I can’t tell you how many times I have re-written this piece. I didn’t know if I should even write it? Does it look like I’m jumping on the bandwagon? All of these ridiculous thoughts have gone through my head. Of course, I know keeping silent is why things have gone so wrong, for so long.
As a white person, whenever the question of race comes up, there is always the panic that you will say or do the wrong thing which will cause offence. Or fear looking like a racist, so the stupid lines start to come out – I have black friends, I’ve had a black boyfriend, etc. What I’ve concluded though, that the whole movement is educational, regardless of how inclusive you think you are as an individual.
That is the problem, though. I consider myself an inclusive person. Of course, when I speak to people, I see their race, but it does not matter to me. I stupidly assumed it didn’t matter to everyone else too. I would like to think that I treat everyone the same. If I don’t, please call me out on it?!
I’m from Cardiff, which thanks to its population explosion during the Industrial Revolution, is full of people and decedents of people from all over the world. Tiger Bay, now Cardiff Bay, is Wales’ oldest multi-ethnic community. Sailors and workers from over 50 countries settled here. Cardiff University keeps bringing new people to the city every year, 10% of the population are students. This has given the city a diverse culture. Which has meant growing up, I was able to find out about people’s backgrounds and religion, and I was fascinated by it. It has also led me to find out more about my history – but that’s another story. However, I am also not naïve to believe that racism doesn’t exist, even here in the UK.
One incident has always stuck in my mind, and even 30 years on makes me cringe with remorse and embarrassment. It makes me feel physically sick to think of it. I can’t even remember how it came about, where I heard the word, but I remember the scolding I got. I couldn’t have been older than 6 years old, and I called a classmate the N-word. Another classmate, a friend of mixed heritage, called me out on it, and told me that it was a ‘bad word’, explained why, and that I needed to apologise. I told my mum when I got home from school that day, even she talked me through why it was wrong. It still haunts me.
We are taught the history of our country in school and even learn about the slave trade. It is always taught from a white perspective, so I would relish the hear the other side. I have seen so much debate saying that people of colour shouldn’t educate on this subject. Donna of House 21 said it perfectly for me,
“Some people would say that it is not the job of ethnic minorities to educate white people on racism. This is a viewpoint which I can understand and in some ways agree with, however in cases like that which we are seeing at the moment, where there are white people seeking to make active changes and are looking to black people for information on the best way in which they can do this, I feel personally that it is something I want to encourage.”
I have passed the statue of Colston in Bristol many times, completely unaware of what he been erected and celebrated for. When I first saw the images and videos of the statue being being brought down, my heart sank. Is the destruction of property essential? Especially during the time of medical pandemic? When I found out more about him, it is crystal clear that it shouldn’t be up.
Similarly, in Cardiff, the bust of Sir Thomas Picton, which stands in City Hall is also being debated. He was the highest-ranking officer to die at Waterloo, which eclipsed the brutal regime he had led while being the Governor of Trinidad. A country that had been concorded by the Spanish and the French before the British overthrew them. While I agree that in today’s society, Picton shouldn’t be on display, I wanted to echo the thoughts that Hisdoryan put on her Instagram stories this week. She said, ”History is a complex subject, people are complex. People are never 100% good, and they’re never 100% evil.” She even echoed the famous phrase uttered by historians, ”The past is a foreign county, and they do things differently there.”
I have seen video clips of her before, but she has been popping up in my social media feed a lot over the last week or so. Famed diversity educator Jane Elliott has been trying to educate people since the late 1960s since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. She is known for her ‘Blue eyes, brown eyes exercise’, even doing it live on Oprah. Nearly 50 years later, she’s still teaching. I think she speaks brilliantly on the subject, and also sat down with Jada Pinkett Smith and the family to talk about it. I’d implore you to watch. (Jane’s bit is from 17-minutes if you don’t have time to watch the whole episode.)
Ultimately, we all have a lot more we can do to gain true equality. Racism is interwoven into our society, and I had no idea how bad it was. I considered myself to be someone who believes that no matter of colour, we deserve equal respect. I had no idea how much of our systems – judicial, medical, educational, financial, and everything else that props society up are prejudice.
I’ve never considered myself privileged, I have worked hard for what I have got. I have been victimised for my sex. However, I didn’t get that the colour of my skin has given me a helping hand. I want the same privilege for all. No one should live in fear, or worry that the odds are stacked against them. I will continue to educate myself, where I can fight the injustices, and support the black community. #BlackLivesMatter