Issues I have with your understanding of racism: sincerely, a tired black Lancaster student

How wrong you are about racism is a joke

Racism is not new. As time passes and extends the time gap between the past and the present, we cannot overlook racism as something of the past. We cannot deem racism to be over. I should emphasise that the current issues ongoing is not something new, but something that has been a reoccurring issue for those in the black community. Too often I find that many dismiss racism because it does not affect them. Many are comfortable in their willful ignorance, but enough is enough is enough. This cannot and will not be swept under the rug. We are tired, and you should be too.

Personally, and perhaps for many members of the black community within Lancaster, it is hard to discuss these issues within an environment of which the majority is made up of the white demographic. I have come into contact with ignorance, bigots, and ‘subtle’ racism (sometimes in the form of fetishization). I have been, on multiple occasions, looked at/treated differently not only by the non-black students around me, but also by those in authoritative roles, such as lecturers.

Taking the widespread outrage, I believe it is essential that as non-black POC and those in the white community to wake up to these issues; that your eyes should continue to be open.

I have been treated differently by lecturers and non-black students

Racism is not a fleeting issue. It happens in many different forms, both overt and covert. It is simply not enough to be silent, nor is it enough to proclaim that you are not ‘racist’, but you must be anti-racist. This means daily confrontation of any preconceived biases you may horde, initiating conversations with those around you and raising awareness to these racial issues, speaking up for the black community whose voices are still not being heard, taking action to question the systemic racism, and most importantly, educating yourselves.

With this being said, realise that not being black and not being a POC, you stand and move within society with a privilege that we will never experience due to the colour of our skin. It is your job to educate yourselves on the privilege that you have, educate yourselves on how you can become an ally. Especially those of you who claim to be friends with a black person yet remain inactive in battles of racism.

Here’s a slice of racist encounters experienced within University               

Whilst writing this, I am aware that there are many of you who will dismiss with ease any covert racist situations simply because no one is screaming the n-word. But to those who know all too well the concealing art of racism, it speaks volumes and not much is needed to say.

A black friend of mine in the university had explained one (of many) racist encounters in Lancaster: he had been on a packed bus that goes to the university and despite how packed it was, people would rather stand than sit beside a black male.

This draws from one of my own encounters within the library; I was sitting beside a group of my friends in the quiet area. We were approached by a university staff and blamed for the noise level on the floor. Normally, I would have dismissed it as perhaps our occasional whispers had been loud. However, seeing the same staff walk past two groups of white people who were standing, talking and occasionally screaming with laughter without so much as blinking an eye; from that I learnt that we, POC, do not need to speak because our skin is loud enough against the automatically mute white canvas of our peers.

Another friend of mine, black, recalled the time that she had gone to one of the lecturers for help on a topic. She was dismissed and told to learn it herself by looking through the slide. Moments later, her white peer had gone to the same lecturer for the same topic and was given a time to come by the office for a chat about it.

Btw, if you read these experiences and still dismiss it, let me tell you: you are part of the problem.

I will not be anyone’s ‘token black friend’

I, for one, will not be anyone’s ‘token black friend’; I, for one, will not accept those that remain silent yet still call me a friend. As a friend, and most importantly as another human being, everyone has a duty to come against racism and challenge the systemic racism that is prevalent in many institutions. Many that go to Lancaster University will claim that it is not racist or that there is no focus on race, but if you ask many POC, I am sure that the narrative will be completely different. Why is that?

Empathise with the black community, ask yourself how you can do better to dismantle a system that has worked against us for years and continues to do so. It will not disadvantage you. These protests that I am sure you are all aware of goes bigger than the inhumane murder of George Floyd or the injustice surrounding the death of Belly Mujinga, and many others; it is an outpour of the rage, unfairness and frustration that the black community has had for many years, knowing that no matter where we go, we are judged due to the colour of our skin, a weight that we can never shake off. This is an ongoing experience that has only just been brought into the spotlight. This is not a trend. Understand this.

Featured image via Tom Morbey.

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