Unpacking racism

It’s not easy to unpack racism and write about #blacklivesmatter. I am by no means an authority on what black people in America, the UK and around the world have gone through for centuries. As a Muslim of Pakistani origin living in the UK I know all too well about racism and anti-Muslim hatred, but anti-black racism is a whole different ball game. I recognise my privilege.

If you haven’t been listening before, it’s time to listen now. The death of George Floyd was the last straw. Time and time again we’ve seen black people treated differently at the very least. Now that we have the technology to record and share we are seeing more and more evidence of disgusting, unacceptable incidents that are not even one-off. Every few weeks police brutality is caught on camera and an innocent black person is murdered. It’s heartbreaking. Black people have been fighting and fighting for basic respect and fair treatment for decades in the US. And nothing seems to be working. With a president who is favoured by white supremacists around the world it’s no wonder that protests have turned into riots in cities across the US. Rioting and looting is against the law but what is the right way? What is the solution? The peaceful methods have not worked. How much can one community take? Generations after generations. Treated like criminals and thieves, guilty until proven innocent.. what would you do?

Martin Luther King II – Father of the black civil right movement

The idealistic answer is going to college, higher education and reaching those top jobs. That’s the long game but unfortunately not accessible for everyone. Although you will find black people excelling in all fields, it has been happening in the background and it’s not enough. In the US those from poor backgrounds can make it through, beat the system but they are the exception and far and few between. Whilst an average white American can be at the top in any career, for the average black person they have to be born with the privilege of wealth and then work much harder than their white counterparts. One US study found that CVs with traditionally white-sounding names received 50% more callbacks than those with traditionally black names. There’s not even any need for me to explain how potential black criminals are treated compared to potential white criminals but one telling statistic is that on average, black men in the US receive sentences that are 19.1% longer than those of white men convicted for the same crimes. More statistics can be found here.

The reason why I felt compelled to write about this is because I think some people really don’t understand, and aren’t trying to understand or empathise with what black people have gone through and are still going through. One main reason is that in the UK we were not taught about slavery and the colonisation that Britain undertook of almost half the world. Just a few history lessons in secondary school would help. Black History Month is a thing now in schools, but colonisation, the catastrophes and calamities caused by the British Empire certainly aren’t taught. This is detrimental to the English psyche and if it was taught it may prevent young people falling prey to far-right groups.

However, one of my biggest problems is racism within the Asian community. We are extremely anti-black. There I said it. Of course not everybody, but most .It is generally the older generation but my generation is certainly not exempt. Our racism will come in the form of ‘banter’ and jokes whereas our parents’ might be actual racism, where a person is treated differently because they are black. Now colourism is a different topic but it comes from the same prejudice. In subcontinental Asian culture, being fair equates to beautiful. Even a fair skin tone is described as ‘saaf rang’ which literally translates to ‘clean colour’, therefore implying darker tones are dirty. This is widespread across all of Asia and within Africa too. However these attitudes haven’t gone away even in the twenty-first century. Marriage proposals have been rejected based on the colour of a girl’s skin amongst Asians here in the UK. Skin lightening creams are commonplace in countries like India, and endorsed by the biggest superstars without them realising the entrenched attitudes they’re strengthening.

I’m sure we all remember the scene from Bend it like Beckham when the main Asian character is explaining to her white friend what her Asian parents would think of her potential boyfriends, white being unacceptable and black being totally unacceptable. That film is from the 90’s and absolutely nothing has changed. It’s time to challenge these attitudes with our parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles. Don’t just take it, challenge them. Change begins from within. Challenge your own perceptions and stereotypes before conversing with other members of your family.

There’s so much to unpack when it comes to racism and I’ve only just scratched the surface, but doing nothing is not acceptable anymore. We can only help defeat racism if non-black people speak up and stand up for the black community. Understand your privilege and admit your privilege. Black people are tired of talking about it and explaining why. It’s time we do the hard work and educate ourselves.

Practical steps

Be informed:

Follow influencers and activists who speak about racism and their experiences. There’s lots of great information out there but here’s a quick summary of a few:

@decolonizethisspace

@laylafsaad

@rachel.cargle

@nowhitesaviours

Support small black businesses:

This post lists lots of businesses you can support by buying from them instead of large corporations and multinationals.

Donate

 

Picture credit: Emily Ames @emames7

 

Use your voice

If you have a platform then use it and don’t be scared to speak out. You don’t have to be a blogger or influencer, but on average everybody on facebook has 338 friends. That’s influence. Have conversations about race with your family members, your children and your elders. Get to the bottom of the stereotypes and prejudices. We all have prejudices; recognise them and overcome them.

And to end here is a video from yesterday, despite the protests and outcry throughout the world, this is how black people are treated by the police in America.

I hope you found this post useful! I would love to hear your thoughts on this very difficult reality and if you know more ways to help fight this then please comment below.



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