I feel resistant to writing another article about anti-racism. Do we really need another white girl’s opinion on this issue? However, I wanted to share something of my journey in this in the hope that it might encourage other white people to work towards an anti-racist world.
I guess what I’m trying to say, the issue is mine just as much as it is black people’s – because I am part of the problem and I want to be part of the solution.
But I’m not racist!
This very phrase (now amongst the ones that make my skin crawl) sums up my position in life before the developments of the last couple of weeks. George Floyd, in a way, has gifted us with more than we ever deserved – the opportunity to become aware.
When it came to homophobia and racism, I always used to hold myself in the ‘good team’: I don’t hate gays and I don’t hate black people, so I’m good. I’m a good person.
Whilst this might be reassuring, ‘not being racist’ and staying silent is au par with being racist. If I don’t actively fight injustice and if I don’t actively speak up, I am part of the problem, I am on their team.
This realisation had already started to work its way in my consciousness when last year I presented a paper at university called ‘Different Voices’ from this book. The premise of the chapter is that for many years, gays were forbidden to join psychoanalytic schools and circles: their voice was never added to the conversation and ‘being gay’ remained a pathology for many years. What struck me as I researched around the article, was how much silence had hurt the gay community. It is not enough to be ‘not-homophobic’ and ‘not racist’.
I stood up and I want more
I don’t want this to be a ‘look-how-good-I’ve-been’ article: the focus is not on what I’ve done, but on what more can and should be done.
Yesterday (after days of gathering up information and courage) I asked a simple question to one of the course leaders: why do we only study white male authors?
My story with not agreeing with my university’s reading lists goes back to the first year of university when I asked why we weren’t reading more female authors (#girlpower). My mistake was asking that in the privacy of a tutorial and not in front of other people.
Yesterday, the perfect occasion presented itself on a gold plate: it was the welcome event for next year’s course. I had in front of me, on my computer screen, the face of the course leader and two more lecturers. I also knew their answer to my question would have an audience – there was no skirting around the issue. If they failed to answer, I and the class of next year would hold them accountable.
The answer the course leader gave was positive and he admitted that the reading list really needed to be looked at, especially in light of recent events. Now, this might not seem like much, but it seemed great for a first-timer like me. It’s the beginning of a conversation.
Now I want more.
It doesn’t have to be the protest of the year
So why did I tell that story?
What I want to share is that many people fail to speak up or act because they imagine it has to be a grand gesture or a life-altering protest. Most people (like me) don’t act in case they don’t get result.
What I want to encourage you to do is: just go for it. Start something, anything, no matter how small. Be the creator of an anti-racist world around you.
The silence has gone on for too long. It no longer is time to stay silent.
Here I have published some resources and there is a plethora of articles, books and ideas on the world wide web.
There are no black people in my class (that’s for another article…) and if I continue to take myself out of the equation, things will never change. It starts with me.
We can hope for an anti-racist world and the work starts now.