PLACARDS ARE NOT ALWAYS NEEDED
Let me start this blog by saying that I’m not a ‘Miss Know-It-All’ when it comes to achieving social and racial equality. I am also learning how to swim in an ocean where it can feel like free speech is drowning and the cancel culture sharks are only a few strokes away. Yet, as we all learn to rewire our brains and move with the times, I personally think it is better to swim in shaky waters than float in a pool of ignorance.
I am sure many people agree. However, how many realise that not only are they already in that pool of ignorance, but they’re also swimming laps in it? What I mean is that the fight for racial and social justice is just as important in our homes as it is on the streets. Only partaking when surrounded by hundreds of people is half the fight and one that doesn’t happen very often. The real battle takes place when it comes to calling out your mum, uncle and yes, even your gran when everyday micro-aggressions pass through their lips.
Whether you like it or not, it’s everyone’s responsibility to (at the very least) challenge these comments. The same energy used to address people who are overt with their prejudice/racism is also needed when someone continues to judge an individual or a community based on stereotypes or malicious information initially created by history, enforced by the media, and now magnified by social media.
Whether it’s calling Meghan Markle “uppity” (or any woman of colour for that matter); claiming that a person of colour or someone from a working-class background “speaks so well”; or the ultimate classic — confusing two people of the same ethnicity, because you know we all look the same, all are harmful. Believe me.
Let’s be honest, undertaking such conversations is not easy. Thanks to the culture war that some politicians and media outlets are waging to divert attention from real concerns, being accused of being ‘politically correct’ or ‘woke’ can now seem like an insult. Yet, these discussions play such an important role in changing wider society, possibly more than sporadic protests.
Immediately after the UK voted to leave the European Union, I lost count of the number of callers to talk radio stations who expressed their surprise or dismay at family members who not only voted to leave, but did so because they wanted to see “less foreigners”. According to their ‘remoaner’ loved ones, these family members and friends were no longer recognisable and various newspapers were to blame for ‘corrupting’ them.
No doubt, certain media outlets play their part to encourage people to hate, distrust or believe their own hype of being superior to others, but I cannot help wonder if the soil in which these seeds were planted was already rotten? For every person that’s called into a radio station, I badly wanted to ask if they had ever questioned their loved one’s viewpoint on race. And if not, why not? The harsh reality is that many of us are either not paying attention or are choosing to look the other way when minor clues of a close friend, a family member or a colleague’s prejudices are laid out right underneath our noses.
And before you ask, I too have had to stick my head above the parapet and confront some family members who have been less than welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community. During those times, my lone voice told others that equality cannot just be racial, it must equate to people being free to openly celebrate their sexuality and love whomever they choose. Eyes rolled and, at times, tempers flared, but necessary conversations took place. I did not do this to lecture others, I did it because it was right. Fighting for equality cannot come at the expense of others or remaining silent when it is convenient. Silence gets you nowhere.
This can also be said for those who are on the receiving end of micro-aggressive comments. Understandably, it’s easier to remain quiet and to conform, but how long will it be before such sacrifices eventually grind you down? Nothing good comes out of not being able to be your authentic self.
I once had a (Black) friend who told me that she went out of her way to make a good impression on new colleagues, especially if they were White. For her, she believed that if these colleagues thought highly of her, then it would encourage them not to harshly judge other Black people. I question if such logic works. If it did, then I wouldn’t be writing this blog. In short, if meeting one person from another community made people less prejudice towards that wider community, then the fight for racial equality wouldn’t be such an arduous one. Also, why should anyone go out of their way to appease those who are least likely to give them a chance because of their own animus beliefs?
Imagine if their own family members or friends had challenged their opinions. Would it make a difference? Maybe. At the most, it may encourage them to question their thoughts. At the least, they would have nowhere to hide to justify a toxic mindset. So, the next time you’re on the streets waving your placards, chanting, raising your fists and listening to speeches, not only will I be with you, I’ll also applaud you. But, let’s not forget that most revolutions need to take place in our homes and it’s everybody’s duty to shout as loudly indoors as we do outside.