We’re not racist!

The outraged voices of white Britain have spoken.  Even the hint of such an outdated critique on the morals of our  Great British soul has us hiring the other, to write reports that defend our covertly racist systems.  Though The Comission on Race and Ethnic Disparities: The Report, admitted to “some evidence of bias.” It placed the onus on black and ethnic minority stumbling blocks, squarely at the feet of the individual.

Now, this blog post is as diverse as the leaders in the education system or the board of directors in a finance company.  It’s diverse in reverse.  The people I spoke to are a group of 30+ year old professional women 4 black, 1 Asian and a white woman thrown in for good measure.  If you dig deep enough, you might even hear the echoes of a man I spoke to in passing. He’s not quite made it to leadership in my established friendship group, so his voice doesn’t really matter.

This may sound crazy to you, but this is our lived experience.  We are used to being the only ‘ethnic minority’ in the room, or for some, the only woman  at the table.  When the colour of your skin grants you privilege, you tend to forget that not everyone has access to life in the same way you do.

The report suggested that, “we have a reluctance to acknowledge the UK had become open and fairer.” This leads me to wonder who did they actually speak to?  Every one of the women I interviewed led with the fact they acknowledged things had become better from when they were younger, they were no longer subject to having abusive language freely thrown at them as in their 1980s and 90s childhoods, yet being told, “I hope you catch Sickle Cell or Thalassemia.”  Was a reality for one of them.  Sophisticated use of language that might be missed by the more liberal of society, has become the new way.

Us women are the first to admit that the breakdown in families plays a part. It seems stupid to ignore the fact that slavery ripped our men from the family home and created a damaging mindset for both men and women.  Our women are used to being ‘Strong, independent,’ doing things for ourselves.  We don’t need men.  But of course this is not true, we know that the more successful of our children are those that grow up in well rounded households, something that the report agrees.

A couple of the women I spoke to questioned the use of stop and search and suggested that it was more used to assert dominance than to actually impact on knife crime.  Why if police are stopping and searching more, are our young men still being killed 24 times more than their white counterparts?  It’s not that they are apposed to stop and search, they just want to see a correlation in the number of searches and a downward trend in knife crime.  The report recommends a ‘reconceptualised idea of stop and search.’ Of course we will have to wait and see what that actually entails when  the time comes.   What we want are to know our children will be safe walking the streets.

We agreed that access was a key stumbling block and although the report states that there is no evidence of systemic or institutional racism, it does highlight that the doors to opportunity, although open, are still only half open to some and the “snowy white peaks at the top of private and public sectors” don’t do much to indicate lasting change.

The most Impactful thing I did get from my friendship group is that all of us wanted to see change, all of us want to be a part of that change and all of us recognise that the change must come not just from the way systems operate but also from an individual level.  What are we doing to grow our communities and push through the media blackout when it comes to our successes?  What are we able to do to ensure our youth are not wrongly prejudged before even lifting a hand to knock the door? 

We call “bullshit” on the idea that systemic and institutional racism doesn’t exist in Britain and yes it does exist alongside geographical, family, socio-economic, cultural and religious issues but our experiences are not to be swept under the rug because they are not understood. 

What we need is meaningful discourse that doesn’t wipe out our truth like the history books entwined in our outdated education system. We need leaders that aren’t afraid to push for the black man or woman because they’ve worked to hard to get in position.  We need representation that lets everyone know that we are an integral part of this country’s success.  We need people to stop gaslighting us as though we don’t know what racism is and we need to “self govern, protect, teach and nurture,” in order to become the community we desire to be.

Our rebellion does not have to be armed with weapons meant to kill or harm, our rebellion will be one armed with knowledge and wealth to promote change.

How to Succeed in the Struggle

I sometimes find it hardest to write when I’m happiest, it’s as though pain causes me to express myself in a way that no other emotion does. Strange that. Or is it?

Pain is, in my opinion, the body’s way to trigger our minds into searching for solutions. Without the pain of slavery causing my ancestors to be separated from their loved ones, would they have found a way out? Without the recent pain of watching George Floyd murdered on our TV screens, would my community have pulled together in such a way to start a wave of change, unity and passion to break down systemic oppression?

Without the pain of rejection and the fight to be seen for the work we do would migrants continue to create great works in London, ‘the melting pot of creativity’?

This week’s London Fashion Week has shown a great deal of fashion created through struggle. Whether that be the struggle of acceptance in the mixture of Western meets West Africa (Labrum SS 21 ‘The Cotten Tree) or those who champion fashion design for social change (Tolu Choker).

Labrum
Getty/Tristan Fewings
Labrum
Getty/Tristan Fewings

The offering this year, in these unprecedented times has been bold and exciting. From collections that get you thinking about what you would do if you knew these moments were your last (IA ‘Hour Glass’) to the fun vibrant crystal jewellery collections. We have surely been spoilt for choice.

IA London Women’s Fall 2021

What have been your highlights of fashion week so far? Last week I touched on New York Fashion Week. Do you excel in pain or triumph in happiness? Let me know.

Embrace the Fro

I don’t know about you but embracing my afro was a real journey. I used to beg my mum to hot comb my hair and for those of you who have been through the experience, you’ll know that having your hair hot-combed is a mild form of torture. Those burns to the scalp and ears were well worth the pain just to flick my hair like the white girls in movies.

This is where representation is important, if you don’t see yourself on the television, in the classrooms, in the business world and in books what you aspire to becomes something that is so far detached from you that in your mind it is virtually unobtainable.

Top: Boohoo

I’ve been so enthused to see a rise of representation in the media of black and ethnic minority people and my only hope is that this doesn’t just fizzle out as a fad but instead becomes our new normal.

I was very privileged to have been sent a copy of the book ‘Lily and the magic Comb‘ by singer songwriter VV Brown. The book is a great addition to any little girls collection. It’s a great book for teaching rhyme in the early years and inspires little black girls to harness their imaginations and dream big.

I’ll be running a competition over on my Instagram to win your own copy of Lily and the magic Comb so head on over and enter.