racist, Adam Rutherford
- Girl, Woman, Other, Bernadine Evaristo
- Rainbow Milk, Paul Mendez
- Slay in Your Lane: Black Girl Bible (I heard these women speak at Waterstones and I love everything they say so I have the book but haven’t read it yet)
- Taking Up Space: Black Girl Manifesto for Change
- I Will Not Be Erased, Gal-Dem
- Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin
- Kindred, Octavia Butler
- A Blade so Black, L. L. McKinney
- Dear Martin, Nic Stone
- Ghost Boys, Jewell Parker Rhodes
- The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Marlon James
- Parable of Sower, Octavia Butler
- Pet, Akwaeke Emezi
- She Would Be King, Wayetu Moore
- Pride, Ibi Zoboi (a Pride and Prejudice retelling!)
- Akata Witch, Nnedi Okorafor
- Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor
- Dread Nation, Justina Ireland
- How Long Til Black Future Month?, N. K. Jemisin
- Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, Kwame Mbalia
- Monday’s Not Coming, Tiffany D. Jackson
- Slay, Brittany Morris
- The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl, Issa Rae
Books I’ve read which featured Black MCs or black stories:
- Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams
- Children of Blood and Bone (series), Tomi Ademyemi
- The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge (it’s not what you think, not an anti-white people book)
- Me & Mom & Me, Maya Angelou
- Two of Oprah’s books (anything she writes and says it gold!)
- Becoming, Michelle Obama
- Twelve Years a Slave, Soloman Northup
- I Can’t Make This Up, Kevin Hart
- Around the Way Girl, Taraji P. Henson
(A sad, short list…)
Don’t be scared or put off by the TBR list. Start with one that interests you, simple. You can listen on Audible, get them second-hand, ask a friend, whatever. But books are a beautiful and expansive form of education, so I will always advocate for them first.
But there are also podcasts to listen to on Spotify and Apple or whichever platform you use. Literally just search “racism” and you will find loads.
It’s not a trend. Black Lives Matter, always. Anyone fighting against our voices is against us and not any friend of mine.
Educate yourself, educate others, empower black voices. Always.
There’s so much more I could say (police brutality, systemic racism, stop and search bias, black fear, white supremacy, slavery isn’t a forgotten history, the generalising of individual negativities for people of colour) but I’ll leave that to the books and podcasts and well-educated black people who have already put it into moving, important texts.
Look it up.
POC, take care of yourselves right now more than ever. Sending my love.