This is hard to hear, but if you are a white UK resident “shocked” by what happened to George Floyd you are part of the problem

Racism is not just hate crime, it is institutional too. It's on all of us to educate ourselves and to become an ally for Black people and People of Colour.
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  • Racism has been a stain on our world for centuries, prevailing in both individual and structural forms for far too long. Not being racist yourself is not enough to fix this problem, we all need to be actively ‘anti-racist’.

    It is a common belief that racism is overt, blatant and manifests itself as despicable behaviour. Hateful words, hateful actions and hateful crimes. But in fact, racism comes in many subtle forms too; unconscious bias, white privilege, and apathy are just three examples.

    In 2014 Scott Woods, a writer and poet, wrote a blog post that explores this misconception about racism. A quote from the original post is now being widely shared on Instagram and Twitter because it summarises institutional racism in such an enlightening way.

    Racism is present in our political and societal systems, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. Be it as a majority of white staff in a company, or more worrying, a deep-rooted prejudice within law enforcement – a public service that is meant to protect everyone.

    A recent Guardian poll found that Black, Asian and minority ethnic citizens in the UK still face bias in all sorts of way and have to deal with negative circumstances at a disproportionate rate to white people. The study showed, for example, that 38% of people from ethnic minorities said they had been wrongly suspected of shoplifting in the last five years, compared with just 14% of white people.

    Why are we talking about white privilege now?

    On the 25th May 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was murdered by a white police officer, Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. Chauvin pressed his knee down on George’s neck until he could no longer breathe. Despite his pleas that he could not breathe, the county medical examiner reports state that Derek held his knee on Mr Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes.

    The horrific crime has sparked days of protest in the Minnesota city, and those protests have spread country and worldwide, with thousands taking part in Black Lives Matter demonstations from London to New York and beyond. Brands, celebrities and politicians globally have made statements, including Michelle Obama.

    But George Floyd is not the first Black man to die unlawfully at the hands of white people in 2020.

    In Georgia last month, Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed by father and son Gregory and Travis McMicheal – who claimed that they had followed Ahmaud in their pick-up truck, as they believed he was a burglary suspect.

    Credit: Getty Images

    And in the same month, 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was killed in Louisville, after officers forced their way into her home.

    Amy Cooper has also been in the headlines recently. She, a white woman, called the police on a black man, Christian Cooper (no relation), after he asked her to put her dog on a lead. She can be heard saying in a video of the incident, “I’m taking a picture and calling the cops. I’m going to tell them there is an African American man threatening my life.”

    These devastating murders and racist incidents are the latest in decades of hate crime and systematic oppression of Black people.

    Isn’t racism an American issue?

    While there are more recorded police brutality cases in the USA, institutionalised racism is not just an ‘American problem’. In 2018, figures released by the Home Office showed that 12% of UK police incidents including the use of force were against Black people – despite the fact that they make up only 3.3% of the UK population.

    Black people were found to be involved in proportionally more incidents that involved armed police using guns, and 20% of people involved in taser incidents were Black, in 2017-18.

    There are more recent examples too. On the 31st of May 2020 Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, a lawyer and political rights activist, highlighted this upsetting footage on Twitter. It seems to show six Met police officers pinning down one Black woman in London.

    And racism pervades in the UK workplace too. A 2017 study conducted by the Chartered Management Institute and the British Academy of Management, found that fewer than one in 10 management job positions in the UK were held by members of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups.

    What is anti-racism?

    The recent protests and rightful fury sparked by the horrific murders of Mr Floyd, Mr Arbery and Miss Taylor, have shown that more people are speaking up.

    Angela Davis, an American political activist, author and academic, explained, “in a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist – we must be anti-racist.” Her quote has recently gone viral on social media platforms.

    View this post on Instagram

    TW: Protests and police brutality ⁣ ⁣ In 2014, I was in the crowd of protestors in Ferguson Missouri after Michael Brown was shot by a cop. The protest was only 30 minutes from St.Louis, where I was staying at the time. I parked my car and was instantly absorbed by a crowd of organized protestors telling me where to walk, what to do, and a woman I have never met wrote her number on my arm just in case I was arrested. This was the first organized protest I have ever been a part of. We were told to walk down the street, cross the street at the stoplight, then walk back in a uniform fashion and “not give the police a reason to gas us”. So, we did. We marched up and down the same sidewalk for 2 hours before we started to notice police closing in on each side of us, giving us less space to protest. I also want to make note that while this was taking place, all of the major news stations were around – yet not filming anything but short b-roll and their own personal stand-ups at the time, meaning, they did not air the hours of peaceful protests on the news. ⁣ ⁣ The space to protest became smaller and smaller and this caused the (roughly) 300 people who were protesting to panic. We were closed in and everyone started to scream at the cops to give us space. Wouldn’t you start to panic if you were all of a suddenly closed in by cops? But the cops then reacted by yelling that if we didn’t calm down they would be forced to take action, not mentioning how they were still continuing to close in on us. The crowd continued to panic as we were all of a sudden shoved in an area that had us shoulder to shoulder and back to back and then they tear-gassed us. A white cop came up to me and said “you may want to leave the crowd now. They are getting unruly. I wouldn’t want you to get hurt” right before they gassed everyone. A white cop came up to me, a white woman, and told me to leave the crowd before I was gassed. This was my first real window into what white-privilege looked like and the deep insidious under-tone of racism that resides within our systems that are meant to protect all of us. . CONTINUED in highlights: PROTEST STORY

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    How can I be anti-racist?

    Anti-racism is actively identifying and speaking out against racism in organizational structures, policies, practices and attitudes, every time you witness it. If something makes you uncomfortable, voice your discomfort and you are being anti-racist.

    What is white privilege?

    Theconsciouskid on Instagram summarise what white privilege is really clearly. They describe it as, “White supremacy is a system of structural and societal racism which privileges white people over everyone else, regardless of the presence or absence of racial hatred. White racial advantages occur at both a collective and an individual level.”

    White privilege explained on Instagram

    View this post on Instagram

    White supremacy is a system of structural and societal racism which privileges white people over everyone else, regardless of the presence or absence of racial hatred. White racial advantages occur at both a collective and an individual level. We just updated this chart, which presents *some* of the ways people practice and reinforce white supremacy that they may not be aware of, or even think of as “white supremacy”. If you are unsure of what any of these terms mean, please feel free to look them up. There is an abundance of scholarship and research on each of these things. Image Source: Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (2005). Adapted: Ellen Tuzzolo (2016); Mary Julia Cooksey Cordero (@jewelspewels) (2019); The Conscious Kid (2020). #AntiRacism #AntiRacist #TeachersOfInstagram #WhitePrivilege

    A post shared by The Conscious Kid (@theconsciouskid) on

    White privilege is defined by the Oxford England Dictionary as “the inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterised by racial inequality and injustice”.

    Anti-racism activist Peggy McIntosh explains that people who are white usually believe that privileges are “conditions of daily experience [that are] universally available to everybody”, but that these are often “an invisible package of unearned assets”, in her article, ‘White Privilege and Male Privilege,’

    Being shocked by awful racist events, like the murder of George Floyd, is another example of white privilege.

    Why remaining silent or saying “I’m shocked” in response to racist acts adds to the problem

    Rachel Cargle, a writer and activist, explained on her Instagram the problem with ‘passive’ support and empathy.

    She wrote that she is ‘tired’ of hearing white people say things like ‘I’m shocked’ and ‘I can’t believe this’, in response to incidents such as the above.

    Rachel wrote that it is “wildly offensive that our pain is so far off your radar that it shocks you. It’s actually hurtful to know that the news that’s been keeping me up at night hasn’t even been a topic of conversation in your world”.

    Sharing what instead is helpful to hear, are phrases like these:

    • “I’ve found an organisation that helps in these types of instances and I’ve donated money.”
    • “I’ve brought this topic up to my co-workers and family so we can talk through what’s happened.”
    • “I’ve researched more on this and I have learned more about the history of this particular race issue.”

    She added, “Your shock isn’t enough. Your wow isn’t solidarity. Your actions are the only thing I can accept at this point. And if that is too much to ask of you, dear friend, feel free to let yourself out of this community because complacency is not welcome here.”

    Why you should never say “All Lives Matter”

    Stating that Black lives matter does not mean that other lives do not matter. They do. But the facts show that Black people and People of Colour are more likely to be killed by police brutality.

    Columbia Law Professor Kimberle Crenshaw explained to Harper’s Bazaar in April 2019 why the Black Lives Matter campaign is crucial in highlighting this. “It’s a rallying cry for a shift in statistical numbers that show that people who are black are twice as likely to be killed by a police officer while unarmed, compared to a white individual. According to a 2015 study, African-Americans died at the hands of police at a rate of 7.2 per million, while whites were killed at a rate of 2.9 per million.”

    An illustration that highlights why the Black Lives Matter campaign is valid has recently been widely reshared on Twitter and Instagram. It was originally created by Chainsawsuit in 2016.

    How to stop institutionalised racism and be a better ally for Black people and People of Colour

    So how can white people actively try and help in the continuing fight against institutional racism? There are ways, big and small, that you can become a proactive ally.

    #1. Educate yourself by reading

    Don’t ask People of Colour you know to explain institutionalised racism to you, you are putting the burden of knowledge on someone else.

    Amazon’s best-selling books about civil rights and racism is a good place to start your education.

    Specifically, the following books about racism can help you to understand:

    Some of these authors have requested that if you buy their book, you donate, if you can, an equal amount to an organisation supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

    #2. Follow People of Colour who are writers, academics and educators on social media

    There are many activists, educators and brands, whose posts, speeches, articles and voices it is so important to listen to right now. They include, but are not limited to:

    If you find their words enlightening, remember to share them.

    For further reading, Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein have put together a fantastic Google document on anti-racism resources for white people. As well as sharing valuable books to read, films to watch and organisations to follow and support, they’ve also shared some helpful articles to read. View it here.

    #3. Donate to important causes

    There are ways to donate to the ongoing protests, to organisations standing for racial equality and to the families of victims of racism.

    #4. Sign petitions

    This document from Black Lives Matter has numerous resources on petitions to sign, and information on lots of other different places to donate to0. Read it here.

    #5. Proactively reach out and support black people and businesses

    Mireille Cassandra Harper, an assistant editor at a publishing house, has compiled an Instagram post on being an ally to people of colour, based on her own extensive research and lived experience. She explained in the post that now is the time to ‘check in’ with black friends, family, partners, loved ones and colleagues.

    She said, “This is an emotional and traumatic time for the community, and you checking in means more than you can imagine. Ask how you can provide support.”

    You can also support people of colour by buying from businesses owned by black people. The below post is a really helpful starting point.

    View this post on Instagram

    More listed below in caption and comments. Some brilliant black-owned businesses mostly from the UK that you can buy/follow right now. Compiled with help from resources online @ukjamii @blackwomensdirectory @IamKristabel 🙏 please add anymore suggestions #supportblackbusiness Cookbooks  1. Original Flava @originalflava 2. Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen by @ghanakitchen 3. Hibiscus by Lopè Ariyo @lopeariyo 4. Ethiopia by Yohanis Gebreyesus @chef_yohanis 5. Belly Full by Riaz Phillips @Belly.full ✨ Food & Drink 1. Chikas snacks @chikasfoods 2. Grazing Boxes @berryandbrie  3. Yard Confectionary @yardconfectionery 4. Cabby’s Rum @cabbysrum 5. Cham Cham hot pepper sauce @nimsdin 6. @patandpinkys 7. @theblackfarmer 8. @thegymkitchen ✨ Beauty & Haircare Brands 1. Liha Beauty: skin oils, shea butters @LihaBeauty  2. BeautyStack: @beautystack  3. Bouclème: afro and curly hair products @boucleme  4. Afrocenchix: Hair products @afrocenchix  5. The Afro Hair and Skin Company: shampoo bars, hair masks, face masks @afrohairandskinco 6. @radswan (launching soon) 7. @charlottemensah ✨ Fashion & Accessory brands  1. Wales Bonner: menswear and womenswear @walesbonner 2. Casely-Hayford: suits @caselyhayfordlondon 3. Daughter of a Bohemian: upcycled pieces and workshops @daughterofabohemian 4. Daily Paper: menswear and womenswear  @dailypaper  5. Aaks: basket bags @a.a.k.s  6. Martine Rose @martine_rose 7. Nubian Skin @nubianskin  8. Sincerely Nude @sincerelynude Home & Lifestyle  1. Prick: cacti and plantcare  @prickldn 2. Bespoke Binny @bespokebinny 3. New Beacon Books : Specialists in African and Caribbean Literature @newbeaconbooks 4. Bonita Vie Stationary @bonitaivieprints 5. @labasketry 5. Reset Travel @Resettravel ✨ Publications / Platforms @galdemzine @theirinjournal  @womenwho  @forworkingladies @thy.self @blackgirlfest @azeemamag @modernlit

    A post shared by Emily Ames (@emames7) on

    #6. Refrain from sharing traumatic content

    Mireille also advised that, of course, sharing any violent content surrounding current events is more harmful than helpful. Mireille wrote, “Whatever your intentions, it is vital to consider sharing videos of Black people being abused and hurt can be both traumatic and triggering for many black people. Avoid sharing this content as it increases also to the dehumanisation of Black people.”

    View this post on Instagram

    Social media has been a bit overwhelming since I first put up this post so it has taken some time for me to post this. On Friday, I shared this content on Twitter after I felt the conversations online were like screaming into an echo chamber. I wanted to provide those who wanted to support and be an ally with practical tips to move forward and make a change in our society. I am still somewhat surprised and overwhelmed by the reception so please take patience with me at this time. — For a note on who I am to those who have followed me from Twitter, my name is Mireille. I'm an assistant editor and I do freelance writing, PR and sensitivity reading and other bits on the side. I am extremely passionate about diversity and inclusion, and everything I have shared is not new knowledge to me. From as far back as I can remember I've been campaigning, fighting for equality and supporting and working with black owned organisations. I have worked in the diversity and inclusion space for around four years and I have been equipped with knowledge, skills etc through that work as well as through wider, intensive reading and being raised by a Jamaican mother who has a degree in Women's Studies. I felt as a mixed race person who was emotionally capable despite the current situation that I could use my learned experience, skills and compassion to offer this advice to allies and anyone else who was seeking advice but didn't know where to turn. This is now on my stories as a highlight so please feel free to share from there or here. — A small reminder that this took emotional labour and POC, especially black people are not here to teach you everything. When I said ask how you can support, I meant on a personal level as a friend etc. I hope this toolkit provides you with the starter info you need but there are genuinely people more experienced than me who warrant your listening to – please go and follow @nowhitesaviors, @laylafsaad, @rachel.cargle, @ckyourprivilege, @iamrachelricketts, @thegreatunlearn, @renieddolodge, @ibramxk + a few more: @akalamusic, @katycatalyst + @roiannenedd who all have books or resources from many more years of experience. _

    A post shared by Mireille Cassandra Harper (@mireillecharper) on

    #7. Speak up about racism in your daily life – and acknowledge your own prejudice

    Following through on the shock and anger you feel over the senseless killings and racism in America and beyond is vital. Consistently actioning what you have learnt and using your white privilege to call out racism and hold it to account is what will make a difference – not sharing one social media post and moving on the next day.

    Rachel Cargle explained, “I implore you to remember — the point of AntiRacism work isn’t to make white people feel they are “doing better” in their positions of privilege and power within this immoral system — it is for them to hold themselves and their white community accountable for addressing and attacking the very system that needs to be destroyed in order for Black people to stay alive and to be well.”

    Author Layla F. Saad also explained that it is not enough to simply read her book (mentioned above) – you must do the work that follows the reading too, by recognising racism within your prejudices too.

    In an Instagram post, she said, “This is not a book you Read. This is a book you Do.

    “Doing the book will require you to put yourself inside the framework of white supremacy, pull deep from your subconscious your racist thoughts and beliefs that lay in the shadows, recall deep memories of how white supremacy manifested in your life, and actually change how you show up because you understand your white privilege and your racism on a *visceral* level now, not just a conceptual one.”

    View this post on Instagram

    To the folks with white privilege reading #MeAndWhiteSupremacy, but not putting pen to paper to do the journaling: You’re cheating. This is not a book you Read. This is a book you Do. And it is easy to tell the difference between someone who has read the book vs someone who has done the book. ••• Reading the book will give you an intellectual understanding of white supremacy and a mental understanding of racism in general. You’ll be able to call out other people’s racism, but not your own because you haven’t truly looked at yourself. Doing the book will require you to put yourself inside the framework of white supremacy, pull deep from your subconscious your racist thoughts and beliefs that lay in the shadows, recall deep memories of how white supremacy manifested in your life, and actually change how you show up because you understand your white privilege and your racism on a *visceral* level now, not just a conceptual one. ••• If you’re just going to read the book but not do the journaling, what you’re saying is – I want to be part of the solution, but I want to risk nothing. Not even examining my own complicity in this system from the safety of my own home, in the privacy of my own journal, in the comfort of my own privilege. Simply read the book if you want, but don’t kid yourself that you’re practicing anti-racist allyship. You’re still complicit, now you just have the racial justice jargon to pretend to others that you’re not.

    A post shared by LAYLA THEE ANCESTRESS (@laylafsaad) on

    Call out racism where you see it – in friends and family members. Even in ourselves. Especially in ourselves.

    It will not be comfortable. It is not meant to be. As Mireille Charper says, “Understand that coming to terms with your own privilege will not be a pretty or fun experience. It is necessary to feel feelings of guilt, shame and anger throughout the process.”

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