“No, but where are you actually from?”
Throughout my life this question has been poised to me many times. Each time, I can clearly describe the emotions enthralling me – anger being the most prominent one. Trying to argue and justify that ‘I am from here’, yet still being constantly questioned until I finally cave in and answer what they’re really asking me. Exhausted that they do not believe I could possibly be ‘like them’. Because let’s face it, they’ve already decided for me.
I remember each emotion every time I’ve been called ‘half-caste’. Anger. Confusion. Hurt. Disgust. What am I half of exactly? ‘Half pure, half impure’? Half bad? Yet, whenever my skin begins darkening after 5 minutes in the sun everyone is the first to say how ‘jealous’ they are of my tan and ‘how do you get that dark?’ – always shocked when I explain my ethnicity.
I remember the first time someone hurled the slur p*** at me. I can clearly remember the look on his face. The pure shock enrapturing my body. The disgust. The hurt. The fear. I remember having no faith in telling a person of authority about it. My friends witnessed it and convinced me, and I remember sitting in this overly bright room as I told a teacher the situation. I remember feeling ashamed and guilty when she asked “But I don’t get why he said that though, you’re so white”. The same feeling I’ve often felt when trying to understand what to refer to myself as – can I justify being a person of colour when it is only my mother that is mixed? Even though she is fully mixed? I’m white passing? People are keen to pick up on the fact I am ‘exotic’ – yet are confused if I don’t call myself white?
I remember finding out 2 years later he called another girl the same slur. I remember feeling intense sadness and guilt that I hadn’t done enough to help stop her feeling the same way I had. I still feel this clearly today. I still worry whether his racism has advanced from verbal abuse.
I remember my skin crawling every time I heard peers say ‘the p*** shop’ or ‘the ch******’ so casually. I still feel that way now. I remember sitting in a classroom as a teacher justified the use of both and the majority of my classmates agreeing. I remember the anger. The frustration. Trying to speak out but being shut down. The exhaustion.
I remember constantly having people joke about my ethnicity, where I was from. I remember joining in on the jokes, laughing it off, trying to fit in. Sometimes, taking offence. Sometimes, hating myself for joining in. Never, hating the ethnicity they would joke I was. Definitely, internalising racism.
And yet, due to my white passing I’m lucky. I get some privilege. I cannot even begin to fathom what other individuals are going through; what Black People are going through right now (and throughout history). I know the anger, the frustration, the pain I have felt. I cannot imagine how intense theirs is right now.
This movement has highlighted a lot of things to me. I am seeing people I thought were friends delete me – making me question whether they have ever had racist thoughts about me. I am having to constantly question friends; often having them turn into arguments and diminishing my voice. I am constantly exhausted, upset and tired. And yet, I feel guilty. Because I have the privilege of turning my phone off. Turning social media off. Deleting someone off Facebook. So many people don’t – you can’t turn real life off.
It is unfathomable why people are against Black Lives Matter. What exactly is it about human rights that you are so keen to withhold from others? Why do you deserve to feel safe whilst others don’t? Where is your heart? Your soul? I am tired. People of colour are tired. We are so tired.
I was 7 years old when I began hating my skin and my eyes. Beginning to realise I was ‘different’. I would go on holiday and try my hardest not to tan out of fear of going darker. My parents would always say ‘when you’re older, everyone will be jealous of your tan and want to be darker than you’. Guess what? They were right. And yet, you don’t want the racism that comes with it. You don’t want to be constantly asked ‘where are you ACTUALLY from?’. You don’t want to be abused for your skin. You don’t want to be KILLED for it like George Floyd, who was just trying to pay for his shopping. Like Breonna Taylor who SLEPT in her own bed. Like Tamir Rice who was PLAYING WITH A TOY GUN.
DO YOU NOT SEE WHY THIS IS NOT OKAY? INNOCENT PEOPLE BEING KILLED FOR DOING THINGS IN LIFE THAT YOU TAKE FOR GRANTED.
And yet, you’re more angry about TV shows being taken off air.
Check your privilege.
People are teaching their children how NOT to die if held in a knee chokehold by police.
You’re crying about a TV show with blackface.
You’re not angry about statues being defaced, like they usually are throughout many protests. You’re angry about the cause. You’re angry, because you don’t think Black Lives Matter and you don’t want them to.
Counter protesters ‘protecting a statue’ whilst abusing peaceful protesters and shouting ‘go back to where you came from’? Yet I have not seen a single facebook friend that was complaining about the peaceful protests say anything about the counter protestors?
I’m seeing friends get angry at people saying ACAB and defund the police. Funny, bet you didn’t know ACAB began in Newcastle prisons. It’s always been around. Seeing friends get angry at incidents with police horses. Where’s this energy for the VIOLENT POLICE that are KILLING people? Where’s this energy for your days at the races?
I’m seeing friends who I thought were close not speaking up on the manner. Ignoring it, or even trying to justify issues. Mansplaining it to me.
I am exhausted. IF I am this exhausted – how the hell do Black people feel right now? What can you do to help, if you aren’t already? Are you amplifying their voices? Are you listening to them? Are you being an ally? Have you been signing and sharing petitions? Educating yourself? Challenging others?
Call out racism when you see it.
PLEASE do NOT ask POC to explain issues to you that a quick google search can suffice. It can be traumatising. It can bring back old emotions. Each day I am feeling the same anger, upset, frustration that I have felt with each racist experience. Each day I am reminded of hearing my mother only recently say she is “proud to be a POC, something she has not always felt”. Each day is tiring. There is an abundance of resources to help educate yourself, and others on. And know this is not something you can change over night – it took time to learn your thoughts, it will take time to unlearn them too. You will constantly have to recheck, re-evaluate. Constantly learn.
You can choose whether to learn about racism. You can choose whether you can be bothered to take 2 minutes to read educational articles people share. Choose whether to read information provided to you by people trying to educate you.
We don’t get a choice.
We experience it.
Do you use racial slurs? Even to describe a takeaway? Do your friends? Your family?
What about your family talking about All Lives Matter? Have you tried challenging their views? It’s time to get uncomfortable. It’s time to use your privilege.
You posted your blackouttuesday. Well done. You deleted it too.
What else have you done?
When this is all over, could you say you were on the right side of history? Or are you still going to be spouting racist beliefs to younger generations, forcing further oppression?