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We can't breathe

Racism - the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another


“There is no end point in sight,’ I reply. ‘You can’t skip to the resolution without having the difficult, messy conversation first. We’re still in the hard bit.”

-Reni Eddo-Lodge



It is difficult to find the words to express how utterly draining it is to repeatedly have to explain why the Black Lives Matter movement needs people’s attention. And why it is counterproductive to be “corrected” and informed that “All Lives Matter”. Of course All Lives Matter, but it is not all lives that are being killed because of their skin tone. It is black people. It is not all lives that have to consider how they will be received when they enter a shop, or when they stand slightly too close to someone. It is black people. If they are driving a nice car that couldn’t possibly be theirs. It is young black men. If they are politely asking a white woman if she could put her dog on a leash. It is a black man.


I will very willingly shout out All Lives Matter when black lives are counted and cared for. When I can watch my young black brother walk out the door and not worry that he could be dragged into a difficult situation simply for existing in the world with his skin tone. When you can honestly tell me that a white person will not automatically fall back on racist slurs when an argument turns heated. When white people stop being offended by us calling them out on their white privilege and realise that although it can make them ignorant, they can choose otherwise. They can use that privilege as a platform to educate other white people. They can use it as a call to action and support us as we continue the fight of making it clear that we are here. We will always be here, and our skin is as beautiful as our souls.


When speaking with a friend of mine, we discussed how unsettling it is that there are so many habits you do as a black person that seems normal to you but when you look at it from an outside perspective it shouldn’t be. For instance, when booking holidays, you consider how much racism is in that country and you weigh up how you feel you’ll be received if you go there. You must come to terms with the knowledge that you will most likely feel slightly uncomfortable for part of the trip. Because you know once you get there, you will have eyes on you, some inquisitive, some distrusting and others completely hostile.

Hearing George Floyd repeatedly tell that white police officer ‘I can’t breathe’ completely fractured the delicate cocoon I’d put myself in whilst working in a mainly white corporate office. I’d become slightly numbed to their brazen comments. That weren’t inherently racist but were so flippant and ignorant that I’d pause and breathe through the comment whilst it repeated in my head deciding whether it was worth responding to. However, those three words Floyd spoke reminded me why it is so important to not let things slide. To make sure I am always pulling people up if they say something, I believe, is wrong. It is easy to call someone out if they say something derogatory or overtly racist but it is difficult if they slip it in with a bunch of other words, and then also play it off as a joke. You rein in your knee jerk reaction because you’ll be seen as the “angry black woman” who’s always bringing race into the conversation.

A friend of mine also said she has the same struggles within her workplace, but actually felt a glimmer of hope when a VP said to the black and ethnic minority employees “I welcome your suggestions on how we do better, but its not your job to make this organisation diverse and inclusive, its ours. We hear you and we see you (this is not verbatim)”, and she breathed a massive sigh of relief, because she was genuinely worried that she was working for a company that wouldn’t hear, see or feel her pain and frustration. And it gave her a little more confidence to at least try and articulate them. Which is what we want, we want to be seen and heard even if you can’t fully understand our struggle. We want to know that you will stand with us during the struggle and say I see it and I will help in any way I can.

Nevertheless, in seeing the massive outpouring of support and genuine passion that has been garnered from this atrocity I recognise that I also need to do better to support my fellow black people. I have to learn that although I experience that sickening anxiety when faced with certain situations, I can continue to move forward anyway and push through it. If I don’t do better, what will I be leaving behind for the next generation?


Sera Rae - A Black Woman


If you’d like to show your support, below are some petitions, charities and funds you can donate to.

Petitions:

Justice for George Floyd

Justice for Belly Mujinga

Charities and funds:

Black Lives Matter

Stand up to Racism UK

The Bail Project

Books:

Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race – Rene Eddo-Lodge

Don’t Touch My Hair – Emma Dabiri

Natives – Akala

Taking Up Space – Chelsea Kwakye

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© 2020 by Sera Rae