Racism: For the sake of our communities, we must not ignore it
You may know some of these names. You may not know others. Before writing this article, I did not know them all. Why was that?
My first internal response was to shoot from the hip…” well, I can’t remember everyone.” While that may be true, I know that I can easily remember the names of my favourite authors. I know the names of actors from my favourite films. I know the names of my neighbours and the teachers at my children’s school. I remember the people who are familiar to me.
FAMILIARITY comes from circumstance OR CHOICE. I remember the names of people for whom I’ve shown an interest. I did not know all the names above because I had not given them enough attention.
Racism happens every day
After the recent murder of George Floyd in America by a police officer, and reading people’s conversations in social media, I was reminded of how easy it is for me to forget the incessant racist language and violence that gets perpetrated against Black people. Why do I forget?
I forget because I am a white man who is married to a white woman. I only notice racism when I see or hear it being spoken about in the third person or directed to somebody else. It is a privilege that I fail to notice every day.
Racist violence happens in the UK too
It is easy to think that racist violence only happens in the USA, but that is simply not true. Some of the names I wrote at the start belong to British people. Earlier last month, twenty-eight-year-old Kamyimsola Olantunjoye was pinned down by six police officers in Lewisham. Passersby heard her pleas: ‘please stop…I can’t breathe’.
Racism isn’t just police brutality and racially motivated violence. It isn’t only using offensive language. Racism is also acting in ways that prevent people’s voices from being heard. When people are silenced, ignored or criticised for talking about discrimination, it props-up the systems, cultures and attitudes that allow for the racist behaviour to continue.
I understand why people sometimes do this. I think that they find it uncomfortable or distressing. Sometimes those people say things like ‘this isn’t the time or place’. Just this week, three fellow therapists were kicked out of a Facebook group after starting a conversation about anti-racism in psychology. They asked relevant questions, which got people thinking. I found it helpful. However, not everyone welcomed the discussion, and sadly they were removed.
Some discussions create discomfort, and they need to. Without unease, people do not change. I think some people fear that such a debate will damage a community. I believe that repressing these conversations damages communities.
It’s blinking obvious to say that communities comprise people. Some members may fantasise that their groups will always agree. We often want life to be easy, but as recent news has re-affirmed – in our world, it is easier for some people more than others.
I do my best to avoid criticism and promote kindness because I observe too much of the former and too little of the latter.
What is kindness?
Kindness is being gentle, and it is standing tall. It is showing compassion and being willing to fight. It is challenging what people say while not giving in to hatred.
In this week’s round-up, I want to share some vital resources that turn our attention to issues of race, gender and sexuality. It includes some influential authors, websites and resources for you to explore.
I fear that for some of you, I will be pointing out the obvious. I hope that for others for whom this interest is less well nurtured, it will enliven your community spirit. Our communities depend on it for survival, because #blacklivesmatter.
Here is a quote from Renni Eddo-Lodge in her best selling book, Why I am no longer talking to white people about race:
“If you are disgusted by what you see, and if you feel the fire coursing through your veins, then it’s up to you. You don’t have to be the leader of a global movement or a household name. It can be a small scale as chipping away at the warped power relations in your workplace. It can be passing on knowledge and skills to those who wouldn’t access them otherwise. It can be creative. It can be informal. It can be your job. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you’re doing something.”
The Openforwards weekly round-up of ideas from around the world to help you work, love, play and feel better.
- What matters? A series of videos produced by Black Lives Matter combining ‘documentary narrative with interviews to illuminate specific, timely issues, aiming to create a safe dialogue to promote freedom, justice and collective liberation.’
- Stonewall Best Practice Toolkits – resources to help workplaces adopt inclusive policies for people who LGBT
- Why Women Are Blamed For Everything: Exploring Victim Blaming Of Women Subjected to Violence and Trauma. Book by Dr Jessica Taylor, founder of VictimFocus, who specialises in victim-blaming and self-blame of women who have been subjected to sexual violence and abuse.
- Take Action: A list of ways you can stand in solidarity with the black community.