I’m 28, biracial and live at home with my White father in the outskirts of Liverpool. I love to travel, learn languages, and just be a general weirdo, dancing on the spot with my mouth wide open whenever I feel a tiny weeny bit of excitement. Since the implementation of lockdown, I’ve become a chef, albeit not a great one. Though, I’m trying. And for reference, I am half Black Caribbean and half White British; and proud to be both!
Following the racially motivated murder of George Floyd in the United States of America, black squares dominated Instagram feeds after music industries, celebrities, and the general public temporarily suspended daily business and their posting schedules for 24hrs demonstrating solidarity in the fight against racism. The pause in users' daily posting allowed people to more easily share and locate information about the previous and future planned protests and how to further help the #blacklivesmatter movement. Its other purpose was to amplify the voices of people of colour.
As a biracial woman who has been on the receiving end of racism far too many times to count, albeit on a much lower scale than that of George Floyd and the countless others murdered for simply being black, I honestly didn’t know how to feel. Time and time again, I had tried to speak up about racism and how I felt in relation to my own experiences only to be faced with sheer disbelief and the forever dismissive, “are you sure it was because you’re black?”. It seemed there was always an alternative reason I hadn’t thought of because it couldn’t possibly be down to my race or the fact I had darker skin, right? Apparently racism doesn’t exist in 2020. Slavery has been abolished, lynching is no longer an accepted practice, and black people can now freely civilise with white people and choose where they sit on a bus. Unless someone explicitly states they don’t like you and/or treats you unfairly because you’re black, or explicitly calls you the N word, then it’s highly unlikely that you were on the receiving end of indiscreet, covert racism because quite frankly, in 2020, that doesn’t and can’t happen. Well, that, is gaslighting; the big old barrier preventing the necessary progression we’re all longing for. If you’re unfamiliar with said term, look it up. Google is your friend.
Now, god forbid you exhibit an ounce of frustration over someone’s inability to understand your shitty experience and actually just how bad it made you feel; Nobody wants to be the angry black man or woman as is commonly prescribed. I realised though, that those who struggle to understand me haven’t walked in my shoes or seen the world through my eyes or from my perspective.
And yet, here I was on Instagram, now faced with a window of opportunity to finally talk about racism, and do so freely. So, I used it: I shared petitions, information, links to resources, and more. I engaged in healthy discussions with friends and other Instagram users whom I’d never met before. I loved the positive engagement, what seemed like progressive action and the strangely novel awareness to a problem I’d known about and experienced throughout my life. For once, it seemed like we were actually getting somewhere; Companies were outed for their lack of diversity in their own workforce despite pushing the #westandwithyou slogan while influencers expressed their sheer frustration at having been continuously paid at much lower rates than their white counterparts for the same damn jobs. On the flip side, it was apparent the movement had become the ideal moment for the opportunists to cash in and gain popularity on a subject so fragile and meaningful to so many and it wasn’t long before the everyday schedule resumed as people reverted to posting what they’d eaten for lunch and where they’d gone for their daily walk as per lockdown measures.
The point is BlackLivesMatter is not a trend. It’s not a fad. And it’s certainly not temporary. From the bottom of my freaking heart, this means so, so much to me and countless others who fight every day to be heard, and also those who feel so unheard that they’ve lost hope and become silent. Sarah, Ryesha, and I created this platform because we want to continue the discussion long beyond its inevitable expiration on ‘the gram’. We want to do more than post a black square on our feeds because we know that’s not productive enough and ultimately, won’t dismantle the systemic racism that has been for centuries cemented into everyday life and is now considered normal. We know it doesn’t end there. We want to bring people together so that we can learn from one another because if we feel the way we feel, how many others feel like this too?
The problem with race is it almost seems like a taboo. There’s a room 101 for any discussion surrounding general racism, systemic and institutionalised racism, and oppression. And yet, racism is so widely present that it’s happening around us every single day in one way or another. But can you see it? Be honest, do you see it? Truly? Most people know that to solve a problem or eradicate an infestation, you have to kill the root. So, why is it that we rarely apply this way of thinking to racism and the subordinate issues which surround it? Is it because talking about it makes us uncomfortable? Ultimately, we know we need to talk about it. As uneasy and unnerving as it may be, we cannot remain silent on such crucial matters if what we truly seek is change. Yes, I understand that it can be difficult to know what to say; I have white friends who tell me: “I want to engage in the conversation. I just don’t want to say the wrong thing”. Trust me, I get it but please, stop apologising for that. Don’t apologise for being white or not knowing what to say. This isn’t an anti-white campaign. I’m not here blaming white people for the situations occurring today. Heavens, I’m half white and proud of it too! Furthermore, it is of my personal belief that trying and getting it wrong is far better than not trying at all as we then end up missing vital opportunities for better understanding and consequently, the implementation of corrective, preventative, and progressive measures which can and will, hopefully, lead to change.
So, as lovely as it was to have the world solely talk about racism on Instagram for a whole 24hrs, I want this platform to be long-lasting and a place in which we feel comfortable enough to speak freely and actually listen to each other; Not just some of the time, but all of the time. Racism isn’t going anywhere so we need to stop burying our heads in the sand. We need to stop pretending like this disease doesn’t affect us because what’s being shown by the media today is happening in territories far from home. In the words of Martin Luther King, ‘an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’. And trust me, the United Kingdom isn’t guilt-free of racism either.
While I cannot truly understand what it is like for a Black American living in the United States of America, I can no longer remain silent about my own experiences to spare the feelings of others. My silence would only continue to satisfy the ignorance of a wider problem which is very much present, globally. And honestly, neither should you. Racism on any level is wrong. Whether it be overt or covert, there is simply no place for racism in this world. We know that. We should all know that. It’s 2020 for crying out loud.
To wrap this up, let me be clear: this is neither an anti-white campaign nor anti-any race campaign. This is a safe, inclusive space for everybody, whether you have experienced racism or not. We are all allies in the fight against racism. Systemic racism is as clear as day and we need to work together to dismantle it. Together we’re stronger. Together we stand. And together we can and will make this world a better place for everyone.