One of my earliest experiences with racism was at primary school. I was about 5 or 6 and a classmate told a few of us she was having a birthday party. As she went through her list of who among us were invited, she casually stated. “I can’t invite you, because my mum said I’m not allowed to have black people in my house”. I can’t remember my immediate reaction, but it must have affected me to the point where I told my mum at home. Let’s just say, I remember her reaction, which let me know that little girl’s statement was not cool. At an age where I was probably learning how to tie my own shoe-laces, I had also learned that I was not “allowed” to go to certain places because of the colour of my skin. OUCH!
Growing up in the UK, I was not directly exposed to physical racially motivated attacks. The other forms of racism, however, have left me with numerous emotional stings, and heightened sensitivity in certain situations, so that I prepare for another potential sting.
Whether it be mentally prepping to travel to a region with very few or no black people, applying for a job with a Nigerian name, considering hairstyles for a job interview or even being the only black person at an event and assumed to be the “help”. Each personal experience with a clear act of discrimination has been an emotional sting.
I have also learned over the years that the emotional stings are transferable. Discrimination against other black people are emotional stings that we add to our own experiences because we can relate.
Following the recent death of George Floyd, the protests around the world are an example. This time, the sting has swollen to the point where there has been a global outrage and demands for systemic racism in all forms to be exposed and corrected. It is clear we have had enough.
The show of support and “standing in solidarity” with black people is on a scale I have never seen before. This time, large corporations have joined the public in showing they too believe that “Black Lives Matter”.
Now that #blackouttuesday has passed and the corporate social media posts with black squares are published. I am very interested to see what actions are taken to back these promises of standing in solidarity. Let’s be real, if you were to walk into a lot of the senior management and board meetings of these companies, I am pretty certain there is very little representation of ethnic diversity.
Whilst the corporate social media solidarity messages are great, the stings need to be soothed with action.
As a collective, we are clearly tired of racism. Now is the time for uncomfortable conversations to be had and for those who “stand in solidarity” to be held accountable when they sting.