I have been in two minds about writing this blog post. Part of me feels that as a white woman, it isn’t my place. I don’t have the experience, this isn’t my story. But as a blogger who regularly writes about feminism and gender equality it also feels wrong to be silent. To not support black women and women of ethnic minorities on such an important issue.
There has been an uproar from the black community over the last couple of weeks, after the horrific death of George Floyd by a police officer in America. His death, has not only rightly sparked outrage, but also a determined movement for change across the globe. The more I have read in trying to educate myself, the more I see why. Things need to change, things should have changed a long time ago. Racism is endemic in society and it’s not ok.
I understand as a white middle class woman, I sit pretty high up on the privilege scale. I know this. I studied the American slave trade at university so I have some understanding of the atrocities of the past. If you read any book about this I recommend Native Son by Richard Wright, but I will warn you it’s hard going. But that isn’t a reason not to read it, to face the truth of the past. I have visited plantation houses on holiday in Barbados and seen men and women listed as though they were livestock. If you haven’t seen this or read about this, a lot of what you imagine happened, let me tell you it’s worse.
It’s also made me realise that I do not know about the history of the UK black slave trade, so this is on my list to learn more about and educate myself. I still have a lot to learn, but I want to learn and be an ally. To make this world a better world, for now, but even more so for my children’s generation.
Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter
The prevalent message at the moment is ‘black lives matter’ and this seems to have caused confusion to many who counter it with ‘all lives matter’.
So for clarity. Of course all lives matter, nobody disputes that. Also, just because you’re white it does not mean that you haven’t experienced hardship or difficulty in your life. Or that that should not be acknowledged.
But as it stands at the moment, right here is 2020. 60 years after segregation laws were outlawed in the US and race discrimination laws came into place in the UK. Black and people from ethnic minorities are still not equal. Let me share some stats:
- Black women are 5 times more likely to die during childbirth
- People with white sounding names are 75% more likely to get a job interview
- People from ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty (these stats are direct from the government website):
- ‘Prior to 2008, ‘White majority’ households had an average weekly income of £508 per week.
- The Indian group had an average income of £467 per week
- Black Caribbean £376
- Black African £335
- Pakistani £266
- Bangladeshis £245
- ‘Between 2009 and 2013, Indian, Black African and ‘Other White’ groups’ incomes decreased by an average of 10 per cent.
- The Black Caribbean, White majority and Bangladeshi groups saw falls of 3–4 per cent.’
- During the Covid pandemic people from the Black community and ethnic minorities are twice as likely to die
- Black people are twice as likely to die in police custody
- Do you remember having a black teacher at school? I don’t and fewer than 1% of university professors are black
These are just a snippet of some of the facts and figures I was able to find, and just these few show you what a bleak picture it is for minorities in the UK. I wouldn’t want this to be my life, so why should we expect it of others?
So the slogan Black Lives Matter does not mean that all lives don’t matter. It means until Black lives are equal, how can all lives matter? It means supporting and wanting black lives to be equal.
I have written before on unconscious bias in terms of gender quality, but it is very much a big issue with race too. It really is something all of us needs to be aware of.
Unconscious bias is a bias you do not even know you have. It is preconceived beliefs you have from your upbringing, your education, society around you that you have picked up and tucked away. Things you probably picked up as a child, that are ticking away at the back of your brain without comprehensive thought. They are thoughts on people of colour that they behave in certain ways, they are not as good as you, that influence lots of decisions that you make everyday. It’s horrible, you may be horrified to know that you have it, but there is a good chance there is a smidge of racial bias lurking away in your subconscious.
How can we get rid of it? By trying to be aware of it. Questioning what you read, you watch, your actions, looking at things as truthfully as you can from other people’s point of view. Taking a pause when you react in a certain way. Educating yourself on what is going on around you and trying to learn if you find you just don’t know. The more you learn, the more you question, the more you empathise, the better person you will be.
A Last Note
Black Lives Matter has existed as a movement for a few years now, it was founded after the killings of several black people for which the people responsible had no consequences. It is important to maintain this momentum that we are gaining now, this catalyst for change because if not now, when? The black community needs our support, it’s time for the world to change.
As for the statues. They should have been taken down and put in a museum years ago. Edward Colston (the statue in Bristol) was responsible for the death of 19,000 people. How utterly gross is it that we had a statue up celebrating him? Something people have been campaigning for for a long time to get rid of.
I thought I would share some resources that are useful reading and I will add to this list as I discover more.
A great Instagram Live I watched at the weekend on How to be an Ally from Hey Sareta, Dip Your Toes In and Marty Sandiego . Actually all of their feeds have some great content and definitely well worth a follow
Nomipalony has written a great post on Anti Racism Charities you can Donate to in the UK
From Tinuke Bernard A Directory of UK Black Influencers
Want to know more about the UK Slave trade. This Twitter thread is very enlightening.
This video from Akala on the Racist History of Britain. In fact, watch anything by Akala, he is very insightful.
Bringing up Race: How to Bring up a Child in Prejudiced World (book out September so pre-order only).
The book I mentioned earlier is Native Son by Richard Wright.
That’s all from me for now. My pledge is to learn more, to educate myself on race issues and also to teach my children on them too. This world needs to be equal for all, not just for the few.