It’s that time of year again where we start to plan our Black History Month activities.
I for one am trying to create a space for discussion and education and also for personal action.
Like a lot of people in my profession, I have spent the last 18 months talking about racism. What I realised, is that a lot of people don’t have a clue what it actually is, the various forms it takes, the social constructs which underpin it and how it privileges certain groups of people. They spend a lot of time worrying about being called racist but very little time thinking about how their actions and self-serving beliefs are impacting those around them.
When I’m asked by friends, family or peers ‘what can I do?’, I often suggest they look at history to understand the root of the issues and the socially constructed structures we live within that have created the societies we now exist in. It’s incredibly difficult to have meaningful conversations about race with people who don’t want to understand or admit a problem exists or who shut down when you speak your truth.
Individuals from marginalised groups shouldn’t be relied upon to educate or drive the conversation. Their individual experiences shouldn’t be viewed as representative of the broader group. We’re all responsible for our own learning. Do your own research, read books, watch films, YouTube videos or listen to podcasts to educate yourself.
The part we aren’t doing is asking each other to think about the one thing we can do differently to effect change around us.
As a black person, many people assume I have the answers, I don’t.
I was born in the UK and grew up in the UK with parents who where also raised in the UK. So my way of viewing things is British – I don’t have any other experiences to draw from. I understand the culture I live in, the bias, stereotypes and microagressions which exist, and for many years I’ve known there are spaces I wouldn’t be welcomed in.
As a young man growing up and trying to make my mark, I often took the view that the spaces that sought to exclude me, whether it was based on bias, discrimination, class or race, were depriving themselves of what I had to offer and that was their loss.
It can be a long hard journey to get to the point of knowing your value and the many attributes, experience and skills you have to offer and can contribute.
I think for anyone to undo the damage of racism, classism or other prejudice it starts with putting a mirror up to yourself and truly asking yourself moving forward, ‘What am I going to do to create change?’