June 6, 2020

Word of the Month: Voice

Word of the Month: Voice

Since George Floyd’s murder last Monday, it felt wrong for me to continue sharing my articles.  

Last week, I was prepared to post my thoughts on Choice, which was going to be my new “Word of the Month”, but it felt entirely inappropriate. Given the current times, to ignore the blatancy of ongoing racial injustice would only serve as yet another act of ignorance.

I’ve been feeling conflicted about writing this. For someone who’s always advocated for equality, I’m pretty ashamed of myself.

I’m ashamed that it took the death of yet another black person at the hands of the police for me to actively try to help make a change in our government to improve the inadequate social justice system of today. I’m ashamed that I’ve been so blind to my own privilege and the systemic racism that has surrounded me at school, in the media and in my daily life. And I’m ashamed that I’ve noticed I’m discussing these thoughts and feelings with my predominantly white friends.

To help solve a problem, I usually try and put myself in a person’s shoes. But the issue is I can’t. I’ve spent my life in ignorance. I’ve grown up with Disney films that appropriate cultures, books that brand places outside of Europe and the US as “exotic” and “oriental”, and news stories that primarily focus 76% of their content on what’s happening in the West. I have never known the struggle of being racially profiled, I’ve never possessed such a historically invisible narrative, and I’ve never felt the injustice of feeling unsafe around those who have been trained to protect us. This is not my story to tell.

For everyone saying that the problem solely exists in the US, do the research to back up your statement. Black people make up 3% of the population in England and Wales. And yet currently, they constitute 12% of the population in prisons. They’re nine times more likely to be stop and searched than white people. And in the UK, the last time a police officer was actually prosecuted for the death of a black person in their custody was in 1969.

So, who’s answered to the murders of Rashan Charles, Jimmy Mubenga, Edson Da Costa, Sheku Bayoh, Sarah Reed, and so many more in the UK? Their stories were taken away from them, and their voices were silenced.  

I admit, I was sceptical about sharing on social media. It just doesn’t feel right to lecture people on race when you’re part of the problem, or post articles from black activists that I’ve only just recently begun to follow these past two weeks. I didn’t want it to look like I was jumping on the new social media craze, and I was upset at myself for thinking this in the first place.

I’ve been really wrong. It’s not about giving yourself a pat on the back whenever you post something new, or a way to liberate yourself from your guilt. It’s about spreading the message, keeping the conversation going and just educating ourselves to be better.  

No-one likes to admit that they’ve been racist. But if you’re allowing racist micro-aggressions to happen, remaining silent when you know something is wrong, ignoring your privilege, or trivialising what’s happening right now and labelling it as “a bit over-the-top”, you need to re-evaluate yourself and listen to the voices around you.