Inner Thoughts Out Loud #BLM
25th May 2020 is now another significant date that highlights the struggles we face on a daily basis living in the black community. In the past week, a video surfaced of the death of George Floyd, who died after a policeman in Minneapolis knelt on him leaving him unable to breathe. This has since sparked a series of protests across the globe in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Initially i wasn't going to post this blog, it was just about getting some thoughts down, but this week has taught me a lot... Having postponed my dance sessions for Blackout Day and taking time to pause, to reflect on the matter at hand it has made me deliberate about where i find myself in my community - how i identify with being a dark skinned woman in 2020...
You see, we all have to pretend that the world doesn’t see colour. That colour doesn’t matter in this day and age. But in some ways it does.
In my enviroment I wasn't fully aware of any racial issues, just oblivous to it i suppose. It was going to majorette competitions as a child that initially opened my eyes to the differences. It isn't visible until you step away from your surroundings. So, being brought up on a council estate we were always seen as being disadvantaged, looked down on, but in-terms of my childhood i could not of felt more rich and privliedged. My sister and I never wanted for anything, mum always worked hard to provide us with everything that we needed and we never felt disadvantaged in any way.
From age 3 i was taken to dance school, fell in love with the artform and haven't stopped moving my feet ever since. In 1994, aged 11 i joined a majorette troupe with my sister and our group of friends from the estate and it was probably one of the best things we did... Being a member of the troupe gave us the opportunity to take part in competitions on a weekly basis, we got to travel across the country, something that we had never experienced before. Throughout this time is where i noticed being black in my community where i lived was acceptable but out of these boundaries it was percieved as something totally different.
My first negative experience of racism was whilst away at a majorette competition. So... Our team are lining up at the entry point of the arena, getting prepared to compete; we start to hear people imitating monkey noises, took no notice as we had never experienced anything like this before. Looking back we were completely oblivious to the noises being aimed at us but as they got louder, amongst this i heard the 'N' word, it became clear it was directed at us. Round about that time we were the only majorette troupe with so much diversity, having black, mixed-race and white members. It was an upsetting day. Over the years there have been other incidents at competitions, dance events, in work settings, in social settings, these have allowed me to understand my own experiences as part of a bigger story and to appreciate that in an age where black people are dying at the hands of police, my own encounters with British racism have been relatively mild. That's not to say that they don't matter. The message it self this week is Black Lives Matter. It just highlights that there doesn't seem to be much change.
How I Feel...
To be perfectly honest i am not entirely sure how i feel right now... Frustrated. Bitter. Disappointed. Worried. Hopeful. Things need to change. We need to educate ourselves. The realisation is shocking. If i reflect about where i am and how i came to be here, i do not identify personally with blatantly having opportunities taken away from me because of my skin colour. Although that may be down to the reason i have chosen not to see it from that view point. I look at how i have built myself up in a society that is discriminatory against people who look like me and i feel empowered that i have been able to create my own business and i am proud of all that i have acheived with SS Dance & Wellbeing. However, it is quite sad that over the years i have noticed in myself various types of learned behaviours to suit being around different groups of people. In 90% of my everyday work settings i am the only black person present, I find it difficult to speak up for myself when people casually say "Can i touch your hair?", "You're pretty for a black girl?", "Where are you really from?" I politely disregard the comments just to get out of an uncomfortable confrontation. Working with predominatly older people is a great eye opener to see the generational views, it is visible that being prejudice is learned and stems from what environment you grow up in, but it can be unlearned - it is up to you to chose how you behave. You are in charge of your attitude. You are in charge of your opinion. You are in charge of your knowledge. I myself have been reading up and expanding my knowledge this past week, if you are not already aware, research Jane Elliott and the work she started 50 years ago in 1968 - she poses the question 'would you as a white person be happy to receive the same treatment that black people do in this society?' Would you switch places? If your honest answer is no, you yourself are aware that there is a problem but as it doesn't directly impact you, you choose to ignore it.
I take full responsibility for staying silent in the past. I admit i heard but i did not see. Hearing about the issues and thinking the "system" is unlikely to change in my lifetime is not the right approach.
"I am no longer accepting the things i cannot change. I am changing the things i cannot acccept."
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