‘Why do I care?’ Is a question that I have been asked a lot in the last few weeks. It honestly isn’t one that I was expecting to get asked or have to answer.
First and foremost I care because I am HUMAN.
You will have heard me say Black is Black and no man is an island. Those are statements that I stand by and I hope that my actions speak just as loud if not louder than my words. To me, a part of being human means to feel and to care. But I wanted to see what others thought being human meant. I took to google and stumbled across a few different websites that let people state what being human means to them in under 140 characters.
Whilst some of these answers were great, it left me still with questions. History has show us that at times (and even now) we have viewed many humans as less than. Women were treated as second class citizens for much of history and still fight for equal rights, equal pay etc today. What does it mean to be human? Is a hard question to answer. I am not the first person and wont be the last, people have been asking this for over 300 years. Before I digress any further I will simply note that I always strive to be a contributing member of society and one of the ways I demonstrate this is with my care and concern for those around me.
I care because I have been on the receiving end of prejudice and racism my entire life. I hope that I can help make changes that will benefit this generation and future ones to ensure that they do not have to go through some of the same experiences that I have. This is the main motivation behind my parliament petition:
I hope that you will click the link and help make a difference and be part of the solution.
I am not new to this, nor do I seek to throw shade on those who are just now taking the time to educate themselves and show support. Divided we fall but united we stand! There is power in unity and unity is necessary to effect change. 10 years ago I asked my friends “If I told you I was in a Newspaper what would you think I was in it for?” And by the second answer you can see I have ALWAYS cared. I have been volunteering and mentoring since I was a teenager, as an adult I have continued with this, including volunteering at the 2012 Olympics. I know I can do more and do better, so I intend to make more time for that. This is just the start.
WHY DO I CARE?
I care because it’s my prerogative to do so. I care because I have been given a gift and I don’t want to lose it again by wasting it. I care because I love. You have heard me reflect on the tough love of a Black parent as I also proclaimed that my love is not tough. It isn’t, I am first to admit that I am soft hearted. I want better for everyone and I believe that starts with YOU and I. Be the change that you want to see. So next time you think to ask someone why they care, I ask that you reflect inwards instead and ask yourself, “Why don’t YOU?”
If you know me, you’ll know that I often give nicknames out to people I care for and about. It Is very rare that people give me one back in return, maybe hypocritical, but I’m not the biggest fan and always go by Kristina. More time ‘Kristina with a K’, is my introduction, one that I only got a reprieve from when working with Scandinavia.
I was given the nickname Casper, by a good friends now husband, during university. It hadn’t gone unnoticed that I was always ghost (aka not around) unless I was needed. The same still rings true today. I am not one for the limelight or to be centre of attention. One of the hardest things to acknowledge with speaking up and speaking out on Racism in the UK was that I had to be present and front and centre. Publishing a petition, and my daily article comes with an element of exposure that I would prefer to have avoided if I could.
But I am aware that this is not a situation for me to ghost and instead it is necessary to put a face to this, my face! I have mentioned previously that my petition was initially met with a lot of resistance union first release. From the black community, which was the biggest surprise and whilst this shocked me I understood that many did not understand me or the motivation behind the petition or what I hoped to achieve. This led to me writing and publishing my PSA – In the words of Jay-Z…..Allow me to reintroduce myself! A necessity that has proven helpful in assisting people to understand who I am, where I come from and why I care.
Resistance didn’t only come from my community. I was attacked on social media (both Twitter and Instagram) by racists. I expected this going and choose not to focus on the negative. For every 5-10 people that send me racial abuse, there is one who has read my work and thanked me in return for letting them “walk in my shoes”.
What I thought was my biggest challenge was my petition initially getting rejected by the House of Commons Petitions Committee on the grounds that they “can’t accept new petitions that make the same request as an existing petition”. I was pointed in the direction of some other petitions that they deemed the same as my own (all of which I have signed) but one closed door does not deter me and I published my OPEN LETTER TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS PETITION COMMITTEE in the hopes to help them better understand how my petition was unique and not a repetition of anything already out there. I was shocked to learn that they had read my words, understood my perspective and were reversing their decision to reject. Something I reflect on in The power of one voice…the courage of one person.
I am Casper the friendly ghost, and I am self aware enough to stand up and admit this. My preference would be to stay in the background, and I explored options that may have allowed for this to no avail. I am not doing this to become famous, the very idea of that being a consequence of all of this is rather abhorrent. To anyone thinking that is the purpose, I hope you will take some time to read some of the linked articles in this post. During correspondence with the House of Commons Petition Committee, they asked me to confirm I was happy to publish my own personal experience along with my name. I, like many of you saw the backlash and controversy sparked by Nickelodeon’s “I Can’t Breathe” Commercial. My very experience at the age of 5, shows that even when we don’t understand Racism, Black children are still victims of it. Many of these behaviours and words are learned and should be challenged and addressed as soon as they appear.
At the start of all of this I posted on my socials with a genuine question asking people “what did you do?” When they were at the receiving end of racism. It is a question I also asked myself, as I pondered the best ways for me to help. I acknowledge that my writing is a gift, and I will continue to use it as such. Ive taken it for granted in the past, and although I wrote my first ‘story book’ aged five and my first two full novels two years ago, I am aware I did not use it as I could and should. It is hard to ask yourself “what did you do?” And face the potential response that you have done nothing. I watched with great interest when Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from the board and urged the seat to be filled by a Black person. He too had asked himself “What did you do?’ And wanted to have a concrete answer should his Black daughter one day ask him the same question.
I am not getting paid to campaign for better rights for Black people, I do it because I care. My hope is that if anyone ever asks me in the future “What did you do?” I can answer that I did everything I could, that I gave my best with the confidence that it was enough. My heart is clean and there are no stains on my soul.
You have heard me say “no man is an island”. It is a favourite saying of mine and one which I would like to recognise now. No man is an island. I may have started this journey alone, but I urge all of you to join me. I cannot do this alone, nor do I want to. If you have learnt anything about me thus far, it is that I will not give up. I would like for you all to not give up either. Please help me make a better society for this generation and the next. Racism is multi-faceted, and there is no right or wrong way to address it. It may be attacked from all angles but I believe a big part of that is education and re-education.
SIGN THE PETITION. SHARE THE PETITION. BE PART OF THE SOLUTION WITH ME AND NOT PART OF THE PROBLEM.
Being Black is not a contact sport! That statement, along with Black Lives Matter, isn’t one that I should still have to be saying in 2020. However, it is apparent from both past and recent incidents, news and comments that both statements still need to be not only said but shouted. You did not put that life on this Earth, and even if you did, it is not your right or place to take it. The idea that the colour of a person’s skin can determine how they are treated is an abhorrent but harsh reality of today’s society.
The recent increase in Black Lives Matter protests around the world has revealed more of the many racists amongst us. After the tragic murder of George Floyd, people were vocal from both ends of the spectrum. We had many people, rightly disgusted by the actions of the police that led to his murder, many more called out the names of others who had lost their lives as a direct result of racism and this loathsome idea that us being Black gives you permission to use undue violence and force against us. At the other end, we have the misguided who have an unshakeable talent of being able to justify all of the murders we have seen with blanket statements like “Has anyone mentioned that the police will leave you alone if you don’t do illegal stuff?”
It is from statements such as this that it is clear to see being Black makes normal everyday activities illegal. Lets take a look back at some of the “illegal stuff” that black people have been doing that caused the police or others to murder them:
“Unarmed. And dead.
TRAYVON MARTIN (Walking home with iced tea and Skittles. Shot by George Zinneman, who was found not guilty.)
KEITH SCOTT (Sitting in car, reading. Shot by police officer, who was not charged.)
ATATIANA JEFFERSON (Looking out her window, shot by police officer, who is still under indictment for murder.)
JONATHAN FERRELL (Asking for help after auto accident. Shot twelve times by police, case ended in mistrial.)
JORDAN EDWARDS (Riding in a car. Shot in the back of the head by police officer, who was found guilty of murder.)
STEPHON CLARK (Holdng a cel phone. Shot 8 times, 6 in the back. Officers not charged.)
AMADOU DIALLO (While taking out wallet, officers fired 41 shots by four officers, who were all acquitted.)
RENISHA MCBRIDE (Auto accident, knocked on door for help. Homeowner was found guilty of second-degree murder.)
TAMIR RICE (Playing with toy gun, shot by police officer arriving on scene. Officer was not charged.
SEAN BELL (Hosting a bachelor party, 50 rounds fired by police officers, who were found not guilty of charges.)
WALTER SCOTT (Pulled over for brake light, shot in the back by police officer, who pleaded guilty to civil rights violations.)
PHILANDO CASTILE (Pulled over in car, told officer he had a legally registered weapon in car. Officer acquitted of all charges.)
AIYANA JONES (Sleeping, accidentally shot by officer in a raid on wrong apartment. Officer cleared of all charges.)
TERRENCE CRUTCHER (Disabled vehicle, shot by police officer, who was found not guilty of manslaughter.)
ALTON STERLING (Selling CDs, shot at close range while being arrested. No charges filed.)
FREDDIE GRAY (Beaten to death by officers while being transported in police van. All officers involved were acquitted.)
JOHN CRAWFORD (Shopping at WalMart, holding a BB gun on sale, police officer was not charged.)
MICHAEL BROWN (Shot by twelve times by officer, including in the back. No charges filed.)
JORDAN DAVIS (Killed because he was playing loud music. Shooter found guilty of first-degree murder.)
SANDRA BLAND (Pulled over for traffic ticket, tasered and arrested. Suspicious “suicide” while in jail. No charges.)
BOTHAM JEAN (Shot at home, which police officer mistook for her own. Officer found guilty of murder.)
OSCAR GRANT (Handcuffed and face-down, officer shot him in the back. Officer found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.)
COREY JONES (Waiting by his disabled vehicle, was shot three times by police officer, who was found guilty of murder.)
AHMAUD AUBREY (Jogging, shot by two men who claimed they suspected him of burglaries. Both men charged with murder and aggravated assault- Chyna Smith #unarmedanddead #BLM
Sadly this is only a small sample of some of the lives lost. Many of the murderers are still free and have never been charged. The seems to be a gross insensitivity to these cases, cases that are coming through at a greater frequency by the day. The police, its systemic and institutional racisms, are a part of the problem but not the sum of it. Until everyone is held accountable for their actions, and lack of action nothing will change. Black people are being targeted and killed by a racist cross platform of society. We should be equally outraged by every case that we see and not allow the amount of incidents to weigh us down and push us towards becoming desensitised (easier said then done in many a case).
In another display of the lack of value placed on Black lives we have seen the rise in a spate of lynchings across America, with police forces and medical examiners in the states where they have happened classifying them as suspected suicides.
The Cambridge dictionary defines lynching as ‘the act of killing someone without a legaltrial, usually by hanging (= killing using a rope around the neck)’. Lynchings were prevalent in pre and post American civil war, with the first recorded lynching being that of McIntosh, a black man in St. Louis in 1835, who was hung by a deputy sheriff in front of a crowd of over 1,000 people. It is not a coincidence that we are seeing this happen now and we must speak up, refuse the verdicts of suicide and demand answers and justice.
Closer to home, we are dealing with similar issues. The argument that our police don’t have guns like in America (some do) has not stopped Black British people from being killed by the police. The Guardian published an article earlier this month called A black man’s life is not valued’: attack on year-long delay of UK police death inquiry which took a look into the deaths of black people in police custody. In the UK black people account for 3% of the population but 8% of deaths in custody. We are being disproportionately targeted. I have seen many comments on social media where black people are being told to stop with our “victim mentalities”, I myself have been the target of such comments. This gross ignorance that it is only our ancestors that dealt with racism, prejudice and discrimination is what will allow the same system to continue.
As we look at those accountable in the actions that led to the riots, we must also hold the UK press accountable too. As reported but the society pages, “A Google search for [Mark’s] name offers a glimpse into the many faces of Duggan, as uploaded by the media.” We saw first hand the bias of the press and the effects that the choice of image they picked to print had.
The cropping of pictures of him paying respects at a gravesite commemorating his deceased daughter was not without intention and often accompanied articles that vilified him.
The killing of black people at the hands of police or in police custody is not new. Smiley Culture died on the 15th March 2011, during a police raid at his home. His murder, was ruled as a suicide following an inquest. The investigation of his death by the IPCC was not made public nor made available to his family, something that smacks of cover up and needs to change. This was nearly 5 months before the killing of Mark Duggan and the riots we saw as a consequence. But the black community has a history of discontent with the UK police. The 1981 Brixton riots, was the result of a confrontation between the Metropolitan Police and protesters in Brixton, South London, England, from the 10th – 12th April 1981. The peak of which, the 11th April, saw 279 injuries to the police and 45 injuries to members of public and was later dubbed “Bloody Saturday” by Time magazine and labelling it as “The country’s worst race riot”.
The BBC took a look back at the riots and asked Brixton riots 30 years on: What has changed? Noting ‘Three decades, one inquiry and the Stephen Lawrence scandal separate us from the Brixton riots and asking “Where are we now?”’ During a Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) meeting, there was calls for more engagement with IPCC investigations. Peter Bleksley, a young Met officer at the times of the riots recalled in a BBC Radio 4 interview that “Young black men in Brixton were routinely fitted up, beaten up, tortured” and worse “I was turned from a pretty decent 18-year-old into a violent, racist thug.”
Mr. Butts who was 9 years old at the time of the riots notes “I was already aware of the way police treated the black community. I was brought up to know it was my responsibility to watch interaction between police and a black person – so I could be a pair of eyes and recount what happened as a witness.” Recent years have seen Brixton become a victim of gentrification, much like many other minority ethnic areas of London so I am skeptical as I read that. “much has changed” merely because data and statistics still show that between April 2018 and March 2019, there were 4 stop and searches for every 1,000 White people, compared with 38 for every 1,000 Black people. And that the Black African, Black Caribbean and Other Black groups consistently had the highest rates. We are also still seeing cases of Black people being killed while in police custody, with Simeon Francis, 35, ‘found’ unresponsive in his cell at Torquay police station and later pronounced dead on the 20th May 2020, 17 hours and 15 minutes after police had arrested him in Exeter. He died in police custody and this is not something that can be swept under the rug, we demand answers and justice for Simeon!
I don’t have the answers of how to solve this multi-faceted issue, nor do I claim to. I simply ask that you do not treat us being black as an excuse to use undue violence against us. BLACK IS NOT A CONTACT SPORT. We are not here for you to treat this way. BLACK LIVES MATTER!
But it was not until Boris Johnson became prime minister that someone shouted at me to ‘go back to where I came from’ in addition to various other racial slurs and profanities. I didn’t know them, had never seen them before and was totally perplexed by someone being that angry at me merely because they disliked the colour of my skin. It was a vile and stupid statement to make given that I, as I headed to my daily spin class was less then 200 yards from the hospital I was born in. Far closer to where ‘I came from’ in the literal sense then the racist who shouted that command.
A racist country.
I don’t need to see any figures or statistics to know that racism in the UK, while always present and prevalent has become more pronounced in recent years. The conservatives have repeatedly demonstrated through their choice of policies and actions and further lack of other policies and action that they do not value black or even many ethnic lives in the UK. Before, you jump in uproar at my confidently spoken statement, I will be providing you with examples in a series of articles called: A racist country, led by a racist prime minister.
Firstly, lets look at the Windrush scandal. The very fact that I was born in England and am a British Citizen is due to the post World War II practice, known as the Windrush, of recruiting people from the Caribbean by offering cheap transport via ship for anybody who wanted to come and work in the United Kingdom. The ship HMT Empire Windrush brought a group of 802 migrants to the port of Tilbury, near London, on 22 June 1948.
And there was plenty of opportunity for them to do so, both British rail and the National Health Service (NHS). Many others came after with Ceri Peach, a social geographer estimating that the number of West Indian born people in the UK grew from 15,000 in 1951 to 172,000 in 1961. My mother was one of the Windrush, coming over to England as a baby in 1958 with her grandmother and on her passport.
I’m sure you’re now think ‘how fantastic’ and ‘what a wonderful opportunity the UK government gave these people’. You should note that it was not a one way favour, the war left gaping holes in many industries and this was one solution that the government at the time had. However, as said before the UK is a racist country. Its no surprise that bringing people from the Caribbean to work was a solution the UK ran with, it is after all built on the backs of slavery, the commonwealth and the British empire. And the moment Britain started to look ‘too Black’ we saw the enactment of the Commonwealth Immigrants act in 1962 which restricted the entry of immigrants. We the saw the introduction of further restrictions in 1972 whereby only holders of work permits, or people with parents or grandparents born in the United Kingdom, could gain entry. This effectively drastically slowly the deluge of immigrants from the commonwealth. My father came over to the UK in 1973 on one of those work permits to work for the NHS.
Fast forward to 2018 and the Windrush generation, one which should have been celebrated for the assistance that they gave the UK post World War II was instead embroiled in a scandal. Newspapers and television broadcasts across the UK and the world were reporting on British political scandal concerning people who were wrongly detained, denied legal rights, threatened with deportation, and, in at least 83 cases,wrongly deported from the UK by the Home Office. Many of these had come over as young children on their parents or grandparents passports and had never lived anywhere but the UK. Much of this was attributed back to the then Prime Minister, another alleged racist and Conservative party member who had fostered a ‘hostile environment policy’ during her tenure as Home secretary. Consequences of the scandal led to the resignation of then 2018 Home secretary Amber Rudd and the appointment of Sajid Javid as her successor.
But the scandal goes much deeper then anyone could imagine. The 1948, British Nationality Act, gave citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies status and the right of settlement in the UK to everyone who was at that time a British subject by virtue of having been born in a British colony. This act, combined with the advertisements and encouragements of the UK government and the subsequent Windrush drive saw a spike in immigration from the Caribbean. Teresa May, while Home Secretary, was found by the March 2020 independent ‘Windrush Lessons Learned Review’ to have acted with ‘ignorance and thoughtlessness’ and that the Windrush Scandal had been both ‘foreseeable and avoidable’. It further found that immigration regulations were tightened “with complete disregard for the Windrush generation”, and that officials had made “irrational” demands for multiple documents to establish residency rights.
The Windrush scandal wasn’t a rash instant issue, but rather a slow burning one that had seen the home office receive warnings as far back as 2013 after their contractor Capita was reported to sending correspondence to many older Caribbean born citizens informing them incorrectly that they had no right to be in the UK and treating the as illegal immigrants.
Furthermore the Home Affairs Select Committee issued a report in January 2018, with findings that the hostile environment policies were unclear, and threatened and practised deportations happening as a result of “inaccurate and untested” information. The Independent newspaper in its article Britain’s immigration system ‘too open to error’, MPs warn further examined the failings of the Home Office and also reported that more than 60 MPs, academics and campaign groups wrote an open letter to Amber Rudd urging the Government to halt the “inhumane” policy, citing the Home Office’s “poor track record” of dealing with complaints and appeals in a timely manner. The scandal drew mass press coverage with the Home Office agencies being accused of operating a “guilty until proven innocent” and “deport first, appeal later” regime; of targeting the weakest groups, particularly those from the Caribbean.
Many papers like the guardian in their article, ‘It’s inhumane’: the Windrush victims who have lost jobs, homes and loved ones put faces to the many names of those victimised under the policy. The public saw many more accusations against the government arise including accusations that they knew about the negative impacts that their ‘hostile environment policy’ was having on the Windrush immigrants and they chose to wilfully ignore it. On 16 April 2018, whilst in the House of Commons David Lammy MP challenged Amber Rudd to provide data on how many had lost their jobs or homes, been denied medical care, or been detained or deported wrongly. In May of the same year a motion was introduced by the opposition Labour Party to force the government to release documents to the Home Affairs Select Committee concerning its handling of cases involving people who came to the UK from Commonwealth countries between 1948 and the 1970s. Unfortunately but not surprisingly this motion was defeated by 316 votes to 221.
As is common practise in the UK when it comes to its institutional racism, we saw the release of more reports, with the Human Rights Select Committee publishing a ‘damning; report in June 2018, on the exercise of powers by immigration officials. Harriet Harman MP and chair of the committee accused immigration officials of being “out of control”, and the Home Office of being a “law unto itself”. The Home Affairs Select Committee also published a rather critical report in July 2018, noted that without radical reform, the Windrush Scandal will be seen again and called for many recommendations.
However, like prior reports this one left many gaps and unanswered questions and Shadow Home SecretaryDiane Abbott said it was a “disgrace” that the government had not yet published “a clear plan for compensation” for Windrush cases and that it had refused to institute a hardship fund, “even for people who have been made homeless or unemployed by their policies”.
Despite all the reports, recommendations, negative press and spotlight on the scandal, it emerged in February 2019 that the Home Office fully intended to continue with its deportations and Javid, attempting to justify said deportations as being people guilty of “very serious crimes … like rape and murder, firearms offences and drug-trafficking”, but the claim was rebutted by the Home Office and was criticised by commentators as inaccurate and potentially detrimental to the futures of the deportees. In response, Jamaica’s high commission called for a halt of all deportations until the Home Office published all its investigations into the Windrush scandal. On 23 April 2018, Rudd announced that compensation would be given to those affected and, in future, fees and language tests for citizenship applicants would be waived for this group.Theresa May also apologised for the “anxiety caused” at a meeting with twelve Caribbean leaders, though she was unable to tell them “definitively” whether anyone had been wrongly deported.
At present, the Guardian Newspaper reports Windrush scandal: only 60 victims given compensation so far. I helped my mother a member of the Windrush generation, apply for compensation, only for the Home Office to write to her requesting a long list of evidence, much of which they know will be difficult to provide and that she report to them to provide biometrics. As a now British Citizen, she did not need to do any of what they were unfairly requesting leading me to have the belief that the compensation scheme is no more then another avenue that the Home Office intends to use to target remaining Windrush immigrants.
There are no levels to racism as far as i am concerned, you can’t justify any of it with the excuse that’s there’s worse out there. You are either racist or you are not. The policies enacted by the Home Office, and its practices of destroying paper work actively led to the unfair and prejudicial treatment if Windrush Immigrants. A scandal that received more recent publicity with the BBC docu-drama Sitting in Limbo, which not only reaffirmed the unfair suffering of many of the Windrush generation and put a face to it all.
There is much damage in the assumption that a black woman cannot be passionate about anything without being labelled as ‘angry’. We are repeatedly labelled as this in the media, and by our peers for purely speaking up and having conviction with it. We are seen as aggressive if God forbid we oppose any of the negative actions directed towards us. This is a toxic stereotype and one that has been discussed plenty in the press, journals and literature; yet it is still allowed to reign free today.
The Cambridge dictionary describes a stereotype as “a set idea that people have about what someone or something is like, especially an idea that is wrong” This can be racial or sexual amongst others. In this case I maintain that, it is only black women and not women of other races that get labelled as angry when they are passionate or over zealous about anything.
Black female celebrities are constantly having to overcome this unnecessary label. An article published by forbes.com last year called ‘Overcoming The Angry Black Woman Stereotype’ examined the crux of the problem. The writer, Janice Gassam, provides what she believes to have been the origin of the angry black woman stereotype – ‘the 1950s radio showAmos ‘n’ Andy, which depicted black women as sassy and domineering’. But if that is where this stereotype stems from, it is even more disheartening to see that nothing since has been able to dispute or change this. In 2020, I am still being called angry by peers for having care for a cause.
The Forbes article goes on to expound on this theory and provide readers with a three point action list on how they may overcome and stop this stereotype. But as I read through the action plan of to 1.Educate yourself, 2. Express yourself and 3. Check yourself, I cannot help but think that while this is a starting point it is not enough.
As mentioned, Black female celebrities don’t escape the ‘Angry Black Female’ tag simply because they are famous. In 2014, time.com published an article called ‘Where Are All the Angry Black Women?’. The article opens with the rather flagrant words ‘We’ve been hearing a lot of about angry black women this week’. A phrase it notes that New York Times television critic had used to describe Shonda Rhimes, a famous black woman noted for gifting us shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder (HTGAWM). Robin Givens, the writer, remarks on the various reasons for a black woman to be validly angry. Pay inequality, injustices to our ‘fathers, brothers, sons and husbands’ are amongst the reasons shared. Givens proceeds to let the New York Times television critic know exactly where all the angry black women are, with the statement ‘Mostly we’re working. Anger might just be a luxury we don’t have.’ The article touches on the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown both of whom lost their Black sons to overt racism in America. However, while this is a well rounded piece examining the intricacies of the ‘Angry Black Woman’ stereotype we are no closer to a solution on eradicating this stereotype.
There have been many journals, written and published on this matter. M Mgadmi (2009) Black Women’s Identity: Stereotypes, Respectability and Passionlessness (1890-1930), L Green, Negative Racial Stereotypes and Their Effect on Attitudes Toward African-Americans, and L Rosenthal (2016) Stereotypes of Black American Women Related to Sexuality and Motherhood, are just a few of many. Despite all of these published journals and others out there we are no closer to a universal solution to this issue with scholars such as Dionne Bennett and Marcyliena Morgan quoted in Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America as suggesting that the reason behind this is that researchers tend to accept this archetype as being true.
It is not just in the press and in journals where this stereotype is seen or addressed.
There has also been books, films and shows which look to this matter. It may be argued that much of Tyler Perry’s Madea movies perpetuate the caricature of the angry black woman. In addition to the character Sapphire in Amos ’n’ Andy, there is also Aunt Esther in Sanford and Son, Bernadine in Waiting to Exhale, Madea Simmons in Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Wilhelmina Slater in Ugly Betty, Rochelle in Everybody Hates Chris and Cookie from Empire. With all of these and more it is no wonder that we still struggle with the weight of this depiction today.
I contend that the crux of the problem is RACISM. Until racism is dealt with properly, levels and variations of this stereotype will still exist. We must first battle the root of the problem before we look to the leaves and branches. Cutting off the top of the tree is not enough either, this will just encourage new offshoots to grow.
So with all of this reflection and energy being put into looking at stereotypes of black woman, why is the misnomer that black women with passion or interest still being perpetuated? I always say if one thing doesn’t change then nothing will. In todays climate it is even more important that this stereotype is defunct. With the current momentum that we have seen for the Black Lives Matter movement, statements and derogatory inflammatory stereotypes are a distraction not needed. I ask that next time you think to call someone ‘angry’, pause and consider why. If I was male, or white would you have been so quick to label me as angry? I may be Angry but only with reason, and I am Black and I am a woman but the three are not synonymous. Think before you use this stereotype. Be part of the solution and not the problem.
As a young child I was often told do as I say and not as I do, by my parents whenever I pointed out inaccuracies of hypocrisies on their part. The UKs choice of words towards the protestors when many defended Dominic Cummings and the sunbathers is the epitome of this.
I have watched the stories unfold in the press over the past weekend. I have seen the press sensationalise the one officer that got injured and thrown from his horse during the protest (I hope they are well).
I have had to listen to the hypocritical advice given by Priti Patel to avoid the protest and stay home. Her words are why I would like to see the phrase BAME abolished but thats a discussion for another day. It seems that the Conservative government has fallen onto ‘thuggery’ as the buzz word of the moment, smacks of Donald Trump, right?!
I watched the London Black Lives Matter protest from overseas, acutely aware that I am getting to witness living history. I am proud to be British, Black British AND West Indian, these are not incongruent to each other. But that pride does not allow me to be ignorant to the fact that even in the year 2020 black people are not treated as equal. I also watched Boris Johnson (the UK prime Minister) boast about shaking the hands of COVID positive patients whilst using no PPE. I had to witness him double down on strong and wrong with regards to the actions of Dominic Cummings. Boris, according to Michael Gove, missed five coronavirus meetings, causing the UK to lose “a crucial five weeks in the fight to tackle the dangerous threat of coronavirus’. Is such a morally corrupt individual that he cheated on his wife Marina Wheeler, whom according to the guardian ‘its one affair to many.
But his party doesn’t care’. In fact, its very apparent that Boris himself doesn’t even care, his actions shout that. He not only impregnated the latest woman he used to besmirch his marriage vows, but then moved said side chick into 10 Downing Street when he became Prime Minister. He has been the most absentee Prime Minister that the UK has ever had, and at a time when one is needed to be active and present his actions speak far louder than any of his words.
My parents were nurses who gave over 70 years combined to the NHS. The systemic racism in the UK is causing Black people to die from COVID-19 at a disproportionate rate than any other race. I know they would not be dishonoured by people marching and would in fact appreciate that people are taking action through protest to make others lives better. It’s ignorant, prejudiced and I would go as far as saying racist to post about the protest in a manner that suggests we are selfish when no one spoke about the droves of a certain demographic who broke lockdown rules just so they could get a tan. The very same people who now want to look down on people campaigning for rights for those with coloured skin, who are only asking for equality!
If you are going to jump in the bandwagon of copying and pasting that racist Facebook status, please let me know. Id rather not have any racists on my facebook page or hiding amongst my friends.
So i’m going to drop some statistics for you:
Black people make up 12% of London’s population but made up 31% of arrests during lockdown
as at March 2019, over 1.2 million people were employed by the NHS
of NHS staff whose ethnicity was known, 4 out of 5 (79.2%) were White (including White ethnic minorities), and 1 in 5 (20.7%) were from all other ethnic groups
there was a higher percentage of staff in medical roles (working as doctors in hospitals and community health services) from the Asian, Chinese, Mixed and Other ethnic groups than in non-medical roles
among the non-medical workforce, staff from the Asian, Black, Mixed and Other ethnic groups made up a smaller number of those at senior grades (bands 8a to 9) and the ‘very senior manager’ grade than at the support (bands 1 to 4) and middle grades (bands 5 to 7)
a higher percentage of junior doctors were from the Black, Chinese, Mixed and Other groups than senior doctors
Black Caribbean people had the highest rate of detention under the Mental Health Act out of all ethnic groups, at 254 detentions per 100,000 people. This was 3.7 times as high as the rate for White British people (69 per 100,000 people). (England, 2017/18)
So when you look for someone to hold blame for the over 40,000 who have died from COVID-19, don’t look to black people asking for equality. Look to your government and their failings first. Your choice of words shouts “Do as I say and not as I do”…we are too far past that sentiment
Thank you for getting back to me and I appreciate your sympathy in what I went through as a child. I would like for you to note that my petition does not make the same request as previous ones and I checked this before first launching it. It is disheartening that you would think this and is again another major reason why my petition is needed and a discussion on the matter take place at the highest level. Lets look at the options that you have suggested were alternatives to me.
This topic does not fall into History lessons. Whilst I believe that it is important that diversity and Racism is addressed in schools, it can happen with social studies or even P.S.H.E. lessons. So it isn’t a repetition of what I am asking for but merely another avenue from which Racism can be addressed and tackled in the education system.
This topic is definitely closer to the mark but it still misses it by a lot. It is a generalisation on the education system being more inclusive of BAME history. That can fall into a plethora of subjects such as including BAME authors in English Lit classes to looking at inventions by Black people in science classes. It also makes the sweeping generalisation that all ethnic minorities have the same history and should be treated the same. We are not and should not be, but that is a topic for another day and a feature of a different petition that I have launched – Ban the use of BAME as a collective term for minority ethnic groups (I avidly await feedback from standards on it)
It is insulting to imply that Britains colonial past is the sum of Black history. To quote the words of Lavinya Stennett, founder of The Black Curriculum –
“We have existed in Britain and been pioneers, inventors, icons. And then colonialism happened, and that has shaped the experiences of black people – but that is not all we are.”
A discussion needs to be had at a higher level so that what Black history means is fully addressed. It is abhorrent and not going to help with stigmas and racism to insinuate that Britains colonial past is the sum of all we are as Black people. Whilst I think it is important to teach the entirety of Black history and as such include this, it is dangerous and damaging to box Black History as solely being about the British Empire and Colonialism. We are taught a white washed version of the history of the World Wars in school and it is never mentioned that many Black soldiers helped fight for freedom while not fully experiencing it for themselves. A comprehensive look at Black history needs to be had by Black historians and scholars to ensure we are not pigeon holing what is means to teach Black history. I am not asking for a rose tinted glasses look at Black History, it is unfortunate that Slavery and the transatlantic slave trade is a massive part of that. It saddens me further to look at the active role the UK held within that and the history of the British Colonialism, the British Empire and the Commonwealth. Instead I am asking that while you teach that, you also teach about Mary Seacole alongside teaching about Florence Nightingale. That when you teach about the Romans, you also take the time to mention the Black people that were also on British shores at that time like the The Ivory Bangle Lady, whose remains were discovered in York in 1901. That when we look at Henry VIII and about the fate of all his wives and his tumultuous reign that time is taken to learn about John Blanke, an African trumpeter who is documented as having asked Henry VIII for a pay rise. Or any of the other hundreds of Black migrants living in Britain during 1500s Tudor England.
I hope that you read my words and understand all that I hoped to achieve with my petition and why it is not a repetition of anything that is out there. Should you still feel that it is, I welcome feedback on how the title can be adjusted to better reflect my intentions.
Yesterday I touched on the fact that I would rather list everything that I don’t eat then call myself a Vegan, in my article ‘Oh so you’re a Vegan…’. It makes sense, because my journey into Veganism did not begin with the desire and intention to save the world.
The reality is outside of the Vegan community, it is others that give me the Vegan label. I really did just list everything that I don’t eat for the longest time.
According to the Collins dictionary, Veganism is “the adherence to a vegandiet“. So if I was to base my classification off of that, I am at least following Veganism. However, others may argue that its bigger than just what you consume. According to Merriam-Webster, “ a strict vegetarian who consumes no food (such as meat, eggs, or dairy products) that comes from animals also : one who abstains from using animal products (such as leather)”. This requires a little more of a person then just what they eat. It goes into the lifestyle choices that one makes. So do I adhere to that? The short answer is yes. In recent years I have made a conscious effort to check the labels of products I use. What may have started out as necessity for health and quality of life has expanded to mean more to me. It matters to me now that if i’m using a product, it has the Vegan trademark and that products are therefore free from animal ingredients and animal testing.
My issues with Vegans, and why I’ll often distance myself from being labelled as one is their desire to police other Vegans and the militance they use to Police those that don’t adhere to the same diet and lifestyle as them. Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t force it on anyone. You can bring a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink and I fully follow that practise. If anyone asks my opinion on it, I’ll share where my thoughts lie but you won’t find me trying to force anyone into it. It has been wonderful to see my friends reduce their meat consumption over the years and also approach me for Vegan recipes of their own accord. You can do more with love then you can ever do with hate. Would I prefer all my loved ones to be Vegan? Certainly. My brother knew whenever he came to my flat that he was getting a Vegan meal because that’s what I eat. I can remember watching episodes of shows like Come Dine with Me, where when the host has been Vegan, they’ve cooked meat to make their guests more ‘comfortable’. You won’t catch me doing that. The other month I proclaimed to my friends that I can’t marry a meat-eater, I was called extra, and I can see why it would seem that way until you take into consideration all my reasons around it. I won’t list them here but its a big part of my life and I would like whoever I end up with to share that part of my life with me.
According to the Vegan society ‘Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.’ Thats right, ‘as far as is possible and practicable’, this is a definition that definitely applies to me.
When I first gave up the consumption of all animal products, I was ignorant to much of the food practises involved in the preparation. I was aware of battery farms, was adamant that animal milk is for animals and not Humans. It’s strange that Humans are the only mammals that consume the milk from species not their own. The more I would learn the more it would confirm in my mind that I was on the right course for both myself and the planet. I always say that if one thing doesn’t change, then nothing will. I might only be one person, but all of those singular people doing their bit eventually adds up when numbers are combined.
I am not an animal person, in all honesty, they scare me. Whilst fear is irrational, I have always been wary of animals due to my inability to communicate with them and know what they are thinking. In my youth a friend got bitten by a dog intent on attacking me after he stepped in front of me. My fear of dogs is therefore less irrational and more based on experience. Before you make any further assumptions about me, you should know that I am no less wary of humans. While I am not an animal person, I am equally not a human person either. I do not agree with the idea of having pets, especially if you live in flat or don’t have the means to make that animals life as spectacular as can be. They can’t tell you if they are unhappy though, so its up to you as their owner to ensure you are doing the most. Many people fall in love with the idea of having a pet, and when faced with the reality not matching the dream, send their pets off to pounds. I’d rather no-one keep pets than that, but if you are a potential future pet owner, I would suggest not heading for a breeder but getting your animal from a rescue centre instead.
By that same measure I am not a fan of Zoos unless they are actively contributing to the conservation effort. I hate that the new norm for many holidays is to be pictured with a declawed tiger, on the back of an elephant or something similar. I love animals in the wild, I believe the only interference that should come from humans is ensuring that we don’t lose any more species to extinction. Like many of you I watched the Netflix series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. I would have liked to have seen these ‘zoo owners’ prosecuted for their crimes to animals, illegal breeding of tigers and full on animal cruelty. You won’t catch me signing a petition to free Joe Exotic and I genuinely hope that they lock Carole Baskin and all the other big cat owners up soon too.
Back to the Vegan society’s definition of Veganism, and we look at the line to ‘all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.’ As I said before, I love all animals in the wild. A few years ago, on one of my annual Easter trips to Grenada, I told my dad I wanted to take a trip up to Grand Etang to see the monkeys. These monkeys are wild. They roam free in the rain forrest unencumbered and are protected by local laws. There’s not guarantee that they will come out of the trees and see you but some give in to the lure of an easy dinner, an offering of some bananas. Looking back, I question if this was exploitation but the monkeys are wild and free to come and go as they please. I was probably more scared then the monkey that decided it wanted to sit on my head to eat the banana that I gave it.
I love all animals in the wild. I hope that future generations understand the importance of them getting to stay in their own natural habitats, with minimal to no interference from humans. So whilst I abhor animal cruelty I must speak up when I see people hunting and killing endangered animals for sport. Last years winter love island over on ITV saw a contestant named Ollie Williams outed for being a trophy hunter. If there’s anything I hate more its the hunting of animals for trophy. Ollie’s twitter bio states that he is a staunch conservative, I miss-classified him as a racist because of this, and with no proof I retracted that statement and apologised. But given that I now had his attention, I felt it was important to address his status as a trophy hunter despite papers like The Sun printing article where Ollie claimed not to be. The Mirror also published an article on this entitled ‘Love Island’s Ollie Williams denies trophy hunting in defiant statement’. However, pictures don’t lie, and Ollie deleting the evidence of his trophy hunting actions from his instagram did not make them disappear all together. Once on the internet always on the internet.
My Twitter argument with Ollie saw him attempt to threaten me with the notion that I will get my ‘fingers burnt’, and I would like to take this opportunity to remind him that he courted fame when he went on a national television show.
My argument with Ollie fast saw him changing his tune to state that hunting is important to ‘the survival of many African species’. It made me wonder what did Africa do before Ollie was born and embarked onto the continent as a white saviour.
I would have been more inclined to believe Ollie’s sentiment that by killing and posing with the bodies of animals he was acting on the greater good had he not been exposed by the metro newspaper in March 2020 in the article, ‘Love Islands Ollie Williams shoots venison after denying Trophy hunting claims‘. In an instagram post captioned ‘Hunting wild venison: my kind of stockpiling’ Ollie can be seen hunting Deer. In todays climate, you do not need to hunt for food, with the exception of indigenous tribes who live off the land, it is not necessary. The Guardian newspaper reported that ‘UK householders throw away 34,000 tonnes of beef every year’ in their article, UK households wasting 34,000 tonnes of beef each year. That article is now 4 years old and I imagine we waste even more food per annum now than we did then.
I will always actively confront those that I see practising animal cruelty. Hunting of animals is not needed today and those that do it, do it for sport alone. Activities such as clay pigeon shooting can be done instead to tackle those desires. To conclude, whilst I may not have started out as a person concerned with the right of animals, know that I care. I will not sit by blind to the practices of animal cruelty. If you ever thought that I would then you should know this: Today I’m one of THOSE Vegans!
There is nothing new under the sun, is an idiom I heard often growing up, and something I still agree with to a certain extent. Life is cyclical. It can be used to describe cycles within all areas of life, in nature and fashion amongst others. And in this case it also applies to the treatment of Black men at the hands of the police.
On 17th July, 2014, Eric Garner died in New York after being put into a chokehold while being arrested by Daniel Pantaleo. He was murdered. What happened to his killers? Nothing. Eric Garner lost his life and we saw no indictments. In fact his killer remained a cop and was only fired and stripped of his pension benefits in August 2019. Five whole years after Erics death but no justice.
However, there is nothing new under the sun. So lets fast forward nearly six years.
On 25th May 2020, George Floyd died in Minnesota after Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck, subsequently killing him whilst arresting him with three other police officers. He was murdered. His killers were caught in action on film, from multiple view points. Yet despite this, the initial decision was to simply fire all four police officers and no arrests were made.
‘I cant breathe’ were some of the final words issued by both Eric and George. Both of these instances triggered mass outrage, anger and despair amongst both the black community and throughout the world. Both of these events triggered Black Lives Matter protests.
I have seen many people ask what is different now? What has changed? We are no less outraged today than we have been in the past, witnessing the murders of our people at the hands of the police. We are no less angry, nor is the despair we feel any less then before. So let me connect the dots for you.
On the 1st December 2019, the world witnessed the first outbreak of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) with the index case being recorded as coming from Wuhan in the Hubei province, China. COVID-19 is thought to be primarily spread from person to person during close contact ‘most often via small droplets produced by coughing, sneezing and talking’. According to WHO, some of the common symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, and loss of sense of smell. With complications such as pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on the 11th March 2020 by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
As this virus swept across nations, crossed borders and navigated seas, suddenly the world found out that WE CAN’T BREATHE. COVID-19 didn’t care if you were White or if you were Black. It didn’t care if you were Chinese or if you were Italian, it didn’t care if you were American or if you were English. It didn’t care if you had just been born or if you were celebrating your 90th trip around the sun. We got to see that unlike humans, the virus did not discriminate. And while this was happening, we were losing black people in equally high numbers due to racism.
But there is nothing new under the sun. The world has witnessed two black daughters publicly lose their black fathers due to racism.
On the 4th April, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr , an African American, clergyman, civil rights leader and FATHER was assassinated. He was survived by his four children Yolanda, Martin, Dexter and Bernice. On the 25th May, 2020, when police murdered George Floyd, they too made his daughter, Gianna Floyd, FATHERless. In both instances the world was watching, and even as we see the footage with our own eyes, we are still expected to believe all the cover-ups and lies. 20 years from now when the children of all the black people killed as a direct result of racism are all grown up, society will play ignorant and pretend not to understand why issues still exist. They will cry victim, all while knowing that in standing aside, they are continuing this vicious cycle of racism and oppression. Just know we have seen you plant the seeds, and we know you have generously watered them too.
On 28th May 2020, I saw a picture going viral on the internet and across social media apps. It features Don Lemon and the headline “TWO DEADLY VIRUSES ARE KILLING AMERICANS COVID-19 AND RACISM”. So when you consider whats changed, well not much has. We have had pandemics before and we have had racism before. There is nothing new under the sun, after all. But you should also have considered that you couldn’t keep murdering and killing black people as we were being attacked on all fronts. Eric Garner couldn’t breathe, George Floyd couldn’t breathe, I CAN’T BREATHE but thanks to COVID-19 now neither can you!
One of the most positive things to come out of the tragic murder of George Floyd is the mobilisation and unification of black people internationally across the world. It is encouraging to see others join us as we stand, march, kneel and lie down in peaceful protest against racism and the mistreatment of black people everywhere.
Only good can come from people speaking up, speaking out and effecting change so that we can break the cycle and see a different world for future generations. I too have been using my gift and voice in an attempt to assist with this. But there is a darker side to everything that is happening.
Firstly, I would like to touch upon the frequent volleying of the phrase “All lives matter’, whenever anyone says ‘Black Lives Matter. To be frank, it is equal measures of ignorance and arrogance that has people spouting that phrase. They know full well that there is no correlation between the two phrases because that would require you to say that we are all equal. In reality, given the choice to spend just one day of your life having to live how a black person lives, you wouldn’t take it. This is not a competition, this is our lives. We do not get the choice in not spending a second of any day being black. I am black, black before I am anything else. It is the first thing that someone notices upon meeting me. So please, kindly shut up, if when you hear someone say Black Lives Matter, your tongue itches for you to say All lives matter. DON’T.
Secondly, this is not a fad or a phase for us. When a couple years have passed and this is no longer a little pet project for you; It is still going to be the reality for us. This is neither a nightmare or dream that any black person on earth can wake up from. Do not trivialise how any black person feels about any of this. We do not need you speaking over us, ridiculing, sidelining or excusing away anything that we have experienced as a direct result of racism.
Thirdly, do not use our agenda for your own gain. Hijacking a cause which is trying to prevent the future murders of a historically oppressed and disproportionately prosecuted group of people is extremely repugnant. I am seeing industries, corporations and people who are known to have been anti black, anti black lives matter or covertly/overtly racist in the past try to ride the PR wave of what is happening. We are not blind. We see you and we also see what you are trying to do. So to the NFL that blacklisted and actively pushed Colin Kaepernick from the league for merely taking a knee in peaceful protest we do swallow your lies anymore then you do. You fool no one when you say you are ‘committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs, and partners’. I would in fact go one step further, and call for the immediate resignation of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. If we were talking loss of funds and not active systemic racism, the board and shareholders would have already made you step down. Poor management should have the same consequence. And to Ryan Michaels, the paper that your apology is written on isn’t even worth using to wipe my arse. Please read the room and take a seat. We do not need your disingenuous platitudes and excuses as to why you treated ‘Kaep’ the way that you did. Familiarity with his name does not make you more endearing to us, in fact it disgusts me further that you could treat someone like you did. Especially when you know them well enough to give and use a nickname like that. You are tone-deaf! I should say tone death, as your claim that you were defending those that died for the flag is bullshit. Black people died for your flag, your country was built on the backs of slavery, and oppression.This country that you claim to be so proud of isn’t even yours and its always seemed very cheeky for me to hear white Americans label everyone else when they themselves are the intruders in this story. So as I call for the NFL to assist in permanently shutting you up by removing your platform I say this. You have the blood of #GeorgeFloyd and countless others on your hands. If not for YOU and others like you we may have seen changes and a movement into the right direction. You are part of the PROBLEM and consciously chose to be so! You want to apologise now? It is up to ‘Kaep’ as you affectionately call him whether he accepts this poor excuse of an apology, but for me? I say 4 years too late!
Do not think they are the only brand that has tried to pull the PR stunt. L’Oreal, talk to us because something is not quite adding up. You might have the memory of Dory from Finding Nemo, but I can tell you now that we don’t. For you to post onto your socials that ‘Speaking out is worth it’ when you are the very same company that fired trans-model Munroe Bergdorf as a direct consequence to her speaking out about racism, is audacious to the nth degree. So to all the brands trying to spin PR out of this, we see you. YOU fool no one but yourselves, and when I get a bit more time I am coming to call out each and every one of you.
Fourthly, you may have noticed my posting yesterday where I asked black people now speaking up about racist treatment that they had in the workforce what is different for them now. I didn’t get a response from anyone, and to be honest I wasn’t expecting to. I think that it is fantastic that people are speaking up now, that they feel comfortable enough to speak up now. However, I would like to know if anything has changed for them now. For me, I have always been quite vocal on things that displease me. Suffering with both social anxiety/ general anxiety and panic attacks, I am the first to admit that speaking up and speaking out is not easy. Despite that, the experiences of my youth and childhood have left me unable to accept being a victim or allowing someone else to treat me as such. If one thing doesn’t change, nothing will. Speaking out was never a bed of roses for me, it was never without repercussions. Every action has a reaction, mine non withstanding. So as I commend each and everyone of you who has bravely chosen to speak out now, I also query what you did. We are seeing you list how you were treated and I want to know what, if any action you took after.
Lastly, I would like to touch upon a group of issues that fall within this.
To the people that look to black people for entertainment, we are not your entertainment. If we choose to enter those fields that is our choice, do not look to us during this time to put a smile on your face.
To the people that are using some of the confusion right now to cause chaos. Stop it. I am happy to see so many of you get the recognition you deserve as social media and the internet leads to consequences and the law catching up with you.
To the propagators behind the racist hashtag #WhiteOutWednesday, we choose not to see you and I will acknowledge you no further.
To those that have reached out to me asking for my take on this, or wanting me to check their work or help them write something. I have no answers and can only tell my point of view. I will end by saying that some people should be interviewed to tell their stories and others should tell them themselves. So as I watch this unfold with the rest if the world, know that we see it all and we wait for the real slim shady’s to stand up!