Photo by Ocean Taylor
I’ve always known my blackness was more acceptable to many people because of the shade. I remember being 8 years old and going round to my friend house to play. In fact a version of this happened more than once. I think it must have been ‘cool’ to be dick in the late 80’s. Her brother had a huge swastika on the wall, amongst lots of other Nazi paraphernalia. When he saw me looking he said "oh it’s ok though you’re allowed" Not really understanding the gravity at the time, but knowing it wasn’t right. I felt odd, but I didn't know how to react, so I did nothing.
Obviously I’ve experienced racism, even before I was born, my mum was ostracised by members of her family because she had a child with someone who was black. Leaving her 23, alone with a baby on the way and lacking in vital things like emotional support and a cot. I'm told my crib was a makeshift drawer until my feet and head touched either end.
At school I recall chasing a boy around the playground for what seemed like ages because he’d called me a "black bitch" He was lucky I didn’t catch him that day. But I remember getting him back when he was least expecting it.
There are many more stories, to many mention, but I do remember some friends not being allowed to my house because of the colour of my skin. There are probably countless more times I'm completely oblivious to, however my experiences seem minuscle compared to those of others.
I have only really started thinking about race and my privilege in more depth in the last few years. Possibly due to having children. Children have a wonderful way of shaking everything up and making you examine very fibre of the society we inhabit. However social media has also opened my eyes to many things. And one of those things is race.
I was enlightened recently after hearing a friend on Facebook recount his experience of never being able to hail down a black taxi, this was told in the wake of potential cancellation of Uber’s license. I didn’t comment, because I wanted to really process it, and think about his experience. He used to have to ask friends to hail down the taxis whilst he hid out of sight, only to emerge after the cab had stopped. It had never entered my head that people experience this kind of balant prejudice every single damn day, and I felt ignorant and stupid for not noticing these experiences before. Maybe I just wasn't listening before.
So, am I going to sit here and wallow in guilt? Hell no. And neither should you. I’m going to listen, firstly, I’m going to educate myself further, a great book to read is 'Why I Don't Talk to White People About Race' there is always more to learn. Listening, really listening without justifying or diminishing other people's experience is probably the best thing we can all do.
I used to think the best thing to do was to put up and shut up I thought they wouldn’t change their mind anyway, what's the point. But slowly you lose a little bit of your soul every time you don’t speak up. And I want to be an role model for talking about topics that might be a little difficult to discuss, I have a voice, and I want to use it.
Anne Widdencombe was talking about discrimination on Big Brother recently. She said that people should be hired for a job because of their individual merits and that she doesn’t believe in positive discrimination, which I wholeheartedly disagree with. How can we ever be truly judged on our own merit when we cannot even get a a foot in the door.
People are not even considered for jobs because they may have an ‘ethnic’ sounding name. Even though they may have equal or more experience than their english-sounding named counterparts. If we do not use protocols/ targets to help change the system then inherent racism will continue to thrive in every area of society.
Mark Shayler (founding partner of The Do Lectures and boss at Ape told me when I was featured on his podcast that the more diverse a company is, the more successful it is. Which I think more people need to hear, especially the people in the boardrooms.
I don't have all the answers, I still have so much to hear and to learn, but I do know that there needs to be change. We've been talking for too long...
Would love to hear your thoughts?