Last Friday, I decided to take a break from social media. That was until Tuesday gone, when I learned that Sky News had published a short film I had done with the channel about racism in the UK. Over the years, I’ve learnt that many deny racism exists in Britain. To live in such a world, would be nice.
If you know anything about me, you will know I detest all forms of racism and hate, against any race or individual. I’m not on any team. I was born of a white mother, a mixed-race man, who identifies as black. Not because I’m ashamed of my whiteness, but because being black is how most see me and how I best relate myself – which is the most important thing. With that disclosure, racism is a problem within the UK. It’s entrenched, and how we see black and white people is often different.
Of course not every person in these islands is racist, to suggest such a thing would be ludicrous. What I’m saying is that, our societal system, our structure is. It’s something the Equality and Human Rights Commission has just reported on, and Theresa May, the Prime Minister now acknowledges. Beyond these two, People of Colour in Britain live it. And of course, white people can experience racism and other hate.
The reason for this post, is that many fail to see the impact of racism, and other isms.
Racism and the likes can be direct and subtle, in all their ugly forms. That’s the whole reason I recorded the short film. Not to lambast everyone as being a racist, but to acknowledge that it still remains a significant problem. In fact, it’s a worldwide one. We only have to look at the tension in America at the moment. Only now as an adult have I truly understood the impact racism and other forms of hate have on people, who suffer at the hands of them. Your confidence is knocked, you begin to question who you are, and your identity. For example, when is a racist joke one too many? Recently, I’ve heard two. It’s not about being sensitive or not wanting to have a laugh, it’s about the impact of ignorance, and the lack of understanding and empathy, especially towards those who are the butt of the jokes – which aren’t actually that funny.
I was with an Asian friend when a white guy asked us if we knew ‘why cocaine is white rather than black’. I never answered, for the person to then say, “because it works”. Black people don’t work of course, together with the fact that they all know about drugs. A few days earlier, a white gay guy at a venue I was at said he was going to serve me well, “because black people had served white people well during slavery”. I kid you not. These are the sort of jokes in the year 2016. Was I meant to laugh them off? Maybe some people do, but imagine hearing these kind of comments, day after day, day after day.
Only yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s main Opposition Party promoted a member of his cabinet to that of Shadow Home Secretary. After the announcement of Diane Abbott’s new role, a black woman, social media went into overdrive with racist and sexist comments about her. Some were outright horrid, whilst others tried to justify the hate towards her because she is incompetent. I’ve learned lately, and written about it, a black woman can never be qualified enough for such an office.
Racism doesn’t have to be about using the n-word or the p-word, it can also be about the very simplistic language we use. Sexism can be body-shaming Ms Abbott by publishing a naked photograph of a large black woman next to a hippo, and asking which is the Member of Parliament. Jokes are funny when we laugh at them, not at other people. I doubt they would be that funny if the shoe was on the other foot. I’m no fan of the Labour MP’s style of politics, but would defend her against any form of hate. Period.
Some folk I know have criticised my short film on Sky News, saying racism isn’t a problem in Britain. It is. I’m not seeking for others to believe me that it and the other isms exist, I’m doing my bit to help eradicate them.
You can follow the initiative I founded, Racism Ruins Lives, at racismruinslives.com, on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a place for people of all races to show their support for ‘fairness, equality and tolerance’.
Take care, and see you on the dark side (no pun intended), Max x
This blog originated as a post on Facebook.com/KevinMaxwell.UK, with this version published here.