I wasn’t going to write this til I realised silence was worse
I am not a celebrity or a pundit (thank GOODNESS), or someone who thinks their “hot take” on every topic needs to be shared on all platforms. I’m on a complicated journey towards healthier internet and social media use; I go through phases of tweeting loads and really enjoying it and then hating everything and wanting to hide.
I’m planning to delete my personal Facebook profile in coming weeks, prompted by how weirded out I felt last Monday when so many people I didn’t know wished me “happy birthday, friend” (not YOU (if you did), I’m talking about people I genuinely don’t know. Facebook is weird). I want to have better relationships with the very small group of friends I would share secrets with over coffee, and also with the larger group of friends slash fans of my music who I communicate with through The Correspondent’s Club, my mailing list and social media. Hello, you.
I want to keep trying to be a better person. I’m very thoughtful. I read a lot – and widely – and try to learn about the world without getting sucked into the relentless 24 hour news cycle (because I don’t feel like that’s the best way to be properly informed). I meditate. I reflect. I think deeply. I ponder. I write my Morning Pages every day.
Tim and I talk all the time about what we’ve read and how we feel about it, how we can be better and do better. We nudge each other to explore new things. I care about people so much, and I see it as part of my life’s work to encourage self expression and creativity from those I am fortunate to be in contact with. I’m interested in your stories, as well as in sharing my own.
I don’t think I’m better, more important or more interesting than you.
While I believe strongly in the power of individuals, and in empowering people to feel like they can make change, I often prefer to stay quiet on big issues if I don’t think my opinion adds any value to the discourse. I tend to have my “hot takes” in private.
I spend my time making things and sharing them – that’s just what I do (and every time I feel guilty for that being the thing I do I try to remind myself I’m just going to work, and I’m allowed to go to work).
I don’t want to spend all day online telling you what I think, or what YOU should think, but I do try to share useful things that might help you on your unique journey.
I’d like to share three things with you today that I have found useful.
1) “The Good Immigrant” – 21 writers explore what it means to be black, Asian & minority ethnic in Britain today
I used to be someone who thought that by not being racist, and by being someone who would speak up if I saw or heard someone else being racist, I was doing enough. When I woke up a few years ago and realised that wasn’t true, I started reading, and I started with “The Good Immigrant”.
Actor Obioma Ugoala wrote a great Twitter thread which I shared last week: “SO YOU DON’T LIKE RACISM, BUT YOU’RE IN THE UK AND FEEL POWERLESS TO DO ANYTHING?”
I’ve been reading a lot of threads like this because I want to do something more useful than simply not being a racist. Obioma’s statement “education is key” is echoed across them all, alongside the very reasonable suggestion that white people need to do the work to acknowledge, understand and usefully empathise with these systemic issues.
How do we do the work? We read. We listen. We expose ourselves to ideas that make us uncomfortable or that we find challenging, rather than shutting them down and deciding it’s nothing to do with us.
It’s everything to do with all of us.
Obiomi tweeted yesterday:
“Whatever you can do, in whatever sphere you are in, please do
But through all of this, and this is essential,
-Listen to black voices
-Try not to centre conversations about you
-Do not expect black people to educate you for free
Thank you for reading
Welcome to the struggle”
In terms of educating myself, “The Good Immigrant” was a really helpful starting point for me. Before I read it I believed I empathised enough, but I really didn’t.
2) If you’ve ever asked the question “what is white privilege?”, this video by Kyla Jenee Lacey might help, and is a beautiful piece of work:
If you think you’re a good person (and don’t we all?) it’s hard to be told that you’re not being good enough. If you feel like you’ve struggled in life, it’s hard to be told you’re actually lucky. I feel that. But I keep trying to learn.
If you have to ask the question “what is white privilege?”, you are probably benefitting from it.
Being challenged is hard and often upsetting, but it’s a very small discomfort compared to the daily fear and anguish this causes others. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to start watching, reading and listening to things that can educate you on the subject – and if you have, we can all do more.
Please share any books, articles or videos you’ve found useful in the comments!
3) Finally, British musician Ghostpoet tweeted this clip yesterday which swiftly ended my week of assuming that the world didn’t need my input on this matter. While I do prefer to stay quiet, listen and learn and make space for other, more knowledgeable voices, I realise my silence isn’t helping – in fact, it’s just another sign of the privilege I enjoy. I get to choose what to be angry about.
Here are the key points which stood out for me:
“White people cannot just say, any more “I’m not racist” and think that that’s enough…this is our problem to solve.”
“How can the black community dismantle a problem that they didn’t create?”
“We shouldn’t just be trying to understand the rage. We should feel the rage.”
Watch all the way through to witness an extraordinary performance by British rapper Dave that left me in tears.
I feel the rage. Do you?
Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash
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Have a lovely day xoLetterbox Mindfulness
When I was in junior school my best mate was a black kid called Steven George in any off my person centred jobs my best bud was a black guy like Leonard the Rasta guy I teamed up with in my rough sleeper role. I think being outsiders was our point of connection. It’s been a long time since I held a normal job so where are the black people in my life these days? In the support groups I run and in my record collection. Do I have any black Facebook friends? Not a one. So this begs the question; as a white middle aged middle class home owner have I filtered out my opportunity to make friends black people and am I part of the problem? Frank Zappa said in his song Trouble Every Day about the Watts race riots “I’m not black but there’s a whole lots of times I wish I could say I’m not white” All well and good but I am white and I know I’m privileged simply because no one ever makes me feel white in fact I don’t know how to even describe my whiteness. Troubled every day not me. Angry, confused and conflicted yes I am.
Thank you for this Laura. I’ve been feeling the same, glad you’re writing about it we all have to acknowledge and do better x
Thanks for reading, Mish! I hope you’re all staying well x
You’re a good person, Laura. You care a lot about people and you go out of your way to be kind to those you meet.
I try my best! Warm wishes, Teffy x
When it came out, I read “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and found it powerful.
Recently watched the documentary “13th” by Ava Duvernay focuses on the mass incarceration happening in the US.
I’m doing what I can to listen and learn.
Thanks John, will add those to my list! Take care x