I’m writing this post in recent events of George Floyd’s brutal murder. This is something that shouldn’t have happened; but did. This isn’t something new to any of us; the persecution of black people has been apparent to the world for a very long time now, however time and time again these human injustices are not pursued, and the perpetrators, whether they are the police or civilians, get little repercussions for their wrongdoings. As a civilisation we have become so desensitised to murder and wrongdoings that it’s hard to believe there is such thing as obtaining justice.
The American justice system is flawed. The ‘land of the free’ was built up from slavery, and these hierarchical structures of racism have infected every part of society. However, this isn’t just an American problem. The systemic racism towards black people is present within every society, no matter how covert or overt. It is time we take a stand for our black brothers and sisters, to all the ones who have lost their lives; George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Christian Cooper, Belly Mujinga, Breanna Taylor, Atlanta Jefferson, Kathryn Johnson, Kevin Davis, Walter Scott, Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile …The list is endless and I wish all those who have died brutally, unjustly and painfully to rest in peace.
We are not just fighting for these people. We are not fighting for black lives when they are gone. People who are here today matter, and they shouldn’t have to fear for their life when they get pulled over. They shouldn’t have to second guess that going out late at night for a walk might be their last. They shouldn’t have to worry that their blackness might incriminate them when they are innocent. Nobody deserves to die over a counterfeit $20. White rapists and murderers are treated better within America so why is it that people simply do not show the same humanity towards black lives? My heart is bleeding and I’m sure many others are hurting by the events that have unfolded. It is our duty that this does not get buried in the news like it has countless times. It is important that we continue to fight for black lives and that we stand as a collective, because together we are stronger. It is important that we continue to educate ourselves and share resources to others who may not know where to begin. The black struggle didn’t begin recently; it has been built from the hierarchical structures of racism that were established during the colonial period; Africa was divided up between fourteen countries at the Berlin conference, and the lines that were drawn established new borders that were claimed by many countries, the British being one Empire that took control of many countries within and outside Africa. There is so much injustice, racism and discrimination within British History that many do not know due to the bias nature of the country, and this discrimination and covert racism still exists within our society today. If you do not see that or do not understand that then recognise your privileges and find ways to use them to help our black brothers and sisters that need our help.
I wanted to create this blog post in order to share some books that I have read that have educated me specifically on the black struggles within our own country, the United Kingdom. Like I said, I am constantly learning and am imperfect in many ways; I am really a nobody, but if this inspires even 1 person to begin reading then I will be happy. Many individuals are happy living ignorant, but for those who do not want to remain in their cocoon we can ensure that the fight for black lives doesn’t come and go as a trend, because it’s much bigger than that.
RACE AND CLASS IN THE RUINS OF EMPIRE – AKALA
This may have possibly been the first book I read regarding race and culture. Akala, British rapper, activist and speaker, wrote this book about his own interactions with racism throughout his life, and how these experiences directly feed into the historical treatment of black people. This is a very informative book and introduces you to a personal account of racism within the UK.
“Why can’t you just get over it? It’s all in the past.’
These two statements often run together. Apparently, history is not there to be learned from, rather it’s a large boulder to be gotten over. It’s fascinating, because in the hundreds of workshops I’ve taught on Shakespeare no one has ever told me to get over his writing because it’s, you know, from the, erm, past. I’m still waiting for people to get over Plato, or Da Vinci or Bertrand Russell, or indeed the entirety of
recorded history, but it seems they just won’t. It is especially odd in a nation where much of the population is apparently proud of Britain’s empire that critics of one of its most obvious legacies should be asked to get over it, the very same thing from the past that they are proud of.
But anyway, let’s imagine for a second that humanity did indeed ‘get over’ – which in this case means forget – the past. Well, we’d have to learn to walk and talk and cook and hunt and plant crops all over again, we’d have to undo all of human invention and start from . . . when? What period exactly is it we are allowed to start our memory from? Those that tell us to get over the past never seem to specify, but I’m eager to learn. In reality, of course, they just don’t want to have any conversations that they find uncomfortable.”
THE GOOD IMMIGRANT
The good immigrant is a compilation of short stories from various ethnic minorities and their own personal accounts of growing up recognising their ‘difference’, and recounting their own experiences of racism and discrimination. This is a great read for someone who may not understand how black people, or POC are perceived or treated differently within their daily life; just because someone is not shouting the N word in your face it doesn’t mean that people don’t hold prejudicial/racist views against you.
‘I want to talk about blackness, our representation of it, how we understand ourselves through the eyes of someone else. How, when I was growing up, the positive led-black and black-owned representations of blackness weren’t to be found in the British Isles. Instead, they were being imported from the USA. With globalisation, this is par for the course for all aspects of our pop culture. Yet, when it comes to blackness, American-centric media contributed to an erasure here.
I needed to find a blackness that was vaguely relevant to a tall, skinny, London born and raised Nigerian girl, and that wasn’t to be found in after school and Saturday morning television. When you’re young, you translate yourself through representations of people who look like you. And when those characters look like you, but were of a different continent, and a different culture, it invited a kind of cognitive dissonance.’
BLACK BRITISH WHITE BRITISH – Dilip Hero
This is a great book that talks predominantly about the history of England and its interactions with Black people, Asian people, and white people. This is more so factual based than personal accounts, however this is one of my favourite books by far. It’s incredibly informative and every time I pick it up, I feel like I’m always learning something new.
‘Life in Britain also caused the West Indians to conclude, with much pain and sorrow, that Western civilisation was the prerogative of white people, and that colour differences counted far more than any cultural affinity. The result was that most west Indians ceased trying to be accepted into white western society and limited themselves to socialising with fellow west Indians, whilst still nursing a sneaking hope that at least their descendants, born and bred in Britain, would be considered and treated as inheritors of British civilisation. ‘No matter how white people hurt you, you’re still not inclined to be really divorced from them’, said Patricia Fullwood, west Indian housewife in Wolverhampton. ‘There’s something between us, this love-hate. There shouldn’t be, but there is.’ In this hope they were to be disappointed. ‘They (black children) learnt English history, but when they want to join english society they’re shut out and there’s nowhere else they can go’, said a West Indian worker in London in 1967. A year later he heard Enoch Powell declaring that a West Indian or an Asian, did not, by being born in Britain, become an Englishman.”
WRITING BLACK BRITAIN, an interdisciplinary anthology – James Procter
This is an anthology of works, ranging from poems to short stories to non-fiction essays and pieces. This is a great book that’s filled with so much expression and through each individual piece you are able to learn something; from Jackie Kay’s poems regarding her struggle to be accepted within society to sociologist Stuart Hall analysing how Jamaicans were depicted within photographs when they arrived off of the Empire Windrush ship, this is an informative and moving anthology.
Linton Kwesi Johnson – 5 nights of bleeding
Madness tight on the heads of the rebels
The bitterness erup’s like a heart blas’
Broke glass, ritual of blood an’ a-burnin’
Served by a cruelin’ fighting
Five nights of horror and of bleeding
Broke glass, cold blades as sharp as the eyes of hate
And the stabbin’, it’s
War amongs’ the rebels
Madness, madness, war”
Johnson’s first published poem, 1974’s “Five Nights of Bleeding,” was written about the threat of violence that permeated the South London sound clash scene during this time. It was dedicated to Leroy Harris – the young victim of a fatal stabbing at such a party. (https://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2017/03/linton-kwesi-johnson-five-nights-feature)
BLACK SKIN WHITE MASKS – Frantz Fanon
Whilst I have not read all this book, it is incredibly informative. Fanon was a philosopher and within this book Fanon identifies a devastating pathology at the heart of Western culture, a denial of difference, that persists to this day. His book is more prevalent than ever, and I recommend even though it may be a difficult to read, it is eye opening.
“When I meet a German, or a Russian speaking bad French I try and indicate through gestures the information he is asking for, but in doing so I am careful not to forget that he has a language of his own, a country, and that perhaps he is a lawyer or an engineer back home. Whatever the case, he is a foreigner with different standards. There is nothing comparable when it comes to a black man. He has no culture, no civilisation, and no long historical past. Perhaps that is why today’s blacks want desperately to prove to the white world the existence of black civilisation. Whether he likes it or not, the black man has to wear the livery the white man has fabricated for him.“
These are just 5 books that I can list off the top of my head that I would recommend to you, however there is so much more out there if you seek it. YouTube and google are at our fingertips, let’s use this abundance of resource to our advantage.
The degradation and disregard for black lives is littered through history and is not something new. Police brutality is a disgusting by-product of systematic racism reinforced by colonialism. Please take the time to understand why people are so angry if you do not. If you cannot donate, the most important thing is to stay educated on social matters that are ripe in society today and speak up for justice, no matter what.
OTHER RESOURCES TO LOOK AT:
donate to the BLM movement: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/ms_blm_homepage_2019
Sign the petition for Justice for George Floyd: http://chng.it/d9CKSGNzny
Sign the petition for justice for Ahmaud Arbery: http://chng.it/ync2vpHBrQ
Sign the petition for justice for Belly Mujinga: http://chng.it/7yk7dYjkdm