There is a lot of intense energy spreading across the globe right now. A lot of anger, confusion, heart ache and a great push for action to be taken and many are feeling at a loss as to where to begin, how to spark change…what can one person do?
I am white. I am married to a black man. My children are mixed. My family is very mixed and most of the people I hold dearest to me are POC. Not saying this gives me any right over others to feel more, but as a Mother, I will naturally have a strong urge to want to protect my children, my brown children. I fear for them, I am saddened for the reality of the world they live in. In Australia they are considered black, in Ghana they are considered white. I will never be able to truly relate to what they experience growing up as BIPOC (black, Indigenous and people of colour) in today’s society.
In Australia they feel misrepresented, different – they are too young to experience direct racism as yet, but they have been teased for their curly hair and dark skin. In Ghana, they are a minority again, but adored for their lighter skin and again treated differently, just in a different way.
I opened social media today and it triggered a deep feeling of frustration and annoyance in me. To see the black squares spreading across instagram. It felt shallow, purposeless and an opportunity for those to feel like they have taken some kind of stance through such a simple act. What difference will it make? Ultimately, the important messages are somehow being lost in an avalanche of hash tags and re-tweets. Ask, yourself, is following the latest social media trend the best action we can take to effect change?
I guess it triggered me, particularly because I am lost as to where to begin myself…I need to get off my ass and dive deep into a confronting world that I know is going to make me feel uneasy, its overwhelming… it feels like some people are taking the easy route and while not everybody is simply posting for the aesthetics of posting, without a doubt, some are…
My white family will say they are not racist, but they are in fact unconsciously racist. Growing up, one of the most commonly used sayings in my Grandparents household, while meant to be comedic, was – I’d ask my Grandfather “where is Nan?” to which he’d reply “She ran away with a black fella”…how ironic that myself in fact ended up running away with a “black fella” to live in Africa LOL OK so I digress but you get my point – old fashioned sayings, name calling, stereotyping – when I reflect on my childhood, I can see it’s been embedded throughout Australian culture and generally accepted as the Aussie way.
The latest events in the US have triggered a lot that I need to confront within myself. I myself am also guilty of judging a race based on the actions of a minority, having lived through the Cronulla riots, it definitely impacted my view on particular communities. I can’t just blame my upbringing but I can acknowledge it, then make a choice to consciously shift my perspective and ensure I don’t raise my kids to believe this is acceptable or just the Aussie way of life.
But is making sure I am not racist enough? I also have to admit that I never really truly understood the term “white privilege” before this week. I thought it was a term used in a context when say rich white folk use their status to purposely undermine BIPOC. I thought it was a term meant for racist white people and I did not deem myself to be in that category so therefore white privilege did not apply to me. I had never even heard of terms like “white fragility” or “white saviour” so I delved deeper and again, got uncomfortable with the realisation that again, I have been unconsciously unaware of my naivety and ignorance.
I realised that if I didn’t really get the context of white privilege then many of my other white friends might not either. So for those that do not really understand the true meaning of the term, like I didn’t, basically it’s like this – white people have white skin, therefore receive certain privileges, whether it is unconscious or not, it doesn’t matter, the fact is that in having white skin- certain privileges are received in today’s society, for example:
growing up in Australia, nobody ever questions us as to where are we from
we are far less likely to be judged based on appearance
we are well represented in all media – advertisements, books, toys, movies, news etc
we are not a minority so we are always surrounded by people who look like, think like and experience the world in the same way as us. In short, they can relate to us
products are designed with us in mind – its so hard to find simple hair products for my kids in Australia for example
overall, we are far less likely to experience racism of any kind. For example, we never have to think twice or consider the racial motive behind our negative interactions with other people. The colour of our skin hardly enters the equation
This is just to highlight some of the white privilege we experience. BIPOC people do not have these privileges. In fact, it is a privilege that I have to take the time to even learn and understand about racism since I have not myself experienced it.
So after processing all of that, I am now thinking so what can I actually do?
I think that if I was feeling so lost and conflicted then surely a lot of other people are too – so I am sitting here writing out my experience in hope it helps open the eyes of others too…hoping others will also start to question and challenge their own conditioning and programming.
Just because we may think we’re not racist, just because you have the belief “we are all same on the inside” its not enough – we can’t deny that white privilege exists and right now we benefit whether we are a racist ourselves or not. Society as we know it, has been built and designed to favour the majority in every sense. Aspects have been purposely designed as such; other parts have simply evolved over time and become simply a way of life.
Instead of taking time to jump on the latest hashtag, why not spend that time researching how you can educate your children (and yourself, if like me). Do the stereotypes and conditioning not begin when we are children? It has to be progress in the right direction for the future generations. Teach them right, so they can live right.
But even that is not going to matter if the systems and institutions (including the political, economic and criminal justice systems and institutions) we are using are built to impede POC and support the white majority – I do not know where to start here but there is an article written by Barack Obama that can be referenced that while protests are a method of raising awareness and spotlighting injustice – usually the change we call for needs to be documented into law and this can only happen when responsive government officials are elected into power – these officials responsible for reforming police departments and criminal justice system are at the local and state level – the message being that the necessary change at that level can only occur through each and every one of us exercising our voting power.
It’s all not going to change overnight. But today you can begin to get uncomfortable, fully wake yourself up to the realities of the society we are living in and spread that word, realise racism is not just racial slurs – its in the way we live every day, it is in the institutions and systems we rely on everyday – if you see a racial injustice, call it out.
For us at Adinkra Designs, we will continue to source and bring more inclusive toys and books to Australia to give parents further tools to educate their children on diversity, and now more than ever, push our range to amplify the voices of those underserved in our communities. We will continue to use our business as a platform impactfully.
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