Let’s begin by accepting that we are all implicitly biased. You got that? Yea? Are you triggered yet? Ok, let’s keep going. If we can accept that we all carry biases, prejudices, and misconceptions about any and all groups of people, then this blog post won’t be very dramatic for you. If you fully disagree, then grab some ice, because it’s going to get hot. At some point we need to all acknowledge that at literally any given time, we have ALL been racist. We have ALL said or done problematic things. Literally ALL of us. Do we stop there? Sit within our prejudices and carry on our merry way or do we stop, assess and figure out how we can be better people, better humans in this oh so temporary life? This week’s post, stems from my frustration over some of the dialogue regarding race and the freedoms to say whatever comes front of mind. I don’t think what I’m writing by any means is revolutionary, but hear me out.
White feelings should never be held in higher regard than black lives.Rachel Cargle
What we’re finding now is communities who for years have sat silently through years of oppression or feelings of discontent, are less likely to sit back and accept problematic behaviours anymore. Be it the huge influence of social media, giving a voice to the silenced, be it opening the minds of others who thought they were alone in their struggles. Maybe the shift is in the BIPOC communities finding their voices and white people getting uncomfortable because they haven’t had to look in the mirror. If the people who refuse to be forward thinkers want to sit back and wail “cancel culture” has claimed yet another one of its victims, then that is just another example of their inability to look inward and do the work. The fact that you have been able to live blissfully in your bubble, free of thought of just how the other lived, of just how damaging White supremacy is to ALL of us. The not even have to bat an eye to how someone from the BIPOC community walks the earth, to not have to consider the trauma of our history ( good, bad and ugly ) could possibly have on someone else’s lived experience. Whew child, the luxury! The fact that you can literally disassociate from a movement because you have never lived through it, is something! I don’t have to be set on fire to know that fire can be damaging. I don’t have to be beaten to a pulp, to know that abuse leaves both emotional, psychological along with physical scars. I don’t have to bungee jump to know that that is a major adrenaline rush. Yet, somehow the topic of race surfaces and fragile white people be scratching their heads like huh??! I don’t get it. Mate, you don’t have to in order to listen, you don’t have to in order to be open minded to someone else’s experience, you don’t have to in order to learn something.
Freedom of speech doesn’t protect you of the repercussions of those words. Nor should it. By all means, say and behave how you would like, but surely the other side of said freedom is also the freedom for it to be interpreted as such. On the wake of Piers Morgan/Sharon Osborne being dismissed from their high profile jobs, for some problematic and possibly bullying behaviours, the people who are so quick to defend their ability to speak and say what they feel, seem to forget that we are also allowed to feel some kind of way. They feel they can say what they will and essentially turn a blind eye to its implications or then ignore the impact their words can and so have on others. White supremacy is misogynistic. White supremacy is homophobic. White supremacy is classist. White supremacy is racist. It damages us all. ALL.
Privilege isn’t about what you have gone through, it’s about what you haven’t had to go through.Janaya “Future” Khan
Being born in the ‘80’s and growing up in the ‘90’s, I fully remember us using the word “gay” so freely and interchangeably with wreckless abandon; someone made a dumb joke, they are gay, someone did something you didn’t approve of- they were gay. We completely ignored or were naive to the repercussions to the LGBTQIA+ community. Do we know much better now? Yes. We evolved and no longer use the word in those contexts. I personally, have said some problematic things about my own community. In my youth, I genuinely felt levels of discomfort seeing two Black people kiss on screen. I didn’t like how their “thicker” lips looked as they kissed. Was it problematic? Yes. With time and doing the work, do I realize that it stemmed from an area of self-hate? Yes. Do I feel the same? No. But I didn’t get there by attacking the next person who shone a light on my behaviour, I had to accept it in order to make a change. Just like alcoholism or drug addiction, the 1st step is accepting a problem exists. I for one, am actively and constantly reassessing my internal biases, I am doing the work to ensure that the majority of my decisions are made from an anti-racist stance. I aim to be an ally, to LISTEN more than I talk and to be open to every opportunity for learning. Doing the opposite and denying its existence and the experiences of others will do nothing to progress and will most definitely do nothing to erase hate, bigotry and racism. We walk the streets baring the scars of our experiences, whether good or bad, we make judgements on others for our own survival, but also based on ignorance, social constructs, the media and our own potentially flawed opinions.
One of the only ways we can attempt to even begin to work towards a world free of racism is being open to dialogue, yes for some that will make you squirm, yes for some that will seem like an attack. But no one is saying you’re not a good person, no one is disputing some of the great things or ways you input into society. What we’re saying is that throughout it all, there are still parts of us which need work. Own your viewpoint, but also be open to the fact that you can also learn and add layers to your views. Unpacking our own biases and seeing how in our lives we have benefited from the system. And yes, that also includes people from the BIPOC community. I for one, despite having a single mother, have been privileged enough to have lived in safe neighbourhoods, I have never witnessed gang violence ( unless if films or documentaries count ), and I have never known what it’s like to have nothing to eat, I have never been faced with the prospect of homelessness- all of these things make me privileged, even if I am also a black, quasi-immigrant woman. The system is against me, but I have also benefited. This quote from Ijeoma Oluo, author of So You Want To Talk About Race, sums it up beautifully, “The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.”
All that to say, go ahead, you want to be racist? Claim that shit, claim it in all its glory; the loss of income, the backlash, the loss of friendships and the ostracization. Why say the garbage you want to spew and then cry fowl when the ripples of your problematic behaviour comes to bite you in the ass? When I want to eat all the Oreo cookies in the row, I fully embrace my gluttony, knowing full well that a stomach cramp will swiftly follow- should I sue Oreo? Complain while in a painful ball that it’s not fair, that I should have the freedom to eat all of said Oreos without backlash from my inner organs?! Naa son, shit’s gonna happen ( in my case more so than not, you’re welcome ). No one is asking you to become an activist, no one is asking you to join movements or marches, simply check yo self before you wreck yo self. The same people who have the wherewithal to be so vocal and have their outbursts, are then the same whinging humans when faced with consequences. I simply say own it, say oops, I was a racist again, but also be willing to accept that it may be a teachable moment.