Let’s talk about racism

Why should we talk about racism?

Racism: Black power salute from inmates in Attica Prison in 1971
Attica Black power salute, 10 September 1971 – Photo by Bettmann/Corbis

I came across this short post from Space Curiouser here, titled Everyone is ‘racist’ and I for one, certainly agree. This is one of many reasons why we need to talk about racism!

The writer says “What we need is not just white people taking responsibility of racist blunder they have created and to make them realize that equal treatment must be given to non- white person.”

This post has no doubt been sparked by the names: Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, whose names serve as a reminder of how much work there’s still to be done to combat racism.

In recent days we’ve seen the justified outrage at the killing of a black man, George Lloyd, at the hands of the Police in Minneapolis. Mr Floyd’s needless killing has sparked a wave of protests in cities across the United States, United Kingdom and Germany. In fact, there have been major protests across the world, calling for justice, while highlighting systemic racism across society at large.

According to the BBC, A lawyer for George Floyd has told a memorial service that a “pandemic of racism” led to his death. Now, while I agree that his death was wrong, wrong, wrong — on so many levels and whichever way you look at it, did a racist pandemic lead to his death? I don’t have the answer to that but I’m pretty sure we’re going to see, hear and read lots of opinions in the coming weeks and months.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at some definitions of racism and racist.

What is racism?

Coloured images of black, white and mixed raced people - a multi-cultural family
Mixed race families

It’s a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race (Merriam-Webster Dictionary.com)

Racism has existed throughout human history. It may be defined as the hatred of one person by another — because of skin color, language, customs, place of birth or any factor that supposedly reveals the basic nature of that person. It has influenced wars, slavery, the formation of nations, and legal codes. Racial separatism is the belief that different races should remain segregated and apart from one another. ( ADL, Fighting hate for good).

Let’s talk about racism. Racism is discrimination, pre-judgements or hostile behaviours directed at another person on the basis of their race, ethnicity or cultural background (ReachOut.com). And the most extreme forms of pure racism; its exclusion, its hatred, its brutality are, according to Joseph Harker at The Guardian (2015), mostly focused on men.

‘No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.’

Nelson Mandela

What is a racist

In its purest sense, a racist is someone who believes another person is inherently inferior due to the biological fact of their race (The Guardian 2015).

Where do we see racism

Colour image of protest and placard saying Black lives matter
All lives matter —Image by Clay Banks @ Unsplash.com

I imagine most would agree that racism is everywhere and isn’t always as overt or obvious as those tragic deaths of the above-named. And as we know, it’s not just violence or language that can be racist. However, there are still a lot of people who don’t realise that racism occurs in many different ways including:

  • the afore-mentioned name-calling and verbal abuse
  • physical and violent abuse
  • comments that cause offence, sometimes unintentionally
  • jokes
  • intimidation or harassment
  • Here in the UK, racism can also be seen online and in the media, in the victims of police harassment, in our prisons, and in our football grounds, amongst others
  • race discrimination in healthcare, education, housing, the workplace (at all levels)

And of course I could go on……. but……

What can be done about racism?

Let's talk about stopping racism.
Stop racism protest in London Image by Henry B @ Unsplash.com

The first step in stopping racism is understanding what it actually is. Let’s talk about racism. If we haven’t experienced it or lived it, we can’t know it so we need to read about it, learn and understand it.

Angela Davis’s call to action: “In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist,” comes to mind.

Here’s a few things we can do to stop racism:

  • Keep yourself and others informed by talking about racism and join in the many protests, but keep yourself and others safe. Be careful and don’t accidentally become involved in any nearby violence.
  • Just talking about racism is a big part of fighting it. Don’t accept racism in others close to you; your family, friends, colleagues and your social groups.
  • Don’t give up. You might not be able to tackle racism on your own but we can all play a part. Challenging racism when you see it (without putting yourself at risk) and reporting it helps to make other people see it’s not okay.
  • Write to your local MP’s.
  • Be part of the conversation online
  • Donate to racism charities. An article in The Independent wrote “If you are based in the UK and you are able to donate, there are several anti-racism charities that would benefit from your monetary support. Here are 10 anti-racism charities in the UK that you can donate to.”
  • Read and understand. A blogger friend at The philosophical psychotic, only yesterday posted this informative article “A mental health resource for African Americans”, which I think is suitable for all people of colour and speaks volumes.

Moving forward

Personally, I’m frustrated at seeing people (A to Z listers) jump on the anti-racism bandwagon. These people are really getting on my last nerves because the trend of supporting Black Lives Matter will end at some point, and when it disappears, racism will be invisible once again. We need to keep the talk about racism going.

Some famous stars will probably never raise awareness for Black Lives Matter again, once the attention diverts to another trending hashtag or moment, reports Aleshia Adejobi at Metro. For me, I too believe these people need to finish what they started. We need to be more aware of who we discriminate and talk more openly about racism all the time.

Can a white person experience racism?

You’re probably as surprised as I am about this post. I’m absolutely no expert on racism and I’m white. But the whole of my life I have had the good fortune to belong to a vast mixed and multi-cultural family. Recenty, during a social conversation in a small group with a friend (who’s black) and her (black) friends, the issue of race and racism came up.

I ventured that I had experienced racism many times when my boys were little. But I was quickly shot down with “Yeah, but it wasn’t directed at you, it wasn’t about you, so it’s not the same.”

Hhmm. Okay, so it was directed at my beautiful Spanish, Indian, British baby in his pushchair and his two year old brother? Now I get that they’re smart kids, but not that smart. They didn’t understand the questions like “Why’s your kids dark skinned?” or the mum at nursery who said within earshot “Oh James is going round to that little Paki boy’s house this afternoon.” (he didn’t by the way).

When out with their dad, I often got “effin’ paki lover?” and “Why’s he in ‘ere, effin Paki?” My mum in Scotland has had many comments about the different colours of all her grandchildren.

And the black lady woman who physically attacked me because I smiled and asked her to reverse a car length so I could park outside my own front door. This would also have allowed her pass and go on her merry way. It was a terrible day for traffic due to public transport strikes and everyone was trying to get down my street, which is gated off in the middle – so they all had to reverse back out.

Am I racist?

I live in a London Borough where the population of white people is 27.6% and worked in another Borough where 36.2% of the people were white.

We had 7 non-white managers and me in my job as mental health Ward Manager and 5 modern matrons, all of whom were non-white.

Finally, London has the smallest percentage of White British people, at 44.9% which makes me in some way, a minority.

I don’t have any problem with any of that, but what I do object to is the cat calls of “f*cking white bitch” when I accidentally bumped my shopping trolley into a young Asian girl”, and “ffs you stupid white bitch” when I held up the queue of shoppers behind me when the teller insisted on getting me another packet of sausages saying it was buy 2 get 1 free. Even “Hey skinny white bitch, with your cheap clothes,” and worse, at work as a mental health nurse. If anything this indicates that now is the perfect time to start talking about racism and mental illness.

Over to you

What do you think about racism?

So have I experienced racism? Like I said, I’m no expert. I started off this post with the article that says “Everyone is racist.” and that’s how I’ll end it. I’m looking forward to any comments, constructive criticism and any questions.

Author: mentalhealth360.uk

Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

24 thoughts on “Let’s talk about racism”

  1. Fantastic post Caz, I couldn’t agree more that this needs to continue to be talked about and not just dropped in favour of the next ‘trendy hashtag’.

    Posts like yours that are fair, understanding and compassionate will definitely help to keep the conversation going!

    1. The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step …
      Yes , we have developed and made some achievements though but the walk is an ongoing process …

      1. It’s definitely a work in progress but there’s still lots more to do……. Thank you, and I love that Journey of a thousand miles………

  2. I think it’s also worth distinguishing between individual and systemic racism. The killing of George Floyd can be framed as an isolated incident, or it can be viewed as the product of deeply entrenched systemic racism based on centuries of oppression. Neither type of racism is good, but they’re not the same thing.

  3. I fear to comment as I am from Eastern Europe, our history is different, includes no slavery or colonialism (we were pretty much the Other) so I don’t know some nuances, and I fear I might sound-racist if I say anything in any discussion. So I can’t engage in any kind of opposing of violence

    1. Of course, I understand. We spent many years in and around Croatia and Bosnia so we know much about the history.

      I also understand how difficult it is to either post an article or comment on these, without inciting or inviting damaging comments 🙂

  4. I agree with what you said about people just supporting BLM because it’s a thing right now because it’s so much bigger than that. I wish and hope that people actually look into why it was created, how police brutality effects black and brown people and how hegemonic racism is everywhere not just with police brutality but in so many aspects of everyday life.

  5. Having serious conversations about racism is very important. It’s a step up from simply acknowledging it exists. I get so frustrated when people say things like, “Oh, we don’t have racism anymore.” Yes, we do, and we need to talk about it and think about it if we ever hope to find a way to un-entrench it from our society.

    1. Oh gosh yes! Of course, it’s more than racist comments or slurs and yes, everyone needs to work on themselves with regards to what they think racism actually is. I wish more people would educate themselves. I wonder if it’s a generational thing? And when all us oldies pass away, if things will change? x

  6. Well said! Racism can occur against all races, colors and creeds. I think we all have the ability, whether consciously or not, for racial profiling or stereotyping. Perhaps its an inherent part of our human nature. Certainly influenced by our environment and upbringing. Let’s not forget racism is not only race oriented, but of culture, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and on and on and on.

    And racism is not a recent societal problem. Its most likely been embedded in human societies since we first walked upright — perhaps even before? And like you’ve stated it’s a world wide issue. So while the US is currently under the racist microscope, and deservedly so, racism in reality is a world wide issue. And has been since — Forever?

    1. Thank you for your very apt comments. And you’re right, it will go on……….. and on……..

      It has been there for ever and as a mental health nurse in London, I’ve seen it from many races/cultures/ nationalities. I had a Jamaican colleague who hated Africans, Asians, Mauritians, etc and said our borders should be closed to immigration!

      I knew Mauritians who hated the British and looked down on Britain for its stupidity! There were African people who disliked Caribbean colleagues.

      It works all ways! And I hate to say it but I do get fed up of people saying it’s only white people that are racist.

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