Beyond the Mantra…
I grew up in a black society where there were sprinkles of white and mixed-race people. The general feeling was that of respect for the whites and mixed-raced individuals. They had their bubbles and from the way they looked after their environment etc they were generally regarded as pillars of the communities where they were located. It’s the way they do what they do. I grew up seeing them put their money where their mouths were. They seemed to be people who lived out their convictions accordingly.
Many whites have impacted my life; my primary school head teacher was such a beautiful fashionista. Secondary school teachers gave up their very many comforts for a higher cause and were missionaries. My dad’s MD of blessed memory was ace, spent my first Christmas in the UK with his family and had a very proper British Christmas leaving with an arm load of presents. Then my own MD believed in me and gave so much confidence and a glowing reference. Mates, friends and colleagues; what can I say? The list goes on and on.
My experience growing up was perfectly alright as far as race relations go. I was part of the majority anyway so I did not stick out like a sore thumb for behaving a certain way.I was culturally cohesive, I stood out for my own idiosyncrasies. What I learned was even though we were all black is that there are good people and not so good people so it was important to get your values right and be able to understand the calibre of people around you.
I must confess that growing up in Africa was not bereft of its challenges especially that of being treated like your life doesn’t matter, especially if you do not have certain connections. We may all be able to recall situations where tribalism, nepotism have scuppered opportunities I know that Black lives matter and the BLM is trying to impress upon other races that black lives should matter equally but generally, I wonder if black lives matter to blacks in the same measure. The fact that many black leaders have lived abroad and enjoy the perks of being able to jet in and out when they feel like for health care, education etc makes you realise that they know better. Why are they not delivering better? Why don’t the black governments think that they need to step up? M any blacks are economic migrants because they get a better deal in other societies. There are certainly black people who need to practice what they preach.
When I first landed in London and my first thought was ‘how multicultural!’ I wasn’t expecting this and to be truthful, my TV experience of UK did not prepare me for how multicultural London turned out to be. In a nutshell, my experience is that UK is a great place to live. Her people err on the side of silence and caution in general, they are not quick to offend (overtly) and are polite even if it hurts and can queue up for the whole planet. Living with them is easy. UK is a place where many times fair place wins the day. Growing up where there is tribalism and religious sentiment in appointments etc abounds, I appreciate that! I have been able to apply for jobs and get employment, go in and out and live my life as normal.
Whilst it has been a positive experience, I can identify with people who feel that they are being policed unfairly especially by people who have no business policing them. Here, there seems to be a level of distrust and even superiority complex where by certain people feel better than others (both sides of the race line). Why else would an elderly woman go out of her way to report a perfectly innocent shopper to the store authorities? She had no business policing someone who had done nothing wrong as was discovered when the store security checked. The only reason which makes sense is if you bring in the race factor. She did not trust a black person to shop honestly. I wonder what experiences she must have had to give her the gall to do what she did but it is what it is.
There are many black people who are doing well yet there are some who need to reflect on the value they place on black lives. There are many other people (of all races) who are doing well and there are also many other people who need to be more mindful about behaviour and make conscious choices to let go of negative stereotypes and judge each person one by their merits and demerits not just their skin tone.
I confess that I am drawn to black people as a black person. I am probably friendlier, make the first move to befriend, and engage other blacks than I would with another race, I am not a racist but I find that with conformity comes a little comfort. I won’t begrudge anyone that and I feel that society will always divide up to a point along the lines of conformity. This is why when you try to speak to someone you try to find common ground? It makes life easier …………… i.e. the weather(thank God for free air), if you are mums, it will be potty training and school conversations; black women love having their hair conversations ……….. as long as conformity with some (along whatever lines) doesn’t translate to inappropriate behaviour to people who don’t conform.
The thing for me in this season is to challenge prejudice in me and others around me hence my decision to express myself at work showing that I supported BLM; I don’t support looting or taking statues down but I was comfortable enough to say something about the situation which I hope gives food for thought
I strongly believe that where systemic issues have been identified as the reason for social disadvantage, the protests need to be backed up by targeted actions to change situations so that in the next decade, we can look at ourselves and be proud of how our actions have changed the narrative.
Make the plan, have the conversation, use your position of influence to make life better for others. Don’t just live selfishly, do what you can to make a difference. Thanks to people like Joel Osteen for having the conversation in his bubble for all the world to see (and behind closed doors I am sure). Thanks to Baroness Lawrence for all she does on this issue.
I hope the protests help to address systemic injustice and challenge personal prejudice which is rarely vocalized – on all sides.