Category Archives: Race relations

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye-Part 2

Well, a happy new year to y’all, lovely readers.  I’ve been itching to blog for the past week or so but haven’t quite found the time.  I find myself in-between jobs (a glorious thing!) but I am sooo busy that I’m struggling to fit the things that I want to do but don’t have to do.  I don’t make hard and fast resolutions any more but I always have a sense of the things that I want to achieve in the coming year.  One of these things has to be to say ‘no’ more and leave space for those ‘want to do’ things. Any way,  when I wrote Say Hello, Wave Goodbye-Part 1, I was aware of wanting to finish 2014 on a positive note so I wanted to share the things that had brought me pleasure; that I felt proud of.  However, there’s always a flip side, right?  So I made a commitment to write a Part 2 which would talk about some of the things that have been a challenge or that I have struggled with.  So here goes, in no particular order: 5 challenges I faced in 2014 (and as it goes, beyond that as well!)

  • The murders to Mike Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice

In December 2014 I wrote a blog which was triggered by the decision of a grand jury not to indict the police officer who preformed an illegal choke-hold  Eric Garner, which killed him. I struggled to watch video footage of this man’s last moment will, they are so upsetting. This came in a succession of almost unbelievable news stories of Black men being killed by the US police, where the officers responsible would walk away from any responsibility for their actions.  This hurt.  Really badly. As I watched what appears to be open season on Black men in the US, I have struggled to comprehend how we live in a world where this is acceptable.  I have struggled as the parent to a son who, although born in the UK, will probably experience more than his fair share of hardships due to being male and the colour of his skin.  I am struggling to  comprehend what appears to be obvious; that black lives don’t matter.

  • Terrorism

This sounds broad, right?  How can I talk about this in a couple of paragraphs?  My caveat with this one is that I I recognise that there are many socio-political points to be made around the rise of these kinds of event.  And maybe I will try to have that discussion as some point.  But not today. So that being said, the murders by ISIS of journalist James FoleyUK aid worker David Haine and the US aid worker Peter Kassig were brutal and shocking, as they were meant to be.  There are many more than have been killed by this extremist group but these are the particular deaths that drew my attention to the horrors being committed by this group. The kidnap of over 2000 Nigerian school girls by another extremist group, Boko Harem, in April of 2014 is simply terrifying.  The parents of those girls still don’t have their children back, let alone know where they are; if they’re alive or dead. There are many angles I could go down here but simply put, I have despaired and continue to despair over the way human beings treat each other.  It is terrifying that anyone can have such disregard for another human life.  Being human and feeling empathy, it is hard to get my head around how this is even possible. And as anti-Muslim, anti-Islam rhetoric continues to build, I am concerned at the inability of many to separate the actions of a few individuals with the peaceful Muslim communities with share our lives with. And it would appear there are no easy answers to end this massacre of innocents.

  • Saying goodbye

In Part 1, I talked about this from the other side of the mirror, the positive side of ‘letting go’ but in letting go, there are always goodbyes.  As I rapidly approach 40 (a spring baby, I will be saying goodbye to my 30s in April), there has been a  sense of things shifting over the past 18 months.  A shift in perspective; a shift in relationships, in shift in my place in the universe.  I don’t mind this. It’s a process and I’m happy to be in it, but it is interesting to be in a process whilst reflecting and observing it at the same time.   It almost feels like clearing space for the next phase, whatever that will be. So there is an awareness of having made and continuing to make conscious decisions as I say ‘goodbye’ to some things.  But I know there are other things that I am in the process of saying goodbye to that I haven’t even got a clue about! And it is a challenge. It is difficult to accept change; that things are no longer what they were, especially if those things are much-loved and in perfectly decent working order! But change is inevitable, so bring it on.  I will continue to struggle with some of those goodbyes, I also know this is growing and learning and being.

  • Sitting with things

I am naturally ‘push’ kinda person.  I always have been.  I am a 1st born child, only girl and I am used to striding forth into the great unknown to do whatever I think needs doing at any particular moment in time.  This has (nearly always!) served me well.  Up until recently, I would never have really considered doing things any other way.  That is my way.  I accept it. Except I’ve had to question ‘my way’. Not in a ‘have I got this all wrong??’ kinda way.  It’s been more of an experiential thing.  I have agonised over making important decisions about career and family that, at the time, it felt crucial that I make a decision; that I knew what I was going to do and then I could get on with it.  And then life happened.  Having time to reflect on those events, I have come up with a few things that seem to be a constant:

  1. I am capable and resilient.  Even when I find myself in ridiculous situations (usually created by me), I will find a way of making it work.  It will work out fine.
  2. I have an incredibly supportive network of friends, family and colleagues around me.  This network will always offer at least part of a solution.  Trust it.
  3. Sometimes doing nothing is ok.

All that adds up to a ‘me’ that is trying to push less.  Or at least understand when I should push and when I should just sit.  Something that my neglected yoga practice always teaches me.

  • Accepting that accepting time is not elastic

This one makes me grumpy.  I admit, I have a problem with the concept of time.  I like to think that it bends and can manipulated by my wants and needs. I tend to fill my time up, constantly.  I have an interest in lots of things and I like to be engaged in the world around me.  This leads to a number of things:

  1. Over-committing myself
  2. Lateness
  3. Stress
  4. Me and the 5-year-old falling out in the morning due to nearly lateness

Now, on one hand my approach to time means that I get LOADS done.  I am able to juggle lots of things fairly competently and for me, this means I get to satisfy my many interests.  When I shuffle on this ball, I don’t want to regret the things I haven;t done. In the other hand, I do too much.  And time is not elastic.  It does not expand to allow for the one last thing I tend to do before rushing out the door.  It just means I am gonna be late or very nearly late. So, those are the things I struggled with in 2014 and am still struggling with.  Some of the big, depressing topics that I could only touch one.  Some of them very personal to me, little bit funny but very much part of my ongoing struggle to find balance. So, a hugely long post, which I don’t have time to edit down any more else I will be late for yoga.  And today, I am not going to be late.

Exasperation, Frustration, Exhaustion. #BlackLivesMatter

I’m supposed to be having a lie in this morning as my husband gets up with our son and gets ready for the school run.  I have had a horrid cold for the best part of November and I’m trying to rest up as we rapidly approach the festive season.

However, I can’t stay silent on this.  Last night as the UK was going to bed, the news that there would be no indictment for the police officer who performed a choke hold that killed Eric Garner. Another Black man killed by the police without consequence.  It has been barely a week since a jury made the same decision in relation to Mike Brown, a young man who was shot 12 times, 12 times, and killed by a policeman in Ferguson Missouri in August this year.  On the 22nd November 12 year old Tamir Rice was fatally shot in Cleveland.  And let us not forget the 2013 jury’s decision on Trayvon Martin’s death.

In each of these cases, the decision was taken that there would be no consequence for the white person who took the life of a black man.  No consequence at all.  In the case of Eric Garner, the whole thing was recorded.  A medical examiner gave a ruling of homicide.  The choke hold used is deemed illegal. Still, this made no difference.  So tell me, what’s it going to take?

As protests take place across the US, as anger and rage finds voice through social media, I am stunned at the lack of understanding of what these deaths truly signify.  For the past week, I have had many conversations on social media with people who seem to think that if you are involved in crime, if you resist arrest, well, this is just what happens.  I have given up on conversation threads where I have been explaining the significance of institutional and structural racism in these cases and I have been aggressively challenged.  The ignorance present in many of these challenges has been astounding.  One commentor pointed out that Mike Brown was a bully and a criminal, based on the footage of him in the store before he was killed. (I have deliberately used the Fox News edit here.  Interesting to listen to how this is reported and the language used).  ‘He was no angel’; another charge at Mike Brown.

“Well I suppose you think Mark Duggan was an upstanding citizen as well??” went another, referring to the fatal shooting of a UK mixed race man, which sparked riots across the country in August 2011.

What??  Are you serious?? How is this even an argument?  Why is it so hard for people to understand that these men were killed NOT because of criminality but because of a pre-existing bias which led to excessive force being used?  Why is so difficult to understand that, in all probability, if Trayvon, Mike, Eric, Tamir and Mark had been white, the outcomes would have been different?  Why is it not concerning that the white men who took these Black lives walk away free, to resume their own lives as if nothing ever happened?

I am almost lost for words.  America, you are lost.  What is it going to take for positive change?

This will not change until White America stand up with African-Americans to make a stand. To say ‘no more’.  I am heartened by a new Twitter campaign currently trending, in the wake of the Eric Garner verdict; #CrimingWhileWhite.

The campaign aims to shine a light on racial profiling.  Check it out and look closely at the people contributing.  They are overwhelmingly white.  That is so important.  For any real change to happen, White and Black America must stand together in solidarity.

However, it’s going to take more than a social media campaign; it’s going to take more than words from America’s 1st Black President, Barrack Obama.

Enough is enough.

#BlackLivesMatter #icantbreathe #ferguson #EricGarner #mikebrown