‘Urgh she’s talking about race again’

Ahh it’s not always about race Itunu’. My friend and I have an on-going joke about how I always talk about race. Whether in jest, comparing my complexion to a piece of chocolate or seriously, talking about racism or representation, I really do like talking about race. It has been very difficult to reach a point where I can openly admit that race is something I think about constantly.

Throughout 2015 I found an outlet for my thoughts on racism, racial identity and representation through various blogging platforms, and it was really freeing. Finally I had a way of getting all my thoughts out, but little did I know that people were actually reading and forming opinions about what I had to say. This served to open up many conversations, which haven’t really come to an end. After several discussions, where I learnt about the different experiences and opinions of those of different races and backgrounds I stopped and thought- why do I care so much? Why do I care so much about being Black? Why do I care about seeing people of different races and backgrounds represented in the media? Why have I watched pretty much every Tyra Banks show about racism and people struggling with racial identity? Surely, it’s not that deep. Is focusing on race and not seeing myself as just part of the ‘human race’ (as a few tweeters suggested I should do after reading my article for MTV) making me part of the problem? Why on earth do I care?

I care because growing up I have seen people being treated differently because of the colour of their skin, their religion or culture. I care because we have become so politically correct that discussions about race are always ‘awkward’ and replaced with chat about the weather (it’s cold- the end.) I care because when I watch British TV I still do not see enough people who represent me and people I know.

Although I don’t see myself as oppressed or facing unbearable struggles because I am Black-British and although I am resolute that any struggles I face won’t stop me from reaching my goals, I want to see a change. I want to open children’s books, turn on my TV, go to the cinema, look at politicians and the entertainment, finance, tech and science industries and see people who actually represent multicultural Britain. There is this whole talk by David Cameron about promoting British values (I don’t really get what ‘British’ values means) but if there is one thing that is present, and should be developed in Britain, is a culture of acceptance and appreciation. How do we develop this positive culture? We have respectful discussions about race and representation and genuinely listen to one another.

There is a quote that says ‘people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want to have their illusions destroyed’ and I think this is very much the case when the discussion of race begins. At times we want to live in a bubble, believing that Britain is not as bad as America therefore no one faces struggles but my immediate thought is (excuse the deviation) hmm maybe that is true but could we ever have a non-white Prime Minister in the UK? (Just a thought)  While I think we should appreciate the positive aspects of race relations in Britain we should also be just as open to talk about the negatives.

I will never forget a friend talking to me and one of my white friends about her experiences as a young black woman in Britain. From having the n-word shouted at her, being picked on at school, to her little sister coming home from school saying she doesn’t want to be black it was really upsetting to hear what she had gone through. However I could relate to and understand her. Our white friend, on the other hand, could not comprehend that black people still face discrimination. She went on to say ‘I literally had no clue that you guys go through this, because I don’t see it’ and this is why conversations are necessary.

‘When ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of peace’. When we act as though everyone is treated the same and discrimination doesn’t exist we are stopping progression. So, I guess when I talk about race constantly it’s because I want to see progression and peace (well as much peace as we can achieve in this crazy world). I want to encourage people to start sharing and having respectful conversations about their experiences because sometimes we say and do insensitive things simply because we do not understand. However by cultivating a culture of openness and empathy we can learn how to work together and consequently build a better Britain.

Would love to keep the conversation going and hear your thoughts and opinions about race and representation in Britain so feel free to comment below

Itunu Abolarinwa

Twitter: @iTunu_Speaks

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