How I’m Learning About my Whiteness
Yesterday, Piers Morgan hammered out yet another 900 words for a newspaper that will still publish his thoughts. Titled ‘Why Can’t White Girls Say Racist Things if They Are Sung, Huh?’ Morgan stamps his feet and proclaims white teenage girls are confused (which is deeply upsetting for them). Kayne uses the n-bomb, so apparently it’s understandable a group of white university students want to scream it at the top of their lungs, right?!
Model and activist Munroe Bergdorf had the audacity to question him, this lead to Morgan mansplaining the so-called ‘white racism’ that Munroe called out leading to her being dropped from a ‘diverse’ beauty campagin. Piers went on to confuse gender identity with sexuality - classic cis male.
Over the past few years I’ve become more acutely aware of moments like these - their complexities, their agression towards POC. In doing so I’ve become more aware of my whiteness and the role it plays in prohibiting equality. I’m not attempting to become more attuned to how I benefit from whiteness and imperialism, how I consciously and unconsciously negatively profile non-white folk and how I might attempt to create and hand over space and platform to those affected by oppression and racisms.
I’ve read blogs, had lengthy chats, made work, contributed to discussions and listened since I wanted to question my whiteness. I’ve broadened my vocabulary and become more aware of my/our white fragility and I’ve only just started to understand the work I need to do to uncondition or de-socialise my whiteness. This isn’t to say I’m Jane Elliot but nor am I Rachel Dolezal. I’m just trying to put into practice the utopianistic ideals that I believe in - equality. This also doesn’t mean I’m free from sin, that I don’t still benefit from whiteness, that I don’t still fuck up or I haven’t in the past.
I’ve benefited from black/brown/POC friends and peers giving me their time and energy to talk about the violent oppressions and traumas they live with, by doing so they’ve helped me be able to spot oblivious racisms and micro aggressions directed towards them on a daily basis.
It’s this reason why I wanted to write this blog, I want to share what I’ve learnt, but being consciously aware of my whiteness I don’t want to be that white person who's writing about racism, but to say nothing, or to do nothing makes me complicit. As one wise, young QTPOC said to me last November “racism isn’t for just black people to sort out”
To be explicit - this blog is for white folk. For white folk who need to be pushed in the right direction. This isn’t an activism or contribution to the valuable work our QTPOC brothers, sisters and non-binary relatives are doing / have done.
So, white folk, here are a few things that may or may not help you become more aware or what the internet might call ‘woke’...
Listen POC are telling us where the problem is, where we fuck up, what needs to change, who needs to be challenged. If we listen, we learn.
It’s Not About You but it is About You Conversations on racism/s often critique white people - if you hear this to be an attack on you then perhaps you need to consider your whiteness more carefully. Do some reading on white fragility.
Enlighten Yourself Do not pick up the phone, text or start up conversations with POC on racism because you want to clumsily ask questions about the N-word or why Piers Morgan is wrong. POC are not your educator, POC are not here to help you work through your whiteness. Enlighten yourself - there's a ton of stuff on this thing called the internet that could help you get started. This coupled with 1 and 2 is a good way to start.
Reverse Racism isn’t a Thing
I’m not going to spell this out for you - see no.3
Consider Digital Black Face I often see white gay men on gay twitter sharing GIF’s of black/brown women for entertainment purposes or digital black face. I no longer use GIF’s that use blackness for comedic value after questioning the provocations in this BBC film…
This divides people but it works for me, consider it, work it out for yourself.
Jane has created many anti-racist experiments in her time. The brown/blue eyes experiment is still, unfortunately, the most revealing for those who are newly arriving at becoming aware of the impact their whiteness has or those who are yet to wake up to it
This film contains multiple uses of racist language
Relearn Our Histories If you believe that POC only arrived in the UK after the Windrush, if you think that white folk are responsible for so-called civil advancements, if you think the LGBTQIA* rights movement was started by a white, blonde man then you need to relearn our histories. The stuff you learnt in school about national identity, history and power has been told/is taught through the lense of the white, upper class, maleness. It ignores colonialism, imperialism and the slaughter, eradication, oppression, ownership and even the existence of POC. It ignores their contributions and often their progressive attitudes towards gender, sexuality and queerness before enforced and enslaved by western ideals, morals and law. I found http://medievalpoc.tumblr.com really interesting as I like art and history. Find your own way in using Google, steer clear from David Starkey.
You Don’t Always Need to Have an Opinion
You don’t always need to take up digital or physical space saying “down with racism, right guys?” - you could just RT a POC who has the lived experience, you could do as no. 1 advises, you could just let the thoughts ruminate in your head until you work it out. You could offer your services or cash to POC/QTPOC activism and/or community groups. It’s OK to be conflicted, to formulate ideas. It’s OK not to not understand, to feel that it's directed towards you, to not know the answer.
Share Your Platform You might have 40,000 followers on twitter, you might be the head of a business that employs a lot of people - someone who can implement ethos, you might be a parent who has access to other parents, you might talk to a lot of your neighbours - share your platforms. Share articles you’ve read, RT activists of colour, have conversations with other white folk about what you’ve learnt, don’t accept any so-called ‘casual’ racism/s.
Follow, listen and learn from POC / QTPOC folk
Most of my learning has come from following activists, reading blogs, watching theatre shows, having dinner with and listening to POC folk. Some people who I think are brilliant are listed below. I want to remind you of no. 3; these folk are not there to be your educator. They should also not be implicated in my thoughts in this blog, but to ignore their work, their impact feels wrong. This is also not the definitive list, it's just a list of people I love.
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Munroe Bergdorf - https://twitter.com/MunroeBergdorf
Selina Thompson - https://twitter.com/SelinaNThompson
Travis Alabanza - https://twitter.com/travisalabanza
Elsa James - https://twitter.com/thisiselsajames
Victoria Sin - https://twitter.com/SinforVictory
Toni Lewis - https://twitter.com/ArsenicNApplePi
Chardine Taylor Stone - https://twitter.com/misschazmatazz
Krishna Istha - https://twitter.com/MXgenderslayer
Gracie Francesca - https://twitter.com/GraceFVictory
Le Gateau Chocolat - https://twitter.com/LeGateauChoc
Danielle Dash - https://twitter.com/DanielleDASH
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah - https://twitter.com/MsLadyPhyll
Bishamber Das - https://twitter.com/DasBishamber
Jamal Gerald - https://twitter.com/JamiBoii
Lasana Shabazz - https://twitter.com/Lasana_Shabazz