Race and racism are a reality I’ve had to grow up and deal with. It played a massive part in how I viewed myself & also the lack of love I developed for myself because how can you truly love yourself when you don’t love (basically made to not love) the skin you’re in?
I categorically HATED my skin colour and used to wish I was white from reception class age. It’s like I knew even from that young age what it meant to be black based on what I was seeing in society and also the lack of representation of my race in a positive way. The real sadness is the self-hate I developed as a result of the hate my race received. I’d avoid the sun at all costs & whenever I went on holiday, I would do what I call ‘shade bathing’ because in my head being black was bad enough without being any shade darker of it. It’s taken me some twenty years to love the skin I’m in & not let others hate infiltrate me.
It felt hard to celebrate myself especially when there were parts (my skin) that I didn’t feel were worth celebrating but what I know now is that those are always the parts that need it the most from you.
My love for poems is a part of myself that I rediscovered a couple years ago. I love reading them but particularly writing my own. The poems I write are deeply personal and I find it really cathartic to express my heart and soul in this way. Up until this year, I hadn’t ever considered writing about my thoughts and experiences of race and racism so I decided to change that and share parts of my journey in a way that's authentic to me.
Racism is so deeply rooted in the world, in society, in people’s subconscious, in well... everything. It’s going to take people to really go to the deepest roots of themselves and their lives to weed it all out. It all starts at home and in people’s hearts so in other words - change your heart, change your home, change humanity.
Because as Will Smith said. ‘Racism isn’t getting worse; it’s just getting filmed’.
I strongly feel that racism is an issue where people can’t be on the fence watching it happen like it’s a spectator sport anymore. And by on the fence I mean, for too many years it’s been a case of people going ‘well, I’m not racist’, 'I’m not doing it to you’ or the infamous ‘I have black friends’ which is all well and good but while many may not be directly doing it to us those injustices are still happening worldwide. And even though it’s not everyone’s reality and they don’t ‘see colour’ it’s about realising that it’s ours and it’s not changing so actually being ‘non racist’ isn’t enough. Desmond Tutu has a great quote that says - ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor’
Whilst that may be a hard pill to swallow as I’m sure that is not the side many people are on but it is a case of either being on that side and for this treatment or being anti-racist and fighting against it with us. There’s no in between. Even neutrality has a side. Having said that, it seems that this year in particular has helped awaken a lot of people to the full existence of racism, how deeply rooted it is, their own biases and lack of support they’ve perhaps given in the past. Awareness in life is always key though and when combined with consistent action I believe this is the pathway to creating change. Allies really need to keep up with the self-education and those 'uncomfortable' conversions, signing petitions, donating what they can, speaking out against injustices, using platforms to amplify our voices and just showing up so they can be part of the solution and fight against racism with us. I just hope that what’s began this year can be a movement and not a moment... but only time will tell.