We Don't Do Racism

I heard on the radio the other day a reporter asking people if racism is still a problem in Britain.  The opinion was mixed and I found myself shocked that anyone could imagine that racism isn't a problem in Britain.  Especially after Brexit and data showing racism (at least people admitting to racial prejudices is on the rise).  On average white people in the UK are more likely to say that racism isn't a problem and black people in the UK are more likely to say it is a problem and that kind of says a lot, no?  

Racism is an issue steeped in so much horrific human history that to be of the opinion that it isn't a problem in today's world is both ignorant and dangerous.  Many of our country's rich elite, a vast proportion of our country's politicians, come from families that benefitted from slave-ownership in the Caribbean and Africa.  It's easy to say slavery has been abolished for a long time and we need to get over it (easy, patronising and highly offensive to say) without bearing in mind that approximately £16.5 billion was handed out in reparations to slave owners for the loss of their "property" and approximately zilch was handed out to the freed slaves.  So when ignorant people speak of immigrants coming into their country and using up the resources you have to wonder if this is a legitimate concern or projection on the part of the oppressors.

To believe that racism isn't a problem in the UK is to have a luxury only Anglo-Europeans can afford.  If you believe racism is dead chances are you are white and you at least middle class or above.  You probably don't have any black friends -  and I mean friends you invite round to your house for intimate conversations and not the black colleague at work or the black family that go to your church but whom you've never had more than small talk with - and if you do have black friends then you are not the kind of white friend to whom they can confide about their racist experiences with or you're just not listening.

In her novel Americanah Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie writes, "If you’re telling a non-black person about something racist that happened to you, make sure you are not bitter. Don’t complain. Be forgiving. If possible, make it funny. Most of all, do not be angry. Black people are not supposed to be angry about racism. Otherwise you get no sympathy."  

It is very hard for a black person to have a real discussion about race with many white people.  First of all it's humiliating to be victimised.  You don't want to admit that an ignorant woman said you speak English very well, assuming by the colour of your skin that you are not English and that English is not your first language.  You don't want to admit that two old women crossing the road on a pedestrian red light tutted when you had to break suddenly to avoid hitting them (because they were in the wrong) and announced that "they don't have traffic lights" where you come from.  Actually they do have traffic lights in Nigeria but I come from England.  You don't want to admit that the woman you asked to mentor you at church told you that you are almost as British as a (white) Romanian girl who goes to the same church even you were born in England, have a UK passport and she is Romanian.

It is difficult to have honest discussion about race with white British people because they'll say you're reading too much into it.  They'll say it wasn't about race, it was about class.  They'll brush you off and say that racism isn't a thing anymore.  When the white colonialist and slave traders weren't calling black people savages they were calling them simple and emotionally young.  They defended selling a baby without its mother saying that black people didn't feel the same love for their children white people do.  When you brush aside my experiences of racism so easily you are once again telling me that my take on the world, my experiences, are less than yours.  You are once again claiming your superiority by claiming that you, as a white person, know more about my experiences as a black person.

Is racism dead when people ask if black people... (insert your stereotype here) expecting me, one black person, to speak on behalf of all black people spread across this globe?  Is racism dead when people assume my mother who was raised in middle class Nigerian lived in a mud hut?  Is racism dead when almost as soon as a white non-racist gets angry with a black person they automatically fire racial slurs as their attack?  If you want to know if racism is dead in the UK look up any UK article on race and read the comments sections.

If you want to know if racism is a thing in the country you live in don't sit around and discuss it academically with your white friends.  Ask your black friends to tell you honestly and then listen.  And then try and tell me that racism is dead.

P.s (9/11/2016)

I wrote this blog before the world broke and Donald Trump was elected as president of the free world.  I wrote this blog to try and highlight to people in England that we are not superior to our American counterparts just because their racism happens to be more explicit than ours.  I still don't think we Britons should feel superior because they elected Trump but we opted out of the EU and, despite the many other legitimate reasons that people had for voting out of the EU, I think the main reason was immigration.  We don't like to talk about racism and sexism anymore, at least not by those titles, because it seems that these days everything is racist or sexist.  The reality is that nothing is more or less racist or sexist than it was a hundred years ago, the only difference is that now the oppressed have a voice to speak out about it.  

America is not the world but we can't deny the influence America has on the world.  When a man with the idiom of Donald Trump can become president of the free world the problem doesn't lie with him, one man, it lies with the people who voted for him, the people who relate to him, the people who saw a racist, sexist, bigot as the lesser of two evils.  I've heard people say that all this talk about race and sexism is only perpetuating the problem but I think we can all see that ignoring there is a problem is of no help to anyone.  I believe Trump was voted in because he spoke openly and honestly about what he thinks are the problems with America and his opinion happened to be highly racists, sexist and homophobic.  I think we all have to bring some Trump honesty into our lives if any change (for good) is going to happen.  Accepting you have a problem, that the first stage of recovery, and dear world, we have a problem.