Saturday, 6 June 2020

Waking up to Racism and White Privilege

Black girl with a Black Lives Matter sign
Original source unknown

Yes, I am one of those white people who would say I am not racist. I don't believe I have ever treated someone less favourably on the basis of their skin colour and therefore how does racism apply to me? However, what I have been realising over the last week is that I haven't really considered racism too much. I haven't had to in my life, it hasn't been a feature and I now know that amounts to white privilege.

I'll be honest, I didn't realise racism was an issue that I needed to make my business. If I wasn't oppressing black people, holding them back or being derogatory and hurtful, then why did I need to think about racism, or champion the rights of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) people?

My husband and I are both inclusive and happy to be around, work with, befriend and live with people from other races and those who have a skin colour different to our own. I've led inclusivity and diversity training quite a number of times in my past job role and I'd have considered myself abreast or many discrimination issues. I'm a HR Manager by trade and this means I have to be aware of and encouraging inclusivity. I have no problem with positive action, and I've employed people on the basis that our workforce was not an accurate representation of the community we served.

However, I now see how narrow my tunnel of vision has been for most of my life. Just because I wasn't treating people differently, it doesn't mean that the system wasn't. Yes, I've heard statistics of how BAME people are less likely to rise up the ranks in employment or have access to higher education, but I didn't really get why.


I don't know the stories (the history) of what has happened in certain areas or cities to mean that people are being treated differently. I guess you could say my whole upbringing has been a privileged one, very working class and without a great amount of money, but fortunate none-the-less. I've always lived in safe areas, without too much discord, I had parents who loved and wanted me, school was OK and I was able to access education and work without any barriers.

What I am only just realising is that racism isn't always about the big acts of violence or hate, much of it is casual, is implied, is a part of daily life in the UK. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that is OK, it is anything but OK. I'm just saying that this is new to me and new to many people in the last couple of weeks. We are waking up!

I hate that George Floyd died so needlessly, but I am super grateful that the scales have fallen from my eyes and I am starting to see clearly, that there is an issue with racism in the UK, probably one as big as poverty, which is another issue that breaks my heart. As someone who very often advocates for those living in poverty, I also want to be someone who challenges the norms around the difficulties faced by BAME people and steps up to the mark to challenge norms and say, this isn't right.

As a Christian, we're encouraged to look for our calling by going after what breaks our heart. For the last decade, the injustice of poverty has broken my heart and I've done what I can to challenge the system and to advocate for those living in poverty. Now, over the last few days, I've found that racism breaks my heart too and I have tears trickling down my face as I type this. I had no idea!

Tonight, I'm renting the film Just Mercy, as I think this will fan my flames further and I'll want to do more and fight harder. I have no real idea about the depth of the problem yet and I need to watch more, read more and learn more so that I can act and speak out more.

Will you join me?

Quote from Christine Koh
Christine Koh


Resources I'm finding really Useful

If you only read one thing, read this article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson, titled 'My white friend asked me on FB to explain white privilege. I decided to be honest'. It is really good and will help you understand more about this topic.

This was the first video I saw on Twitter and it resonated with me as the man talked about his Christian brothers and sisters. So watch my brother and understand why you shouldn't make assumptions about black men.

A really useful FB post from Christine Koh who I know from my voluntary work with ONE. We travelled to Ethiopia together back in 2012.

A Facebook video that was shared on my feed, of Ben Brown talking about his understanding of white privilege.

A pastoral letter to fellow white folks, by Nadia Bolz-Weber, a white author and Minister who lives in the USA. I found her short story about seeing a cop super useful for understanding, who we may receive things differently based on our upbringing and previous interactions.

The Black curriculum - You can download for free resources to help you ad your family to understand black history in the UK. I'm ashamed to say I knew a tony bit of what had gone on in America in years gone by, but I had no idea for Britain.

I was happy to sign the petition on charge.org to push for the topics of white privilege and systematic racism to be part fo the Britsh teaching curriculum. Sign here if you fancy joining me.

Article in the Guardian - Systematic racism and Police Brutality are British problems too.

The Truth about Racism in the UK by Jude Yawson

A really insightful read in the FT, written by Nicola Rollock on how to become a white ally.

A super easy to understand video shared on Facebook about what privilege looks like

A blog post from Sara at A Holy Mess, titled I have been racist.... and I want to do better. I found this particularly useful as Sara is the adoptive mother of two black children who she loves immensely. The comments on this post completely are also eye-opening as many black people said they too had been racist.

Finally, this mega resource, which will point you to so many other places you can educate yourself, and advocate for others. Practical things you can do to fight racism in the UK.

I watched 13th on Netflix, which is a documentary about the US prison system and was a real eye-opener for me, it is about Black American history rather than UK, but more knowledge is a good thing, right?

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