Warning: Couple of f-bombs ahead.
Author’s Note: I don’t like having to use terms of white/black etc to describe race, as we are all equal humans, however, until racism is a thing of the past, I believe labels are necessary in the battle against racism, as for now, labels help to identify and highlight the problems and struggles that each group face—eventually the hope is that by defining them, looking at solutions and fixing all these issues will be resolved.
I am white.
Some people would say I benefit from white privilege. I admit, I am privileged in many ways, though, I am not privileged enough to have been sheltered from the harrowing effects of racism.
I have suffered due to actions derived from racism against black people for many years. And I am aware that racism is rife, in all corners of every village, town and city in the world and that my story does not even begin to touch the reality of fully living with racism day-in and day-out.
As people read this piece, there will be many judging me and thinking that I deserved having vicious things said about me, that it is my fault that I have had many battles to endure, and others who will be justifying why they feel the way they feel about different races.
I understand this—it has a name. It is called racism.
My encounter with racism started when I was 17. I met a guy who was mixed race.
I lived in a predominantly white town, and our relationship was clearly not approved of, or going to be “accepted” by the majority of people—including most of my family and friends.
I could quote some of the things that were said to me, as the bitter tones of the words still resound in my ears as though they had just been spoken. However, I feel ashamed to type out some of the comments, not because I personally feel shame, but because I am ashamed that those surrounding me could speak with such hate.
Although I went through difficult times emotionally due to other people’s failure to accept who I chose to have a relationship with, there is something far worse than the suffering I endure myself, and that is watching someone close to me suffer.
I witnessed first hand the brutal way that this guy was shunned and ostracised by the majority of the people he came into contact with. I watched as he applied for job after job, only to receive the same rejection during the interview stage.
I noticed looks and saw the stares. I heard the whispers, and hoped our love could drown out the loud voices.
I listened to the stories of the countless unprovoked attacks, when he was at school, in the street, on nights out with friends and when one time a gang of around 15 men jumped on him and a friend of his. They were fortunate that they fought back and managed to stumble away with only broken bones.
I remember the flashing blue lights when time-after-time our small 650cc engine car, which in no way resembled a racing car, or could be viewed as suspicious (barely capable of breaking speed limits) was pulled over by police for “random checks.” After continuous questioning, nothing was ever found and we were free to go, however, the after effect of the treatment would linger.
I discovered that we were not welcomed at a variety of social events. We were not free to go wherever we pleased, and when we did we were not made to feel comfortable.
I saw the pain, the anger and the confusion that embedded his soul.
I discovered there was a circle of bitterness and resentment that did not start with his actions—they arose from the actions of others. He was rejected from society, harshly and wrongly judged and pushed far away, until he slowly became frustrated and disillusioned.
He was once a boy, with dreams for the future, no different to any other. But, as he grew into adulthood his eyes were forced open until he was fully exposed to the hatred that surrounded him.
Because of the colour of his skin…
Young, naïve and not prepared for what the future was to hold, with the weight of racism on our shoulders, we tried to build foundations for a family.
When our daughter was born, I vividly remember numerous people saying how it was fortunate that her skin was not too dark. I still struggle with this comment more than any other.
Racism eventually took its toll and we could not navigate the numerous obstacles that were placed in our way. We had choices, but to stay together, at the time, seemed like one that was not an option. We did not have the strength to keep battling.
If I thought that I was over the worst of racism, nothing could have prepared me for watching my child grow up in a white community, with her beautiful ringlet curls and her radiant olive skin.
She was different. And apparently, that is enough to warrant people thinking that it is okay to bully, attack and spit out venomous words to mark their disapproval.
I remember walking through town with my daughter and a few girls were standing nearby, when one shouted, “If you don’t come to school with your hair straight tomorrow, we’re going to break your legs.”
There had been various other incidents before this one, the school took no action, we eventually moved 200 miles away to a liberal area, my daughter excelled. However, the bullying she endured will never leave her, and it caused her to go through some extremely dark days. Although she is now 21, the words others used to try to belittle and shame, still cut through her like knives.
When I speak of my child’s father, I still notice the look of disapproval in people’s eyes, although two decades have passed. I feel as though with racism, nothing much at all has changed.
I have had people’s backs turned on me and I have come to recognise the look of disdain and judgement in a person’s eyes.
Although I have questioned others, I still do not understand.
As when I see a person, I don’t see their skin, I see their soul.
When someone speaks, I don’t listen to their accent, I am too busy hearing what it is they are saying.
When I look at someone’s face, I do not notice the colour of their eyes as I am too enchanted by what’s beneath them, and how they flicker slightly as they talk.
Racism, has seeped into every part of our society, into friendships and relationships, into the minds of work colleagues and the person that passes us by on the street.
Racism tries to convince people that it has valid points as the words are filled with anger, hatred, aggression and venom. To this day, I have never heard a valid argument to justify racism.
I believe racism is based on ignorance and fear. Fear of differences, ignorance and refusal to understand one another and accepting the other as we are.
When we take time to listen to one another, we see things from a new perspective, and often, our minds are opened and illusions begin to shatter.
Racism needs to be addressed, properly, as until then there will be a constant stream of unrest. Until we stand side-by-side and hear what the other has to say, whether we agree or not, we have no hope of living peacefully on this shared planet.
We are all different, regardless of skin colour. We need to stop being afraid of our differences, open our minds and hearts, learn about one another and we need to start practicing acceptance. This is not just a problem for black people and white people. It is a problem for all races, every race has judgements against it from other races and every race suffers. Hopefully, one day in the future, we can drop the labels altogether and exist side-by-side as humans, with no judgements and without any need to define.
I am a little wary about talking about racism. I know that it is a sensitive subject and I know that it is still taboo. I feel that as a white person, some may think that I am not in a position to talk about the problems that black people face. I want to shout out that racism is not okay, for any race, it cannot be tolerated and it should never even have been an issue many years ago and it is now long past time that things changed. We need to all stand together, unified, if racism stands any chance of being wiped out.
I recently wrote an article about nipples; it got one million views in a few weeks, with the hashtag FreeTheNipple. Wouldn’t it be quite amazing if the world could make a powerful movement for racism also, something that desperately needs a positive shift so that we can begin to accept one another and live in peace side by side.
Lately there has been a #FuckRacism hashtag circulating social media.
Addressing and eliminating racism won’t be easy; it won’t happen overnight. By opening dialogue and conversation and raising awareness, it is possible for our future generations.
Let’s stand tall, be brave and no longer be afraid of our differences. Let’s agree it’s about time to let society know there is no place in it for racism.
It’s time to #FuckRacism…
Author: Alex Myles
Editor: Travis May
Image: Flickr/bobbi vie