What it means to be a black woman in 2020
Updated: Jun 8, 2020
I can’t believe I even have to write this blog.
It’s 2020, and things should be different by now.
But the recent death of George Floyd has truly highlighted the pattern of what’s been going on. These aren’t just “one off” incidents. Black people dying in the hands of the law is an extremely common occurrence.
Let me make this clear, I’m not writing this so that you feel sorry for me. I’m writing this to raise awareness of the racial inequality that black people are experiencing day in, day out.
And I want you to help.
There’s often a feeling that people want my culture, but they don’t want me.
And what we’re realising through these open conversations, is that white privilege is often invisible to those who have it.
I have experienced a lifetime of unprovoked racial attacks. Most black people have.
Earlier this week, I spent time talking to my family and some friends about racism that we’ve experienced in our lives. It’s something that we never usually do, we were taught to shrug these things off, accept that that’s how the world views us, and carry on.
So it was a hard thing for all of us to talk about.
But here are some stories that came up in our conversation:
“In my old job one of the parents that I supervised contact for, used to constantly refer to me as the coloured girl to my colleagues. He used to call the office and say who’s going to be supervising, is it the coloured girl? My colleagues would correct him and tell him my name. But I don’t think he ever used my name.“
“I’ve had patients refuse to see me ‘not that black one’ , ‘is there anyone white?’ ‘are you the only person available to see’?”
“A couple of Christmasses ago, a guy in a van decided he was going to turn left but was in the right hand lane at the lights. I was in the left hand lane, I managed to stop, but the guy behind me hit me. The bad part was that the whole time he would only talk to the 'white' old guy who was the witness and the 'white' young guy who was driving the car. He even actually said multiple times, 'I am not talking to you' and 'She is loving this as it is payday for her, she did it on purpose.' The fact that I was the one who was hit from behind and he caused the accident by taking a hard left did not concern him.“
“My teacher used to laugh at me. I remember one time I got picked last to go with this boy as a dance parter for a 60s dance thing for assembly, and he actually had a joke with the boy about it and apologised for him being put with me.”
“I was only saying yesterday, that we would probably have to have the talk with my son soon how, being mixed raced, he is unlikely to get away with the same things as even some of his cousins.”
“We were on holiday in Butlins, I’d made some friends. When I kept coming in and out of our room to play, a white woman sitting nearby kept calling me blackie! I ignored her because I didn’t really understand. I was 6 years old”
“I’ve got plenty of football stories, even parents shouting stuff from the sidelines referees ignoring blatant racism. I remember playing for a white team helping out guys, and the other team kept fouling me and saying about me being a gangsta, being black, coon etc and whole team surrounded me because someone fouled me again and I called him out! I said to the ref why are u letting them be racist and his response - he didn’t hear anything.”
“There were only 4 black people in my class at uni, they literally didn’t even know our names would always call us a name that was one of the black girls names. It was so bad that if one of us was in lesson they still didn’t know which black girl it was. Even worse, we all look completely different!”
“I had a girl in my class who uses the one black friend she knew as her case study and refers to them often. “I’ve got a black friend and they said...” etc. She uses that as her evidence to generalise to every black person because we ‘are all the same and not individual people of course.’ She also had a black childminder who used to plait her hair so she knows the struggle of having our hair done...She was adamant that we had the same experience. I refuse to talk to her other than work purposes because I dont want to become the next case study.“
“I'm tired of explaining to my son to just stop and let police search him. He is 16 and has been stopped 4 times in 2 months riding his bike. The first time he was stopped he was 14 years old. There were 4 of them coming from a church youth club. Outside our flats police came, stopped the car and put all 4 of them in handcuffs. One of his friends is very dark skinned, and they were treating him so bad and for much longer than my son.“
“When on my last placement as a health professional, I would always hear the office talk about other races or ethnicities in a horrible way. Started to think what they thought of black people. Didn’t need to find out what they think because I felt it. Always horrible to me, making sure I couldn’t get consultation tools etc. Failing me in clinic on purpose. I remember the the lecturer was being horrible made a comment like ‘people like you’ or something and I was devastated. Then she cornered me in a room on my last day and told me I’d never be good enough and don’t deserve my degree and I should leave. I literally ran out crying, I tried to complain about it and wasn’t heard. In fact I complained about my injustice throughout my whole placement and my lecturers didn’t believe me because my placement would tell them other things. If you had seen how my white placement friend was being treated you’d be shocked!! Even now thinking back the girl I was with knew the injustice and constantly shrugged and said I ‘don’t know why they are being so nice to me and helping me pass placement.’ To this day it still hurts. Because I had to work my my arse off over and over prove myself - just to make sure the door didn’t get slammed in my face. I know I am worthy.”
“I moved up north for uni, and on my first day walking up the high street, somebody cycled past me and yelled “NI%%ER! I was so embarrassed. Everybody looked at me, but nobody said a word.”
“Me and my friends were on holiday in Croatia last year. We were walking through the old town and saw a family of 4. Two adults, two children. The father looked at us, quickly turned to the rest of his family and nudged them to look at us. He sneered at us, whilst the rest of the family looked at us in horror. They didn’t look away.”
“I was in Thailand and somebody asked if they could touch my skin. I was uncomfortable about it, but said yes because I was put on the spot and didn’t want to appear ‘difficult’. She touched my arm and shuddered. I felt humiliated”
“You’re nice for a black girl - I get that a lot! What’s that even supposed to mean?”
So when you see people who are angry, exhausted and tired, it’s not because one incident happened one time. It’s because these are not isolated incidents. People pick and choose when you’re ‘blackness’ is welcomed and when it is not.
And when you’re pushed over and over again, it really hurts!
These conversations were extremely difficult to have; me and my family like to dance, play games and a laugh and a joke. We don’t like to go deep, but we needed this. It’s a form of healing.
Understand that not all black people are criminals and not all white people are racist. Far from it in fact.
When crimes are being committed of course there needs to be punishment. Let them stand up in court, let them be sentenced. But what we are seeing, is a trend that people aren’t even making it to the police station. They’ve already been given the death penalty in the form of a public execution.
And often, if they do make it to the police station, the punishment is too severe for the crime that has been committed. The system is not fair across the board, and this has to change.
Protesting is a reaction to the action.
I’m overwhelmed with joy to see that so many people are standing together and speaking up for what we know is right. People of all ethnicities all over the world are spreading the message of the changes that we need to see. Of course I’m disappointed to see that some have used the protests as an opportunity to loot and cause destruction, because it takes away from the message. We know that all eyes are on us, so unfortunately, all it takes is a few people to express their frustration in a way that’s violent or aggressive to ruin it for everybody else. That’s what people will see and it becomes “I told you so” and “THIS is what we’re talking abou