Want to do more to dismantle the racism in our society, but not sure how or where to start? Here, Natalie Evans, with her sister Naomi, founders of Everyday Racism, tell you how to listen, learn and do the work...
In May 2020, a video of me confronting two racists verbally abusing a Black train guard was posted on Twitter and it went viral. Many people were appalled at the incident and congratulated me for taking a stand. However, there were two things that continually played on my mind. First, in a packed carriage, why was I, a Black woman, the only one to say something? Second, why were people so surprised at the abuse in this video when racist incidents like this are a regular occurrence?
After speaking to my sister, Naomi, we realised that in all the racist situations we had been subject to, whether overtly or covertly, there had never been a white person that had spoken up first or challenged the situation. That’s when we decided to set up an Instagram account called Everyday Racism UK @everydayracism_ which would primarily be a space to tell the stories of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and/or People of Colour).
We felt it was important for people to see what was really going on, particularly when you hear comments such as ‘racism isn’t really a problem in the UK’.
We started by asking friends and family to share their stories, then as the profile grew, people began emailing us with their own stories. Sadly, one thing most people told us was that they had too many incidents to choose from.
All the stories have been incredibly gut-wrenching – the most recent one being from a mother who shared her experience of being racially abused at school from the age of seven. She spoke of being physically and verbally assaulted on a regular basis, with no intervention, until her parents were alerted and went to the headteacher.
Another was from a young Black barrister, who was continually mistaken for being a defendant and overlooked for positions, watching while his white counterparts with less experience were promoted. The stories are endless. And a few weeks after sharing these posts on Instagram, the tragic murder of George Floyd took place.
We saw a substantial increase in engagement on our platform, predominantly from white women who were beginning to realise the responsibility no longer lays at the door of BIPOC to bring about change. Saying you’re not racist is just not enough; we have to be actively anti-racist to bring about lasting change. That’s why we use three action points on our profile to help people understand how to be actively anti-racist in everyday life. Read on to find out where you can begin...
HOW TO BE ACTIVELY ANTI-RACIST: LISTEN
‘The most difficult thing to get people to do is to accept the obvious’ – Dick Gregory
If you really want to be an ally to an oppressed group, it is imperative that you take time to stop and listen to their voice. Racism is not new, and BIPOC have been speaking and writing about it for centuries.
To be anti-racist, you must listen to those who have experienced it because although
you will never fully understand what it is like to encounter racism, you will begin to build a picture of all the different ways it is in operation, from casual comments to extreme violence. It’s important that you actively seek out literature, arts, news and documentaries that amplify BIPOC voices, otherwise you have to question, who is it you are actually listening to and learning from?
If you have Black and Brown friends, be very mindful of how you approach speaking to them about racism. It is important to bear in mind that retelling these stories can be traumatic. Constantly having to explain to others your experience of racism, and why it is racist, undoubtedly has an impact on people’s mental wellbeing.
There can also be a tendency for white people to become defensive when someone is talking about racism, which is why, after listening, it is essential to do internal work to understand the reason for this. You need to figure out why you may feel uncomfortable or dismissive when people are talking about race. This is generally because you are not used to it, and want to avoid being associated with racism, as you’ve been told it is bad.
It is essential that white people do not avoid talking about racism as this can be equally as damaging and contributes to the problem. This is why the next step is all about learning.
HOW TO BE ACTIVELY ANTI-RACIST: LEARN
For years, we have been taught the narrative that if you are a kind person, you cannot be racist. Not being racist meant you did not harm others or say anything prejudiced. But this is just not the case: racism is part of our everyday structures and systems.
It impacts everything from who is in positions of power right through to how our children are educated. Did you know that it is at a school’s discretion as to whether they even teach the history of racism? It’s also important to note that there is much more to Black history than enslavement.
As adults we need to unlearn and relearn what we thought racism was, the language to use and how it operates, in order to be part of the change. There are a plethora of resources out there including books, podcasts and courses to get you started on your journey to be actively anti-racist, some of which we have included below. It’s never too late to begin.
Me And White Supremacy (Quercus) by Layla F. Saad
Layla F. Saad is a New York Times bestselling author, speaker and teacher who specialises in race, identity, leadership, personal transformation and social change. Her book takes readers on a 28-day learning journey of how to dismantle privilege within themselves and understand their conscious or unconscious part in systemic racism.
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race (Bloomsbury)by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Reni Eddo-Lodge is a journalist, author and the first Black British author to have a No.1 book on the UK book chart. The book started as a popular blog in which she addressed the denial of many white people to accept the reality of structural racism and how it shows up in society. It’s an incredibly insightful book on why it’s not the responsibility of Black people to dismantle racism.
Nova Reid – novareid.com
Nova Reid is an inspirational speaker, anti-racism campaigner, activist and writer. She runs anti-racism courses online, and hosts an excellent podcast.
Follow us on Instagram to read about real-life experiences of racism and to find resources and book recommendations to support your journey.
HOW TO BE ACTIVELY ANTI-RACIST: DO THE WORK
This is the part in which you may need to step out of your comfort zone and start showing up. We refer to this as ‘active allyship’. This could involve attending a protest, donating money, signing a petition or voting, but it will also entail speaking out and making a change in your sphere of influence.
That could be your family, friends, workplace, business, social group or the school your children attend. Once you start to learn how racism really works, you will see it in operation within your sphere, from casual comments to pay disparity.
In 2018, the Resolution Foundation found that BAME public sector workers were paid up to 37% less on average compared with their white counterparts. Among female graduates, Black women were paid 9% less than other groups. Showing up means you stand up and speak out against these things.
It may mean you write to the company you work for and ask them how they will ensure transparency in pay. You may need to challenge colleagues in the office who make ‘casual racist comments’ and explain to them why it is offensive to you and others. You can ask the school your children attend how they are ensuring children are leaving their provision as educated and anti-racist.
You could work with others to elevate and promote Black businesses and people in the industry that you work in. This can mean you stepping aside to give an opportunity to those who have been overlooked because of systems in operation that favour white people.
HOW TO BE ACTIVELY ANTI-RACIST: REMEMBER THIS
When you start doing the work you will undoubtedly make mistakes, say the wrong thing and be challenged along the way, but it’s important to keep learning and keep going.
The more you do it, the more confident you will become, and when you speak out or share what you are doing, it encourages others to do the same, and that is how we start to create real change.
We often wonder, if we were all doing the work, perhaps more people would have spoken up on that train.
This feature is taken from the September 2020 issue of Red.
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