I have so many thoughts and feelings about this, but I had the fear and still do that I might say something wrong (which I probably will, so correct me if I do), especially as a white person, who’s grown up in an Eastern European country where, while very much present in the everyday life and society, racism is not something that is acknowledged. People look at the news and say “Oh this is terrible, what’s happening in America right now” and that’s the extend of it. No conversation. No introspect. It’s just a passing thought. But I do think that it’s important to speak up and talk about what’s happening and what’s been happening, because silence really is to be complacent and although you might feel like you are not educated enough to talk about racism, I believe that engaging in these discussions is one of the most important things we can do.
The thing is- white people really don’t want to be called racists. I’ve been trying to have, especially in the past few days, conversations about race with white friends and family and I find it so interesting when someone goes: “Oh, I’m not racist I have a Black friend” or “Those policemen are disgusting, I would never do that, I love Black people, I’m not racist, those people are awful”. By making these comparisons it’s like you distance yourself from staring yourself in the mirror and asking “Am I at all racist?”. I think a lot of white people see being racist as two extremes: you are either racist or you’re not. And no one wants to be considered racist, so they defend themselves to not be. No white person ever wants to admit that they’ve looked at a Black person in a hoodie and associated it with fear, just like no white employer would ever admit that they’d rather hire someone who looks like them then someone who’s Black.
I believe racism is not a binary extreme, it’s a scale. No one is not entirely not racist, and that’s because we are raised in a society where the systems around us are inherently racist. If you look at the way our countries are formed, a lot of them are very problematic. Look at America. It’s built off on stealing the territory of Indigenous people, murdering and enslaving an entire race. Or the UK, which is built on imperialism and colonialism. Look at The British Museum, which is filled with stolen artefacts from other countries and cultures, look at Grenfell Tower, look at representation in the media…
Think back to when you were a child and you were asked to draw a portrait of yourself. You know that peachy color? I don’t know about you, but I was raised to call that color skin color… What is the Black kid supposed to do when they are asked to draw themselves and express their identity and the only option is something called “skin” color, which doesn’t match their own skin color and already as a child they are being taught that they don’t fit in whatever society is deeming the correct thing…
Almost everything we think, we do, the opportunities that we have can be traced back into history and history has defined the system we are now in and the system effects you even if you don’t realise it.
It is not enough to be “not racist”. We must be “anti-racist”. Everyday we should be working on either our own subconscious biases, having conversations with people, thinking about our own identity in the world and what we can do. And although I, like many other people have been feeling very uncomfortable and overwhelmed with everything that’s been happening, instead of swiping past the social media posts and turning a blind eye, I choose to lean into that discomfort and recognize that even if it’s challenging my mental health right now, it’s important to get angry, get educated and go beyond just posting something, in order to change the system that is so deeply ingrained and that we are currently in.
So, do share your thoughts and let’s have a conversation!
Here are some resources that I’ve been using and plan on reading: