Saying you aren’t racist is not enough. Saying you’re simply “not racist” is taking the neutral ground. There is no neutrality in the fight for justice and the fight against racism. White silence is violence. For friends to sit there and say that they don’t need to post things on social media or “send massive opinions on group chats” hurts. It really hurts because silence is incredibly powerful, it ironically speaks volumes and says a lot by saying nothing.
‘How can you not see that the first thing anyone else sees me as is black and has always been black? I’m that “black friend” that you’d primarily refer to me as before you describe the content of my character.’Denise Nishimwe
Friends who have seen me as just a friend and not the colour of my skin speaks volumes. How can you not see that the first thing anyone else sees me as is black and has always been black? I’m that “black friend” that you’d primarily refer to me as before you describe the content of my character.
I understand that people sharing posts without truly understanding why they’re sharing them is ultimately performative and this is a disservice to the fight against racism but racism runs deeper than just feeling uncomfortable about sharing posts. It’s seeing your black friends being pulled over and being searched at festivals due unconscious biases that are present in white minds, it’s being followed in supermarkets and shops because apparently all black people steal. There are so many examples of unconscious biases towards black people, and the onus is on white people and allies to unlearn that behaviour and recognise the way it actively affects black people daily. It’s on you to call this out.
It pains me that people are only starting to recognise the insidious nature of racism in the UK after the wrongful murder of George Floyd in the United States. Does blood have to be spilled for people to reconsider how unjust the system and its institutions are? Rather than defending why you haven’t spoken about racism, acknowledge that you don’t know what to say. Be truthful. Acknowledge that you have questions, that you want to learn but don’t be complicit and resort to being a bystander whilst black people are seeking change and protesting for basic human rights. Swallow your pride and recognise why maybe, that one comment you made, is racist even if you think it was harmless. Saying that you are not racist is not enough. To be anti-racist, allies must develop a philosophy that directly confronts that of racist people everyday and that’s the minimum of what black people are asking for. Take the steps to learn why the powers given to institutions to “stop and search” disproportionately target young black men in the UK, take the steps to learn the history of racism that goes beyond slavery and look into discriminations faced by black people everyday. Resources are available and are abundant now more than ever, use your voice and your privilege to help dismantle a system designed against your black friends, one that is built to stifle their voices and their progress.
‘Does blood have to be spilled for people to reconsider how unjust the system and its institutions are?’Denise Nishimwe
Not being racist is not enough, be anti-racist, help elevate the voices of your black friends instead of being complicit with the powers that actively suppress them. Being silent on racial issues and racial inequality only feeds the machine and the system that has continually oppressed black people and your black friends for decades.
Justice does not come about by being silent.
Links to petitions, trusts, charities and campaigns in the UK and the US:
- Teach Britains colonial past as part of UK’s compulsory curriculum:
- The Black Curriculum
- Justice for Belly Mujinga
- Police accountability act 2020
- Say Her Name Campaign
- The Runnymede Trust
- Stand Against Racism and Inequality (SARI)
- BlackThrive ( a UK based black mental health charity)
- Black Minds Matter
- Black LGBTQIA+ Therapy Fund
- Kids of Colour (Manchester)