Black Lives Matter: what is your outrage worth?
Photo: Mike Von via Unsplash
We went to the same schools, ate the same food and wore matching uniforms, but as a black woman in England, I grew up in a different country from you. My mother may not have sat me down to have the heart-wrenching ‘talk’ you might have seen floating around online in the past few days, but she did give me various versions of it throughout my upbringing. She gave it to me when I went to Poland in Year 11 on a school trip (I was denied entry into a club and my host family accompanied me everywhere in case I was attacked). She also gave it to me when I went to my GP as a 21-year-old with crippling lower abdominal pain, only to be given a psychiatrist's card because there was ‘nothing wrong with me’. I was later diagnosed with endometriosis by a private doctor and suffered a ruptured ovarian cyst.
If you are not black or a person of colour, our fear may seem incongruous to your experience of living in England. The fury permeating the consciousness of black UK citizens due to George Floyd’s murder will seem like it came out of the blue. It did not. For us, it is yet more evidence, in an already overflowing case file, of the way black lives are abruptly and gracelessly taken both here and in America. In the UK, that threat is insidious and institutionalised. Here, it is formed out of the building blocks of: fewer career opportunities; higher risk of maternal mortality; systematic undertreatment in our healthcare system evidenced by the higher death rates for black and minority ethnic citizens and healthcare workers alike in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, placed one after the other until the weight is crushing. To be black and alive in times like these is to forget, if one had ever known it, the feeling of unchecked freedom.
Photo: Obi Onyeador via Unsplash
So how does it end? 'It is not enough not to be racist, you must also be anti-racist.' I imagine you’ve seen this Angela Davis quote and might be wondering what it means to be anti-racist. It begins with acknowledging your white privilege – which is different to wealth, class or ability privilege – and using it for good. It begins with acknowledging that there is no middle ground. You are either actively against racism or you are complicit because we live in a system that is in many ways a monument to racist ideology. It begins with catching up on the work that others have been carrying out on racial inequality. Read their work and then share it with your friends and family.
You have to commit to rooting out racial prejudice, in yourself and others, every day and everywhere. Teach your children by example to engage with people of other races and to stand up for them when they are attacked. Then teach them again. Education matters, so petition your local MPs and the government about changing syllabuses to include colonialism and the deeply entrenched reaches of its tentacles. The outcome of your outrage at the treatment of George Floyd has to be more than a hashtag and a black box. Outrage only helps if it is followed by action. What is your outrage worth?
Chinasa Chukwu (@chinasa) is the creative director of lifestyle brand @weruzo and @postscript.london, a cultural anthology exploring critical thought from contemporary women.
Photo: Clay Banks via Unsplash
Education through culture: Chinasa's list of what to read, watch and study
Read this: White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo
Written by a white woman and anti-racist sociologist, this is a great start to unpacking ‘pillars of whiteness’ and opens the reader up to an often-inadvertent complicity that props up a racist society and ultimately to learning more about how to have the uncomfortable conversations.
- Why I’m no Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo Lodge
- Natives: Race and Class in The Ruins of Empire, Akala
- Don’t Touch My Hair, Emma Dabiri
- Black and British: A Forgotten History, David Olusoga
- Ain’t No Black in The Union Jack, Paul Gilroy
- Brit(ish), Afua Hirsch
- How to be an Anti-Racist, Ibram X Kendi
- So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo
- Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde
- Safe: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space, Derek Owusu
- Me and White Supremacy, Layla F Saad
- I know why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
- I Am Not Your Baby Mother, Candice Brathwaite
- Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo
- How To Be Less Stupid About Race, Crystal M Fleming
- The Confessions of Frannie Langton, Sara Collins
- Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams
- Taking Up Space: The Black Girl’s Manifesto for Change, Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi
- Hood Feminism: Notes From The Women That The Movement Forgot, Mikki Kendall
- Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, Bell Hooks
Photo: Aaron Burden via Unsplash
Books for your children...
- Ezra Jack Keats’s books about Peter
- Saturday, written and illustrated by Oge Mora
- Hair Love, by Matthew A Cherry. Illustrated by Vashti Harrison.
- Each Kindness, by Jacqueline Woodson. Illustrated by EB Lewis.
- The Youngest Marcher, by Cynthia Levinson. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton.
- Resist: 35 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose Up Against Tyranny and Injustice, by Veronica Chambers. Illustrated by Paul Ryding.
- Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness, written and illustrated by Anastasia Higginbotham
- Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi
- Raising White Kids, by Jennifer Harvey
'Every white person and I do not care what they say, know that they would not like to be black here.' This confronting quote from James Baldwin encapsulates anti-racism advocate Jane Elliott’s experiment which forces the audience to examine what they know to be true and ignore for the sake of comfort and how they can do better.
- Jane Elliott Blue-Eyed/Brown-Eyed Experiment
- BFI Collection: Black Lives
- Will Britain Ever Have a Black Prime Minister?
- The Secret Windrush Files
- The Murder of Stephen Lawrence
- The Lawful Killing of Mark Duggan
- When They See Us
Photo: Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, No Need of Speech 2018
The artist to know about: Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
Shortlisted for the 2013 Turner Prize her paintings are particularly beautiful because they show black people simply existing. We are not our pain and Yiadom-Boakye’s fictional characters depict us in a world where we are allowed to exist outside its constructs.
Further artists to know...
- Elvira Dyangani Ose, director of The Showroom London
- Theaster Gates
- Toyin Ojih Odutola
- Ellen Gallagher
- Lola Flash
- Maxine Walker
- Frank Bowling
- Emma Amos
- Uzo Egonu
- Ifeoma Anjaeji
- Claudette Johnson
- Yinka Shonibare
- Anaïs - musician
- Faith Ringold
- Lubaina Himid
- Chris Ofili
- Sonia Boyce
- Deborah Roberts
- Liz Johnson Artur
- Donald Rodney
Warsan Shire. Photo: Yves Salmon
The poet to know: Warsan Shire, the first Young Poet Laureate for London
Shire has been quoted by everyone from Benedict Cumberbatch to Beyoncé. Through her haunting and poignant writing she elucidates the experiences of many first- and second-generation immigrants and the complexities of ‘home’.
Further poets to read...
- Bridget Minamore
- Yrsa Daley Ward
- Ijeoma Umebinyuo
- Caleb Femi
- Nayirrah Waheed
- Patience Agbabi
- Deanna Rodger
- Raymond Antrobus
- George The Poet
History to study: Natives: Race & Class in The Ruins of Empire, by Akala
At once personal, political and historical, Natives tackles the British ‘stiff upper lip’ and steadfast denial of the issues of race and class and the legacy of Britain's racialised empire.
Photo: Munshots via Unsplash
Organisations to support