“The ultimate measure of a person is not where one stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where one stands in times of challenge and controversy.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
EDIT: 10/06/2020 This post has been edited to remove the identifying information of my family.
If you don’t know me personally, you may not know that I’m a skinny white girl with a big mouth and a bigger heart. I champion many worthy causes loudly and proudly, but I haven’t always been passionate and outspoken about racial inequality. In fact, I’ll be totally honest, I remained willfully ignorant to the injustices Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) suffer for a long time. I’ve never approved of racist behaviours and attitudes, but I remained silent for years, for want of an easy life and a lack of understanding of how severe these issues are. And as much as I haven’t enjoyed admitting the uncomfortable truth to myself, my silence was complicity.
I was brought up in a loving, accepting household and had it drummed into me that skin colour meant nothing, all that mattered was a good heart. “I don’t care who you bring home,” my mom would say, as early as I can remember, “they can be black, white, or pink with yellow spots, for all I care, as long as they treat you well and make you happy.” The sentiment is a beautiful one that I live by to this day, but the sentiment alone isn’t enough to fight the racist culture entrenched in modern society. Even so, on I went living my dizzy little life believing that love alone was enough to cure the world of its diseases and that by not actively particpating in racism, that would be enough. It took for me to have a selfish reason in order to open my eyes and see what’s happening in the world.
My brother-in-law is white, my sister-in-law is black, and my niece/goddaughter is beautiful bi-racial toddler who keeps us constantly on our toes with her cheeky smile and her lovable naughtiness. They are my family and they are my reasons.
I’m not proud that it’s taken me three decades to open my eyes. It shouldn’t have taken the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd for me to realise the extent of institutionalised corruption and prejudice. It shouldn’t have taken me sharing countless names of other BIPOC lives to acknowledge the difficulties my niece is going to face as she grows up, that my sister-in-law has always faced, but now that I am beginning to see, I’m determined to do better, to be better. And this is not just for my niece or for my family, but for all people of colour. I want to learn, I want to be educated, I want to hear you, I want to fight, I want to add my voice to the growing swell of outrage across the world for everyone that has ever been judged, attacked, or killed for the colour of their skin. As a gay woman, I’ve happily accepted the love and support of straight allies for years, and now as a white woman, I want to do whatever is within my means to help people of colour defeat the oppression they have lived under for centuries.
“But you’re white and you live in the UK, Loz, why do you care so much about what’s happening to Black people in the USA?”
What’s happening in America isn’t isolated to America and it isn’t isolated to Black people either, that’s just the direction the camera is pointed right now. Racial prejudice happens all over the world, every single day, and every avenue of it is wrong, but we can’t solve all problem instantly. If we could, there wouldn’t be any problems.
I asked my sister-in-law today if she would share some of her experiences with me. After an hour on the phone, she’d shared countless examples where she has been ignored, mocked, belittled, made to feel worthless, wrongly accused, turned away, let down, erased, all because of the colour of her skin, but what she shared was still only a small part of what she and her family have always faced, night and day, week in, week out. I feel sick to my stomach at some of the things they have endured, not only in the past, but recently, and I won’t stay quiet anymore. If we don’t make fundamental changes now, at some point, my innocent niece is going to become aware that the colour of her skin defines and restricts her in ways her white peers will never even have to consider, let alone endure. Instead of being seen for the beautiful, loving, hyper, loud, happy soul that she is, she will be seen as a threat. She will be guilty of a thousand sins before she ever opens her mouth because she’s bi-racial. What kind of auntie would I be if I just sat back and said “I’m white, it doesn’t affect me”? What kind of human would I be? It does affect me because I’m a human being and I have this apparently radical belief that all humans are equal, that all humans should be able to live without fear.
For the first time in my life, I’m consciously aware of the colour of my own skin and it makes me uncomfortable because as I go about my business day to day, there will be people that look at me and wonder if I’m going to judge them – or worse. It’s an unpleasant aspect of self-discovery and yet that’s what white privilege forces BIPOC youth to experience at a disturbingly young age. I’m 33 years old and I’ve never had to consider what my skin says about me, because it’s just skin, right? My ‘so pale I’m almost see-through’ skin doesn’t tell you anything about me, except that I burn easily and I like tattoos. So why does it tell you something more sinister when that colour is something other than white? That’s one part of what white privilege is – never being judged for the colour of your skin, but by judging others for it or allowing that attitude to persist around you. If you tolerate the problem, you are a part of the problem.
I’ve decided to spend the foreseeable future learning how I can help the BLM movement beyond just writing a blog and sharing social media posts. Words are an important weapon, but they’re ineffectual without knowledge. I’m going to begin with reading/watching whatever I can about BIPOC history because I know very little and I certainly don’t remember ever being taught about it in school. Any recommendations for books, films, art, music, etc. that will help broaden my horizons are very welcome. Any advice on how to become an effective ally as opposed to just a Facebook warrior is also welcome!
I’m new to this and I don’t claim to have any, let alone all, of the answers but I want to help. I want to be better. I want to be corrected when I say something wrong. I want to challenge my white-washed view of the world. I want to understand the historical atrocities and movements that have lead to this moment in time. I want to know the names and the places and the aftermath. I want to be the best sister, auntie, godmother, friend, ally, human being I can be because Black Lives Matter and I want to help prove that those aren’t just words.
Love & light,