Let’s talk about racism

Why should we talk about racism?

Black & white image of 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 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).

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?

Coloured image of protest in London - stop racism
Stop racism protest in London Image by Henry B @ Unsplash.com

The first step in stopping racism is understanding what it actually is. 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. So here’s a few things we can do:

  • Keep yourself and others informed 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.

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.

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.

Over to you

Clipart.com

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.