First of all, let's acknowledge that I'm white, have privilege and have grown up in a country that benefits from white supremacy. I grew up in a single parent family in social housing, and witnessed domestic violence. I STILL HAVE PRIVILEGE.
And when it comes down to it, I'd consider myself an ally. I've been actively anti-racist for a while, probably more so since I went travelling with my boyfriend before uni and witnessed some horrific overt racism from the AA and the police in New Zealand. And then at uni I studied Black film and took modules in Cultural Studies, alongside my creative writing modules. I wanted to learn more and unpick the teachings from my Surrey - fairly culturally sheltered - childhood.
In my teaching practice and, more recently in my parenting, I've always talked about the need for curriculum changes and representation in books and on TV. I've spoken at Stand Up to Racism events and Stand Up to Trump rallies, I sign petitions, I am actively involved in Show Racism the Red Card events and I've marched in solidarity with my Black brothers and sisters. I know it isn't a tick box exercise. This is my life and how it works around politics and social justice. Two areas - other than writing - that I'm passionate about.
So when things blew up a few weeks ago - after George Floyd's murder by the US police - with Black Lives Matter coming back to the forefront (and that's privilege right there - that we, as white people, can just put racism to the back of our minds and move on...) I had to have a really close look at what kind of ally I am. I wanted to really scrutinize how I am showing up online. And to me it was very clear that there's a misalignment between my activism on my Councillor pages and personal Facebook and Instagram, and my business socials.
It honestly threw me off kilter to notice this. Why is my business Insta feed so white? Is it the industries I work in? Is it the people I communicate with for work? I made a decision to then double follow accounts - so women like Nova Reid, Rachel Cargle and Stephanie Yeboah - and start following more BIPOC accounts whose industries I work in or whose values (ie, feminist and socialist!) align with mine.
I refuse to let the hype die down, and will continue to follow, share, re-post and comment (as well as actually buy from) Black businesses. This weekend saw the first "Black Pound Day" and it was lush to see my feed filled with people really pro-actively searching out Black-owned small businesses to purchase from! (I treated myself to a t-shirt dress from Sancho's and a beautiful gratitude journal from Gazelle London. Don't tell James, haha!) But this is a movement, not a moment. And I am doing the work. That's long term.
Doing the anti-racist work
On a serious note, in order to be better allies we - white people and people of colour who also benefit from white privilege - need to do the work. We need to listen, be open to criticism and let go of this fear of being corrected/criticised in public so we can learn and do better. If you ever notice something I've said is incorrect or offensive in any way, please point it out! I am still learning and want to be corrected.
I've joined a book circle to work through Layla F. Saad's "Me and White Supremacy" with other white women, so we can discuss our journey together and help each other grow and develop our understanding as allies. And I also committed to a business focused anti-racist group, to look at how to make this a long term pro-active value in my business.
Be the change you want to see
As a "snowflake"/lefty/*add rightwing insult here* I already think carefully about the organisations and people I support by giving my money, clicks or vote to. I encourage you to do the same. If you vote Tory and you don't think there's a connection between the systemic racism and the current Prime Minister's behaviour, I urge you to read something other than the Telegraph or Daily Mail, and actually open your eyes. Look at their voting records. Witness what is happening to the Windrush generation. Find an ounce of empathy. Your vote has a consequence on Black Lives.
By no means is the party I represent perfect. God no. There is SO MUCH work to be done. Having the Bernie Grant Leadership programme is a tiny step in the right direction towards representation and challenging the status quo. (I won't go into a whole tirade about racism in politics because it's depressing AF and you don't need that right now. But if you do want to ask me anything, feel free to DM me.)
For now, I just want to highlight the fact that I'm here, I'm owning up to my faults, acknowledging my white privilege and doing the work to become a better ally. And I'll encourage all my Labour colleagues to do the same.
One thing I started about 8 years ago, after realising my bookshelf was full of male authors, was trying to read women authors, and making sure that they were mostly BIPOC. My favourites include (but not limited to!): Kamila Shamsie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Arundhati Roy, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Hanya Yanagihara.
I've pushed for the socialist book club I'm part of to read books around anti-racist work, environmentalism, activism, and also fiction, written by people with a diverse heritage. We need to be seeing things from a different perspective if we want to make change happen. We need to get out of the bubble.
Resources for becoming a better ally
For other simple steps you can take on the journey to anti-racism look below.
There are tonnes of incredible accounts to follow, places to donate, books to read, videos to watch...
I've put a few here, but there's a great list here on my friend Dom's website:
Black Lives Matter UK: https://www.gofundme.com/f/ukblm-fund
Stand Up To Racism: http://www.standuptoracism.org.uk/join-donate/
Black Minds Matter: https://www.gofundme.com/f/black-minds-matter-uk
Show Racism the Red Card: https://www.justgiving.com/theredcard
If you can't afford to donate right now, here's a playlist of videos that are donating their ad revenue to Black Lives Matter: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLlhfJSrlPNthnoD1XFDHzmdf6Mpt2pe-2
Books & educational resources
Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race - Reni Eddo Lodge
Me and White Supremacy - Layla F Saad
Layla F. Saad also shared an anti-racist reading list for The Guardian
#DoTheWork course by Rachel Cargle
Another List of resources for doing the work.
NB - I am not an expert or anti-racist teacher. However, I am a teacher and an activist and I hope this blog post is helpful to some of you.
I'm going to try and share a little of my journey a founder, but might tend to do it on Instagram...so over head there if you want to follow and learn with me. I'll continue to post resources as I find them and activism on my account.
In solidarity and with love,