By Victoria Oguntope
I sit here watching, listening and learning as events unfold across the US. As a black woman living in 21st Century Britain, I feel pressured, angered and compelled to deploy my voice and make a stance on the ongoing global systematic, political and social economical racism we black/brown people encounter/experience on a daily basis not only in America but also here in the UK.
To be clear, these accounts are from personal experience and that which has been told to me and witnessed.
Racism has been part of our fabric from the beginning of time and has taken different forms in our society through the evolution of time none of which has been positively received by the masses. Albeit, the US allowed a black president to occupy the Oval Office and observe a handful of black/brown Supreme Court justices appointed since its establishment in 1789.
However, the US perpetuate false progress – it observed some aphorisms in relation to education, jobs and economic growth, thus there’s a disproportionate amount of wealth, education and social economic growth. Colourism plays a major part in how the country is governed – the tragic killing of George Floyd by the hands of Minneapolis law enforcement officers, is a result of the ongoing unrest in multiple states across the US – the revolution illustrates disproportionality of the black/brown American citizens, how the black/brown communities are at a disadvantage incomparason to their white counterparts when it comes to education, businesses, housing and police brutality, often subjected to daily scrutiny, targeting and demonisation for no other reason than the colour of their skin.
Observing from the UK, there has been some support from the general public. But I find that there is limited support from the mainstream UK media – perhaps because it suits them that way or it absolves them of any wromg doing – to acknowledge it means you have to accept that there’s in fact a systematic and global problem of ongoing racism.
As well as the US, the UK is riddled in systemic, political, social economic racism. Dare I say it! It is time as a nation that we take accountability and encourage conversation surrounding race relations and accept/address the issue.
Since the unfolding of the tragic murder of Mr. Floyd, there has been outpouring of support globally. Over the years, the conversation surrounding race relations, racism and oppression directed at people of colour has been an inconvenient truth to engage in.
While at school, the educators and the syllabus made an attempt to address black history – but it often left me with questions or confusion, furthermore it does not help when an educator points you out in a classroom while studying apartheid in South Africa, to exclaim the notion ‘You should know all about this’ – shock horror!
I stumbled upon a recent social media post that read: “I am from the UK where everyone loves everyone and it is inclusive so it was a massive shock to my system when I visited Seattle Oregon area three years ago and saw how white supremacists are all around. It’s shocking and scary”. The above statement cannot be further from the truth. The author clearly lives in a different world to me – or like many of her peers, chooses to ignore the struggles we people of colour face on a daily basis in the UK. I suspect her privilege plays a part here – I live in a borough where the local government has done very little for my community nor does it see the significance in celebrating black history month but will embrace other celebratory occasions, suggesting that one community is more important than another – that’s the community I live in.
For many years I have experienced racism in various forms including in my professional career and personal engagements, here are some examples, one glorious morning on my way to the train station, a rather personable white woman stopped me dead in my tracks to exclaim the fact that I am black and proceeded to chant the N-word whilst following behind me; or whilst on a run a car full of young men slowing down, lobbing an apple directly at my chest and shouting the N-word; or when my white female friends feel comfortable enough to tell you that their father said they’d be ‘written out of their family will or disowned’ if they’d ever date a black boy; or when you have walked into an interview room and see the disappointment in the interviewing panels faces. This is not including the daily indignation suffered from the senior members of our society, which also form the local government by which I am governed.
To reiterate, I am NOT a victim nor do I require unsolicited sympathy, what I do ask of you is to hold yourselves, your friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances accountable.
I identify many white counterparts using the slogan “all lives matter.”
Ask yourselves this, If all lives matter, why are we people of colour subject to more scrutiny and discrimination, why is there a higher death rate in childbirth for women of colour, why are we not sought-after for prominent positions, why are we the last group to be considered for anything, why are we more likely to be stopped by law enforcement, why the unjust treatment of the windrush generation, why do we have cultural appropriation, why do we have to teach our children from a young age what it means to be from a black/brown background because at the moment, in this current climate we DO NOT have the same privileges as our white counterparts?
We live in a country that knows too well how to attain its wealth through years of colonisation, torture, indignation and slavery. In this moment, right, now, we are asking for hundreds of years of oppression and discrimination to stop. Recently a couple of people asked me what can they do to help to fix the problem; the problem originated with white people, the burden lies with the white community to address – to assume responsibility, to hold yourself accountable, for many years we have assumed the racism, demonisation, discrimination and injustices for over 400 hundred years; now is your turn to take accountability and help to stop ALL forms of racism and discrimination
towards people of colour. One thing is certain, we are no longer going to sit back and take it.
We are stronger, educated and there is power in numbers. As allies, we ask you to demand equality on our behalf, it is now your turn to take responsibility and take accountability for the injustices we face as a society.