Silence is not neutrality

Silence is not neutrality. Silence is acquiescence.
That’s a basic piece of anti-racism learning isn’t it.

I’ve felt sad and overwhelmed this week, as protests spread throughout the USA over the most recent killings of black people by police, and then watching the police repression of those protests through brutal, aggressive behaviour, using military grade equipment.
I want to switch off the phone, put it down, make it stop – and the fact that I can press a button and do that, walk away and choose whether or not to care about this: that’s white privilege. One of many benefits to life in a system that is shaped to support people of my own ethnicity.

If you’re part of my majority white following who is wondering why I feel the need to post this, who wishes that social justice issues wouldn’t intrude into a nice walking page where I post pictures of mountains and stories of kindness from strangers, you need to realise that you are confusing neutral space with white space.

Just because you don’t see colour here doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. As I approach checkpoints with no hint of trepidation, as I show my passport for easy access across borders, as I smile and wave at strangers, as I am welcomed, as I receive kindnesses, as people click my posts on social media, as people give money towards my journey; in all these instances my ethnicity, my whiteness, supports a positive experience rather than endangers it.

I am free to waltz forth into the world with all the misguided ego of my forefathers – “adventuring” “exploring” “discovering” “aiding” “developing” “civilising” “conquering” “colonising” “subjugating”.

Racism and inequality will not even begin to end until white people are able to truly realise and sit with discomfort and guilt over the actions of hundreds of years of systematic racist abuse and discrimination, and accept that continued injustices form part of a current system which prioritises whiteness – of which police brutality against Black Americans is just the most obvious manifestation.

In the city of London, police tasers are used on black people four times as often as on whites.
Black children are more likely to be excluded from school.
CVs from people with non-White names are more likely to be rejected before interview.
BAME people in the UK are dying disproportionately from coronavirus.
Thousands of micro aggressions are the below water mass of the racist iceberg, a constant reminder that whiteness is default and anything else is “other”.
“Where are you from? No, where are you really from? Originally.”

When slavery ended, apologies were made and financial compensation was paid – to the slaveowners. Not a single colonising country or government have ever paid reparations to black people, they were simply cut adrift in a system which was designed to harm them.

Why do we feel OK to seek therapy after ten years of a bad marriage or talk about the twenty years of damage from an abusive childhood but turn away from the idea of multi-generational black trauma. Hundreds of years of oppression, discrimination and abuse, and every step away from emancipation towards equality has had to be fought for by the oppressed people themselves, while “neutral” white people looked the other way, told ourselves it’s not our problem, sat comfortable in the profits of the same system.

There is no such thing as neutral space and there is no such thing as neutral behaviour.
We cannot just put up a black square and call it helping, tick the activism box and move on.
This isn’t about suddenly realising that we might have contributed to a racist system this whole time, it’s also about seeing the machinations of how we have been conditioned to ignore it.
Remember, as times appear to be changing, in this explosion of white awareness, it’s a privilege to educate yourself about racism instead of experiencing it.

“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward”
Ijeoma Oluo

Read, learn, listen.
Donate where you can.
Call racism out when you see it, and be humble as you begin to realise how much you have never seen.

My own re-education continues.

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