I’ve been feeling lighter these days — like the air is shifting and almost dancing around me.
It might be ‘cause it’s the season of renewal. Flowers are blooming and people around the world are renewing their faith, beliefs and purpose during Easter, Holi, Ramadan, and other cultural events. Maybe it’s because Los Angeles is finally returning from the brink of COVID armageddon and our kids can return to school. Maybe it’s both of these things.
My warm and fuzzies were tested when I saw a flurry of tweets from friends and colleagues telling each other to be kind, and that ‘we still have work to do.’
busybody journalist, I did my research and discovered the lamentations were in reaction to the UK Government’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED). The recently released report claimed Britain was a model for race relations. It also found that “no institutional racism” existed in the UK.
Inevitably, people who were keen to put an end to the full throated critiques of British racism got to work. Think pieces with titles like ‘Race report shows this victim culture is wrong – and so damaging’ were published. And yes, this title is real. “Victim culture?” Wow.
The truth is, through this report the UK government gaslit Black Britons – and all Britons of colour. Let me say it again, for the people in the back: This, my friends, is the mother of all gaslights. It’s a cynical attempt to shut down the necessary discourse on race in the UK. The people involved are trying to use their ‘big words’ to quote my mama, to de-legitimize the people speaking up.
The report and the discussion that followed it dragged me back to past exchanges I had with self proclaimed allies, who often demanded that I have a ‘civilized chat’ about race, with them. They’d start the conversation by stating, ‘I don’t get why people are so racist, I don’t see colour‘ while locking eyes with me. Those stares were often filled with fear, hope and expectation. I suspected they wanted me, as a Representative of all Black people, help them fix this race problem. I’d always stare back, my eyebrows raised in feigned shock and exasperation, hoping the boldness of my stare would put them off. But it never worked. They’d hold their stare. At my whole face. They’d end the awkward silence with a direct request: that I, a Representative of all Black People, explain racism, if it existed, or if Black and brown people were simply being oversensitive. If I took the bait, I’d gently point out that by ‘not seeing skin colour,’ one might not be seeing the whole person. Saying that was enough to have me dismissed as ‘race obsessed’ by those allies.
The UK government’s race report is a cruel distraction that would have had me lying on a bed in a small dark room for days had it not been for the brilliance of Emma Dabiri, author of the new book, ‘What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition.’ The Nigerian-Irish author gave a masterclass on how not to let the trolls distract you during this interview on the radio station LBC.
She, like so many of us, was asked to explain what ‘racism’ was, and elegantly addressed Britain’s relationship with race, and addressed what this meant for Britons of colour today.
Trust me, it’s worth a listen.
Stay focused and stay kind to yourselves and others, fam.