Let’s talk about racism

Like many of us, Jo Hook, Co-Founder of Temwa UK, was shaken by the aftermath of the Euro’s Match in the summer. This is her response to the wave of racism we saw online…

A message from Jo…

Let’s talk about racism. Rather than just posting on social media and then moving onto the next topic of discussion, in the coming weeks. Lets actually talk about what we can do to tackle racism.

After the EU football final on Sunday night, the Temwa UK team were horrified at the vile racist abuse hurled at the brilliant young England footballers, like most decent people living in the UK.  

We talk about racism a lot at the Temwa UK office. I have  faced racism on behalf of the community we serve in Malawi over the years, on a number of occasions, people have said:

‘Why are you raising money for Black people in Africa?’ 

This is such a deeply insulting question, why should anyone question why we would raise money for people who are less fortunate? Why does it matter that the community that we serve are black people? Or where they are geographically located? 

I will never be able to understand what it’s like to be a person of colour living in our society. A society with undeniable institutional racism. A culture of white supremacy has been drip-fed through to us by schools, media and political parties. It now is our priority to re-educate ourselves. 

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By listening to people of colour, reading books by black authors and challenging my own subconscious bias, I have been trying to re-educate myself. 

A friend of mine from Zimbabwe once said ‘The British are really good at subtle racism’.

This comment really stuck with me. There are of course overtly racist people who truly think they’re superior, which is in plain sight and rightfully condemned. Although with much of the UK population there is a subtlety. We don’t recognise this subtlety, it’s subconscious. Acknowledging, as white people, that we all have a subconscious level of bias and racism is the first step to learning how to reduce this.

Only a few weeks ago the England football team were booed by their own fans for ‘taking the knee’. The British Prime Minister stayed quiet and refused to condemn the England fans who booed their own team for taking a stand against racism. Boris Johnson refused to condemn a large-scale public racist act. That speaks volumes.

Sadly, as soon as the players missed penalties not only did they have to deal with the pain & pressure of missing such an important penalty moment, they also had to deal with the abhorrent racist comments made on and offline.

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In many conversations, I have heard in my life there has been a subtly racist or blatantly racist comment. Sometimes I have called it out, sometimes wrongly I have kept quiet. 

It’s often easier for me, as a white woman to keep quiet, but who is that really easiest for? Martin Luther King said ‘there comes a time when silence is betrayal.’ Every confrontation avoided for ease is another betrayal.

We have to keep talking about racism much more regularly, and we need to call out racism whenever we hear it and do more to tackle this disease… ‘but what can we do’ you might wonder?

Firstly educate yourself. Then talk to your family & friends about what you have learnt and encourage them to educate themselves. 

In the UK we have been brought up in a society of white supremacy, it’s often so subtle white people don’t even notice it. Did you know the world map that was used in our schools is geographically incorrect? North America, Australia and Europe are shown as being larger, while Africa, South America & Asia are smaller!  

To start you off here are some brilliant resources that helped me;

·         Akala – Natives, race & class in the ruins of empire

·         Why I no longer talk to white people about race – Reni Eddo-Lodge

·         Me & white supremacy – Layla F Saad

·         Black & British – David Olusoga

·         Girl, woman, other – Bernadine Evaristo

·         https://cargomovement.org/

Our colleagues in Malawi, Dr CAPS Msukwa and Kondwani Botha have faced racism in their own country on many occasions. They are inspiring and utterly brilliant professionals, yet they have had to deal with white people who treat them as though they are inferior, which is ludicrous! It makes no sense, it’s not logical! Why do people think they are superior because of the colour of their skin or their heritage?

Last year, I heard the quote:

“White people need to start treating racism as a white issue that needs to be tackled, rather than a BAME issue that needs to be sympathised with”

The problem is white people who either are racist or white people who stand by and ignore racism. We can no longer keep quiet, we must become loudly anti-racist, rather than quietly non-racist. If you are quietly non-racist you are part of the problem.

I’m still learning, I make mistakes I will own these mistakes and learn from them. We must all continue to educate ourselves on what we can do to tackle racism.

It is our duty as global citizens to tackle racial inequality.

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