I’m gonna go ahead and tell you that I knew a black person once. That’s what we white folk do to prove we’re not racist, after all. So yeah —I’ll do that. And while I’m at it, I’ll tell you about the black kids I grew up with, because that’s what we do. We make it all about us. And I wouldn’t wanna disappoint. Plus, y’know —
when white folk speak favourably of people of colour, they get all the cheers and accolades. Because white saviour, right?
…as a little kid, I kinda sorta wanted to be black. It wasn’t that I particularly wanted to be unwhite, it’s just that, well, goddamn it – black folk were cool. They were smart, beautiful, funny, and lookupable-to. Yes – all of them. In those days (late seventies – early eighties *I am a ‘little’ old – ahem*), you didn’t have to have a clone with whom to identify (otherwise, in my case, there would have been some freckled ginger kid with an enormous nose, rubber lips and gozzy green eyes, presenting Blue Peter).
The tellyfolk I admired the most were people of colour (making sure you still know I’m not a racist). From Sesame Street’s Susan (now one of my son’s YouTube favourites, to make sure you know I’m not raising racists) to Playschool’s Floella Benjamin, it was THEIR skin that stopped me in my six-year old tracks. I still don’t know why. I think maybe I was a little bored of everybugger being white – ’cause those folk sure all looked the same…
My street was ethnically diverse, too: two doors down, there was a white woman who married an Indian guy, and they had two Indlish kids. And yes – their house always smelled of curry, and it smelled FUCKING AWESOME. He was teaching her how to dabble in the kitchen with experiments in his native cuisine, and I (being a pal of their kids) got to taste the experiments! Me! How lucky was I?(Loving foreign food: not racist).
I used to knock round with a black girl named M, who, despite having a white Mum and black dad, came out into the world even darker than he. Because genetics. Throwbacks. But there’s a thing, and the thing is this: if we throw OURSELVES back far enough, and climb that family tree high enough, we’ll find BLACK.
M had the darkest, smoothest skin. Dark brown, it was. And that’s all I’m gonna say on that matter – because, FYI, PEOPLE are not coffee or food (awareness of inappropriate vernacular: raceless). She also happened to be a World Champion Disco Dancer (no kidding), so to say I idolised her is the undermost of statements (Note: black childhood friend = I’m an awesome white kid).
Later on, in high school, I hero-worshipped this pair of lads who’d just joined the school. Twin boys from Nigeria, same age as me. One lad – K – was put into my class, his brother T in another. First thing I noticed about K was how smart he was. I don’t quite know what I expected but it wasn’t this: a boy from another country, speaking English, French, and now joining me in Latin class.
He became THE ONE. The one to beat. Everyone has that competitor, right? Well, that’s how it was. He was the genius of the class (*now an accountant in Paris, by the way), and the aim was to beat the bugger at everything. And ridiculous though that aspiration was, it made me better. It made me smarter, faster, and tougher.
*Making sure to point out that the man done good. Because I wasn’t racist. Wouldn’t want you to think he was a failure or anything.
Not once – not ONCE – did I experience any bullying being thrown his way. Neither was it thrown in the direction of any of the other black or brown kids in school – we just didn’t roll like that back then. Bullying happened, sure (to me, usually – because they liked to pick on swottery rather than hue) – but never white-on-black.
Now, though, things are different. They just are. I wasn’t a racist back then – I was a kid. You aren’t born into bigotry – you’re taught that shit.
Now? I’m TOTALLY racist. I don’t see people for who they are – I see in colour. When I look at a black man, I see slavery, oppression, the past. I see white people in black people’s eyes, I see what we did to them, and that which we continue to do.
When I see a black man driving a car this side of the pond, I think how lucky he is not to be an Amercian – because I don’t see the individual, I see Messrs Castile and Crutcher.
If I see a black woman driving a megaquid car, or running a successful business, my first thoughts are “how fucking awesome”. I know how hard she must have worked and struggled to get where she is. And that, my friends, is racist.
I don’t do any of this stuff when it comes to white people. I don’t worry for my white friends when they go out wearing hoodies, or for any male friends who are asked to produce their driving licence. I don’t worry that my son will be shot to pieces for complying with the cops – because I don’t have to.
I don’t want to be a racist. I don’t want to see in colour – but I have to. For now, I have to. I HAVE to treat black people differently; it’s what my heart tells me to do. I have to rant and shout that #BLACKLIVESMATTER until I’m blue in my lily-white face, because staying silent isn’t an option. And if this means I’m a racist, so be it.
And over here – whilst there may not be guns, there’s the GO HOME brigade. People of Colour or ethnic extraction being attacked at every opportunity. Bricks through windows from “people” (I use the term loosely) who like to see dead babies washed up on beaches.
I’m being totally racist but…now, I’m glad I’m not black. Because this means my son isn’t, either.
And if it keeps me AWARE, and if it keeps me EDUCATED, I will own my racist status just as I own my white privilege – and I will shout even louder. Alton doesn’t have a voice any more; so I’ll use mine to shout once more: BLACK LIVES FUCKING MATTER.
Don’t you dare come at me with that “All Lives Matter” horse shit. Don’t say “I’m not being racist, but..” and then go on to be a bigotty bastard. And don’t deny your white privilege. OWN IT.
Read between the lines. Everything’s not just black and white, y’know.