Racism is…

CONTENT NOTE: Some of the embedded links in this piece are NSFW, and detail numerous forms of violence against people of colour.

by Shane Thomas

BBC3 recently aired a mini-season of shows focused on the topic of racism, one being Mona Chalabi’s documentary, Is Britain Racist? Whatever one’s thoughts of the programme, it was good to see a show which focused not just on race, but racism. Having a conversation on race is to be encouraged, but it’s a largely fruitless exercise if the conversation doesn’t focus on racism and its effects. Effects that were felt by two Media Diversified contributors in the past week, Siana Bangura and Kiri Kankhwende.

As I’ve said before on this site, I don’t think many people actually know what racism is, and until majority consensus comprehends it, we’ll never see it corrected. Yes, racism is a thing that individuals do to each other, and yes, racism is the EDL, Golden Dawn, and the n-word. But it’s so much more. Such as…

Racism is how women of colour are never seen as the face of feminism, or asserting that “woman is the n*gger of the world”. Racism is thinking you’re doing enough because you follow Janet Mock and Laverne Cox on Twitter, but stay ignorant about the murders of transgender women of colour.

Racism is why whiteness isn’t just perceived as the default, but the ideal. In the jaundiced eye of history, it’s whiteness that got it right. Racism is having so much to say, yet having the powerful refuse to listen to you.

Racism is why people of colour are assumed inherently incapable, unable to do anything constructive without the guiding hand of whiteness. It’s why we’re seldom trusted to be the leaders of anything.

Racism is how white people have borne the financial boon of legalised marijuana. Racism is caring about state surveillance only when whites are targeted. Racism is how the particular ways mental health – such as eating disorders – affect PoC are never explored.

Racism is all those musicians who made a fortune from playing black music, but have no regard for the culture and people – and their experiences – which created the art. Racism is assuming all black people are socially adept and loud extroverts.

Racism is thinking that your police are better just because they don’t all carry guns. Racism isn’t just the bullet from the police pistol. It’s the unseen microaggressive cut that turns a confident spring into an anxious hobble.

Racism is getting a security job because the interviewer immediately assumes you have the “street savvy” to be able to spot criminals. Racism is arranging to meet a white person for a date, and when they get dropped off by their parents, they remark, “You never told me they were black.”

Racism is never being sure if that prospective partner likes you. As in actually likes you. Are you just their “exotic experiment” or “a political statement”? Racism is knowing that sex with a white person may end up as nothing more than a scandalous anecdote.

Racism hurts.

Racism is being left with nothing but bad options. Racism is PoC having to clean up a mess they didn’t make. Racism is believing one is enough, especially when befriending PoC.

Racism is in the lexicon of our vocabulary, from “excited delirium“, to “proper English“, to thinking – as Carla Moore brilliantly unpacked – that Jamaican Patois is an antediluvian form of English. Racism is our immigration policy made flesh. Racism is thinking only certain people deserve a full life for themselves and their loved ones.

Racism is theft and the thieves then lying about it. Racism is not having a home, living in a state of rootless limbo. Racism is only having value as a PoC if you can obfuscate the sins of your society through your actions. Racism is an aversion, suspicion, and erasure of anything derived from Africa.

Racism is AFRICOM, the New Alliance initiative, or the proliferation of military bases for the “United Empire of Earth”. Racism is the ultimate sin of whiteness, a sin for which amends refuse to be made, and atonement refuses to be sought.

Racism is never being given a fair chance to fail. It makes being accepted as anything close to human contingent on exceptionalism. Racism is having to walk a tightrope of perfection, all the while others are throwing objects at you, trying to knock you off.

Racism is in our media, discerned by the voices that are given credence. Racism is malleable, amorphous, and cunning. Islam is not a race, but make no mistake, Islamophobia is racism.

Racism is the regulations – unspoken and overt – placed on black hair, while any non-Anglicised name will be mocked, mangled, and costly to one’s chances of employment. Racism is assuming that if a child is mixed-race, one of their parents must be white (normally the mother).

Racism is something that’s not born, but made. It’s been taught so effectively, we can all perpetrate it without thinking, like tying your shoelaces, or leaving your keys in the same place when you get home. Racism is monstrous, but you don’t need to be a monster to reinforce it.

Racism is a fire ignited by the right, but given oxygen by the left. It’s one of many actors in society’s very own Rogues Gallery, overlapping with other forms of oppression to harm the most marginalised.

Racism is the subconscious – but immediate – association of blackness with violence, instinct, sex, and danger. Racism is melanin being accepted as an indicator of a defective character. It’s having the only choices open to you be humble and overlooked, or forthright and loathed.

Racism is being born with a debt that can never be sufficiently repaid. It means that PoC are forced to have an internal modulator to fade out their heritage and culture in the outside world.

As lengthy as this list is, there’s so much that I missed out. Because racism is everywhere. It’s the legacy of our past. It’s in the construction of our present. And to not accept this, makes it the destination of our future.

Work published on Media Diversified is the intellectual property of its writers. Please do not reproduce, republish or repost any content from this site without express written permission from Media Diversified. For further information, please see our reposting guidelines.


“Two Weeks Notice” is Shane Thomas’s bi-monthly column encompassing Pop culture to sport, and back again“ Shortlisted for EI Arts, Culture and Entertainment commentator of the year

Shane can be found on Twitter, both at @TGEISH and @tokenbg (and yes, the handle does mean what you think it means).

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4 replies

  1. Racism has so many facets, it’s impossible to mention them all, but this article is a greatly poignant attempt. Very well written by someone who has clearly seen, heard and been through it all. Thank you for this.

    Like

  2. Very well Done! Clear and concise and affecting. We know how racism affects us but defining the multiple ways racism is manifested is very rare. As someone of African heritage, I am very aware of the historic origins and continued perpetuation of racism, but it is refreshing to be reminded, and also educated. Thanks for an inspiring articke .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. REVISED ** This article is a sincere, truthful explanation of racism that many people do not see. Many people assume racism is just hurtful words said to someone of a different race. But it is so much more then that. I completely agree that not everyone knows what racism is. And even though its great that the BBC is creating shows such as “Is Britain Racist?” to talk about it, nothing will change if no one understands the full concept of what racism is and the effects it has on the ethnic human population. Racism is always overlooked and downplayed with no one really talking about it roots and how they have carried on for centuries. Racism is a man made disease that has infected the population so horrendously, yet no one seems to take notice. People usually say that the new generation will eradicate racism, but I am very doubtful of this on the sole reason that our generation has no clue what racism really means. Thank you for this article and I hope that one day the true depth of racism and it effects will be brought to light in mainstream culture.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This article is a sincere, truthful explanation of racism that many people do not see. Many people racism is just hurtful words said to someone of a different race. But it is so much more then that. I completely agree that not everyone knows what racism is. And even though its great that the BBC is starting shows to talk about it, nothing will change if no one understands the full concept of what racism is and the effects it has on the ethnic human population. Racism is always overlooked and downplayed without really talk about it roots and how they have carried on for centuries. Racism is a man made disease that has infected the population so horrendously, yet no one seems to take notice. People usually say that the new generation will eradicate racism, but I am very doubtful of this on the sole reason that our generation has no clue what racism really means. Thank you for this article and I hope that one day the true depth of racism and it effects will be brought to light in mainstream culture.

    Like

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