Being black is a job. It is a chore amongst the daily struggles of life. Imagine having to work twice as hard in school. Imagine having to justify why you look the way you do to a bunch of ignorant school kids, or why you choose to wear your hair a certain way. Imagine having to work twice as hard just to feel accepted in a peer group. Imagine having to work twice as hard to get into university. Imagine having to work twice as hard to get that job you deserve. Imagine having to justify why you deserve to be treated as equally as your white counterparts every single day.
The despicable death of George Floyd has caused outrage across the world. It is shocking. It is unjustified. It is sickening. And unfortunately, has been happening for far too long.
Racism is more than just being called a derogatory name. It is more than being called a nigga. It is more than the acts of discrimination, violence and violation that black men, and women are so wrongly and unjustly faced with that you see on the news only every now and then. Racism is far more deep rooted. It is far more than what the naked eye routinely sees or chooses to see. It is fundamentally systemic. It is a problem. It is ignorance.
It is the kid at school asking your Mum at the school gate if you are a paki
It is being told you can’t play the role of Cinderella as a 7 year old child in the school play because you are not white
It is being asked if you are going to paint your face white in order to play that role
It is being asked if your hair is real
It is being asked where your hair is underneath your braids
It is being asked where your hair is underneath your weave
It is the girl, or guy asking if they can touch your hair
It is the girl, or guy going ahead and touching your hair anyway
It is over hearing the kid behind you at school say that your hair looks like snakes coming out of your head
It is being told that you’re really pretty for a black girl
It is being expected to take being called really pretty for a black girl as a compliment
It is being called a coconut
It is being called black on the outside, white on the inside
It is being told that you don’t sound black
It is being surprised that you speak so ‘well’
It is walking past a group of boys at university and hearing one explicitly say to another that she only dates white guys
It is taking a temporary running job at a well-known broadcaster and watching one of the producers write a list of runners on a sheet, and next to your name in brackets write ‘black’
It is being hurled racial slurs as you walk down the street
It is reporting racial abuse to the police, and having nothing done about it
It is your colleague at work watching you take your Ghanaian food out of the microwave, look at it in horror and ask ‘what is that’
It is being called the girl with attitude because you are quiet
It is being called rude because you are shy
It is being told to calm down when you are trying to speak up and have a voice
It is being told to stop getting angry and aggressive when you are trying to express yourself
It is being asked where you are from, and if the answer doesn’t match the stereotypical connotation, it is being probed and asked again, no – where are you actually from?
It is being told that you look like every black female singer known to man
It is being told that you and the one other black guy at school would make a good couple
It is over hearing a conversation behind you between two of your male colleagues in the pub after work, with one of them saying ‘do you think she’s hot?’ and the other saying ‘no, are you joking’
It is being told that you are not a true African
It is being told that you are not English
It is being told you don’t know anything about your culture
It is being told you’re not like most black girls
It is being told by your friend at school that her mum was surprised you didn’t like melons
It is being told ‘I just assumed you wanted extra hot’ when your colleague orders your meal at nandos
It is being moved to the bottom tier class of maths at school when you were previously in the top tier
It is being the only person to be asked to drop their Drama GCSE and swap it for another subject instead
It is playing cards with your school friend and their little brother and him inviting you to take a look at the cards, and then saying he doesn’t want any ‘black persons’ looking at his cards, in your own house
It is repeatedly being called chocolate face by the toddler sat in the trolly as a 16 year old working on checkouts, and the mum saying ‘sorry’
It is reading a status on facebook that one of your old classmates has written ranting about a black ticket officer at a station, calling them a black c***, and then when challenging them about the inappropriateness considering they are talking to an open audience, being told that they’re not talking about you, and that you’re ‘alright’
It is being asked by a shop assistant on holiday if you are from Jamaica
It is being told that black women are 5x more likely to die in child birth
It is people pronouncing your very simple surname incorrectly without hesitation
It is being told that your surname is unusual
It is inadvertently being segregated from friendship groups at school for being different
It is being targeted by insecure people at school for being different
It is inviting your friend from school to come over to your house for dinner and hearing the next day that they had told people that your mum had ‘cooked the chips in water’ (it was oil actually) and saying the dinner tasted horrible
It is standing in the dinner line at school waiting for your food when a potent smell starts to make a presence and the boys behind you are pointing at you insinuating that’s where it is coming from
It is being told to go back to your country
It is getting on a train and immediately being stared at by a couple, being laughed at and then being filmed with a phone
It is being stopped at Vancouver airport whilst waiting to collect your luggage, taken to a security room and having your things searched because you have ‘travelled a lot’
It is struggling to find a job
It is crying yourself to sleep at night because you believe the negative connotations society has placed on you
It is being made to feel like you don’t belong, just for simply being you.
So, it is simply not enough to just not be racist. It is not enough to repost quotes on social media condemning racial behaviour, and although this does come with the best of intentions, there needs to be more. You need to be actively anti-racist. You need to actively want to stand up for the rights of black people. You need to be confidently able to speak up about these rights when challenged. And if you feel uncomfortable about this then you need to ask yourself why, and get educated about this. There are many resources explicitly teaching the daily struggles of black people. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask about these resources.
You need to understand what it is to be black. You need to understand what it feels to be black. You need to understand what black people go through everyday, not just when it is filmed and shown on TV. You need to unite and stand in solidarity with your black counterparts. And this needs to happen daily, it cannot be a trend that goes away after a couple of months. It needs to continue. Because if you are tired of hearing about it, imagine how tired we are experiencing it.
Being black is a job, but it is one I take the most pride in.
Some useful resources: