Inflammatory title? Maybe. But let’s be honest, there’s no way to swerve the tasty stuff around this. And I don’t want to. If I’ve learnt anything during my recent *re-education period* it’s that umbrage – or worse – is omnipresent. So I’m going to tick all the following boxes, no doubt; racism (whilst trying to be anti-racist); ‘naivety’; provocative barsted-ness; appalling insensitivity. But hey – on.
I’m an oldish white bloke who rages against referees, umpires, privilege and discrimination – sometimes in that order. I’m a brilliant dumbo who reads stuff and occasionally thinks. I happen to be in what I’m gonna call an anti-racist phase, in terms of my literary nosebaggings, having just read “Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race” (Renni Eddo-Lodge) and “Me and White Supremacy”, (Layla F Saad). This has felt timely -timely and genuinely nourishing, in fact – as #BLM and just now Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent have crashed in to the (Brit) national consciousness.
I hope to avoid too many explainers about my own experience or route in, here. In fact, bugger it, because everything is about URGENCIES, I’m going to slap down some slogantastic imperatives before I qualify everything I’ve ever said, done, or meant. Read these and disappear if you’ve a mind to: I’ll elaborate and generally excuse my own, murderous complicity after.
- Us white folks need to shut up and listen. (Yup, I do get the irony).
- All of us are complicit, because White Supremacist thinking is everywhere.
- If you seriously think that All Lives Matter is a perfectly reasonable response to where we’re at, then you are so-o much and so obviously a part of this problem it’s not even funny.
- Think about power and race at the same time. Racism is about expressing power: there is therefore some merit in the argument that Black people cannot be racist, because they exert no power, generally, over whites. (This is one of many challenges us white people have to face: we have to do it humbly and with intelligence, not anger).
- Hang on. Did I just write Black but white? Yes I did. Have I thought this through? No, ‘course not. I am aware, however that anti-racists (and others) are capitalising the B and respect that. Whilst it feels odd and possibly illogical to leave the w tiddly, I’m leaving it that way, for now. Partly to reflect the need to differentiate the experiences of Black and white and partly to symbolise the need to prioritise attention on the reality of difference, on the fact of those monstrous inequalities that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is protesting.
- On #BLM specifically, if you don’t see that the shallow subversion of their central, indisputable messages by clowns and racists on the right and wet-wipes in the media is yet another campaign to maintain White Supremacy then shame on you. Black Lives Matter need to act and are right to act. They have every right to be angry. Take care around your ‘concerns’ about the rule of law, the role of the police and that tendency to wince at Black people raising their voices or their fists. Could be that there really is nothing more urgent than attending to equality. Could be that inaction is acting for an evil status quo.
- It’s not good – or not good enough – saying that we/you don’t see colour; that “we’re all equal”. Lazy and untrue. White people are the beneficiaries of shedloads of privilege. So whilst it’s of course theoretically important to signal that you wish to display no prejudice it’s cobblers to infer that there are no differences in power or value. Or that you don’t recognise them. We strive towards equality in power and value but we’re a million miles away. There is colour.
- Most white people – yup, even us Good Ones – are conditioned towards utter acceptance of the ‘fact’ that we are raceless, we are normal, we are the centre. That centre is hollow, is crass, is ethically repugnant in its smugness. Worse still, in many ways it is both actively and passively alive with prejudice.
- But are there meaningful degrees of racism? Am I, as an occasionally Guardian-reading mid-leftie-who-is-trying, still failing as badly as an outright racist? Who cares? Why is this about me? I should shut up and listen.
Purely coincidentally (well, maybe) I got two books a month or so back – bought for me, by the way. After years, possibly decades of being angry and mute and spleeny and silent and ill-informed over race, I’ve waded through… towards something.
I’m still going to make hideous faux pas(ses) and do my usual thing of getting in such a rage that I can’t articulately confront racism in my presence. I’m certainly going to say things that are so unbelievably stoopid… and worse, I’m going to say things that betray my subconscious ‘baggage’. That fear of black blokes with machetes; that memory of being so drunk I sang along with a racist song. That conversation with my grandpa where he called the Town winger a ‘darkie lad’, with what he hoped was affection, rather than malice.
I – and you, dear, sagacious reader, you good white folks – are going to be wrong when you hope to be right. So we need to take that on the chin and do better.
Here’s a weird one. I loved “Me and White Supremacy”. It’s such a fantastic, accomplished book. It’s also a deliberate, considered, eloquent, almighty challenge, in which you are invited to create a working journal, over a period of a month, as you earn your way through.
I loved it but inevitably I cheated. Possibly because I’m a fifty-something white bloke who doesn’t care enough: hopefully because I was just too excited to spread the thing out that long.
I did do a journal. Tried to answer the ‘Reflective Journal Prompts’ at the end of each chapter. Fuck that was hard, on times. If you take anything away from this mess of mine, let it be that YOU SHOULD READ THAT BOOK. All of it is different-level interesting, as an intellectual exercise – the chapter on White Feminism I found excoriatingly sharp (from my safe distance) – but the whole, confident, revelatory timbre of the thing is a standout achievement, for me.
Immediately prior to reading the Saad, I had read “Why I’m No Longer Talking…” the ‘book that sparked a national conversation’. I did an unwisely unrehearsed review of sorts, here –
(If you think this review is any good, or some of my other #YouTube Influencing 😉 is any good, or of any interest at all, please do subscribe… and comment).
I need to read this book again. Again because I found it Proper Stimulating. It’s maybe got a more confrontational feel to the Saad – maybe. (Not sure that’s either entirely true or a satisfactory description: in short, go see for yourself).
Eddo-Lodge shines a light, digs a rib or two – digs out some cruel history.
I fell into giving it a 7 or 8 out of 10, I think, because it feels less complete, less accomplished somehow than “Me and White Supremacy”. (If I was to be stupid enough to repeat that unholy process and reduce Saad’s book to a number, it would be a comfortable 9. I hope this isn’t because I found it a more comfortable read – I don’t think I did). Both these books make a profound contribution to the ‘debate’ – hah! – on racism.
So where am I now? I am in the place where I remind myself this is not about me. This is about gathering all of my/our white wits and forcing change. In ourselves. In policy. In the conversations we have. Probably, ideally, in or from the background. Learn about White Superiority, White Saviourism, Allyship – all that stuff. And be prepared to get called out, or in. Mainly, don’t go hiding from all this. It’s urgent.
Footnote: why did I write this? Was it because I’m a Cricket Bloke who was moved inordinately by the magnificent *outburst* from Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent, on Sky Cricket? We-ell yes and no.
Yes because I am and I was. No because my own, feeble intervention was on its way in any case. But the contribution of those two fabulous people (met them both briefly but been around them more, in cricket meedya circles) was certainly a catalyst. They are amongst the voices that needed to be heard.
Cricket – which I love heartily – is neck-deep in privilege and sometime quiet, sometimes noisy prejudice. Significantly, the ECB had just recently launched what appears to be a committed review and action plan in response to the surge of feeling around #BlackLivesMatter. That of course might have been ‘just words’ but post the Holding/Rainford-Brent/Hussain moment, the ante is well and truly upped. Inside (and please god outside of cricket) it’s plainly, obviously time.
Hearing ‘Ebbs’ and ‘Mikey’ choke up, whilst recounting their experiences was tough, was telling. It made me more determined yet, to be a better ally.