Over the past few days … We could even say over the last 100s of years, because racial issues are things we have been dealing with for quite some time now, and we will keep dealing with them probably for the next hundreds of years, because people don’t seem to get it. IT IS A PROBLEM!! So, let’s work towards rectifying it.
Let’s start with, I am Black and I am African. I am a Black African, that is what I identify as. It is the box I will always tick for every application that I submit. My personal views on this box ticking thing is, I wish I did not have to tick that box, because whether it is true or not (unfortunately, I might never know) there is always going to be someone that will make me feel as though it is my skin colour that got me one foot in to getting whatever position, and not that I actually earned it. The cruel world we live in.
I am not an expert in all things black, sometimes I am on the wrong side and other times I am on the right side, I think that is because, learning can sometimes be a fast process and other times it is a slow one; it happens. This week, specifically, in the midst of social having a total blackout, I decided to read and watch videos to gain greater insight on what we are fighting for, why and underlying factors that contribute to this conflict, I never like to believe that I know everything, so with each situation I have to come out having learnt something new. Let’s get straight into what I have learned:
1. Racial Micro Aggression – Dr Chester Pierce (1970)
“Subtle, often automatic and non-verbal exchanges which are ‘put-downs’ of Black people.” – Black in its inclusive form (Latinx, Asian, African etc.) Here is a link to an IG post – Microaggression. I was reading about this in this post, and some of it I was thinking “What’s wrong with asking where are you from?” (that is a bit silly). I was taught it is a problem when you have already assumed that person X is Chinese, for instance, just by how they look. So, saying stupid things like “No, where are you from, from?” expecting to hear, “Beijing, China” as the answer, but what if person X does not identify with that nationality because they and their parents were born and raised in South Africa (just an example). There is nothing wrong if you are well acquainted with person X and maybe heritage becomes a topic of conversation and person X willingly says “Oh, my heritage dates back to country X…” and the conversation picks up from there.
Another one on that post that I need to highlight is, the one about Asians being good in maths and science. I will admit that I have had my share of thoughts thinking that every Asian (at least a significant %) that I have personally come across and have gotten to know, seem to just flourish in maths and I wonder how? This does not justify my thoughts but we even see it in how movies depict it, the child has to flourish in school and the parents are making them study to become a doctor or accountant. It is crazy! More importantly, it is wrong. Just like assuming every Black child can run super fast for athletics or every White person can and loves to swim. Let’s change our mentalities people.
I think Racial Microaggressions was really my biggest eye opener, there was one thing that really triggered me, because for the longest time I believed this to be true.
“You are the whitest Black person I know!” Apparently there are so many experts on what/who is Black. The difficult thing about this one was that majority of the time it came from other Black people saying it to me. The story is that people would call me a coconut, because of how I speak and act and have a diverse group of friends. At some point in my life, many years ago, there was this guy I dated, he was White. So my high school student population was about 95% Black and this guy literally grew up at the school, so of course it is normal that he would be quite knowledgeable in Black culture, if fact he was fluent in Setswana. In his case, everyone would say things implying that “he is the blackest White person they know.” I didn’t realise it then but at the time there were people actually saying that my mans was blacker than me and I was whiter than him. Messed up, right! I would say that microaggressions can come from any side.
2. Blue eyes-Brown eyes – Jane Elliot
Jane Elliot is an American school teacher, anti-racism activist and a diversity educator. I have been watching some of her interviews for a while and I would encourage people to hear about what she says, the racial experiments she conducts, teaching her students about discrimination. It comes across as a bit extreme but has impactful results. I do not want to speak for her, she knows what she is saying and I am just going to drop 2 links and you can go deeper into who she is because researching on your own is proven to be much more effective than someone just feeding you information.
All white people are racist – This is a statement Jane makes but she explains, of course, link below. Note that her context is American
Women of colour and white women – I’m a fan of Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Red Table Talk, and this one is about how all woman have been oppressed in some way, but asks, why can’t we see eye to eye?
I recently watched James Corden’s, white privilege segment (find it on YouTube) he demonstrates an interesting way to start these conversations without anyone feeling attacked.
I am concluding by saying all these racial conversations we have, whether be it high key or low key, they matter and we should take the time to educate ourselves, to listen to others voicing their concerns and experiences and not be lacking in standing up for what is right.
Let’s be #Royalty. Please do, comment below with your views, send me links and I will watch/read every single thing, share with others. I really do want to know where you stand, how you are feeling, everything. Reach out to people you trust, you are not in this alone. Love and Light!
Fan of your blog, and enjoyed reading this piece.
Feels personal and informative. Looking forward to more content from you
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Thank you so much🤗 this means a lot to me.
This was very insightful Gugu. I related to the statement “you are the whitest black person I know” I too have heard it many times but ever since since people have switched to “wow Reha you are sooo black now” 🙄🙄. Quite annoying might I add.
I really think we have a long way to go in terms of changing the narrative on how we think and the generalization we have of different cultures/races/religions but acknowledging it and being aware of our thoughts and stigmas puts us one step ahead.
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I really understand your frustrations. I wonder if people think about what they say sometimes..
I 100% agree with you we do have a long way to go and it definitely isn’t going to be the easiest journey, but we have to start somewhere and that’s just simply acknowledging and being aware. Thank you! 💕
The racial micro aggression is such a big problem. We grow up hearing things that aren’t blatantly racist and actually become desensitized to racially prejudice thoughts and views. Really important to teach, stay educated, unlearn and relearn. Great blog as always!
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I think you just put it is such powerful words.. “… we become desensitized to racially prejudice thoughts …”
I 100% agree, “be educated, unlearn and relearn” louder for the people at the back!!
This hit a spot in my heart that we all need hit now. Thank you for sharing your story. Microaggressions are honestly such a huge thing and truth be told, it becomes easier to be desensitized than to not be able to place a finger on why things like “coconut” makes you uncomfortable to your core. Thank you for giving me a word and reminding me to not allow my heart to harden against the discomfort, but to rather sit in and speak up about it.
I have a question, not expecting anyone to have the “right” answer, but rather hoping it can start thought or conversations.
What are you supposed to do when witnessing Microaggressions with someone who doesn’t even know what they are? What can one say that goes further than “do you know that’s racist?” ??
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🙏 thank you Mieke for really understanding, that’s really the start to our world becoming better (even though it will take, what feels like, forever)
To answer your question about what to say/respond, what I think I would do is ask the person to pause for a sec and say “that’s not something you should say …” from there that’s when a conversation will come up in either a calm manner or quite defensive, so that’s when you should really stand your ground and just assess how they react. Defensive people feel attacked most of the time, it might not even be because of you, there are many underlying factors that make people defensive but that is the best opportunity to show them that you have their best interests at heart and then start again, “hey, you might not have meant it this way, but there might be someone who would not feel comfortable with what you have said … because it means …” If you are calm, they will be calm. It doesn’t help anyone to start a screaming contest
As much as we recognize all these issues we have in the world ( racism, colorism, GBV), they are far from being solved. This is because the things that perpetuate such behaviours/ thoughts are still there. People say,” no one is born racist, they learn/ taught to be”, this will always be true due to media and entertainment. We always wait for something scandalous so that we react. These issues are slowly moulded into people from a young age. It all manifests when they are older, be it to their patners or family. Again, we react.
There is a video on Youtube ” the doll test” which shows that black children think from a young age that white children are better( pls watch the video). They already have a problem on their outlook on life. Solving such issues requires everyone to make a change wherever they are, at work, at home. Having demonstrations puts a plaster on a wound that needs stiches.
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