"I read your statements of solidarity and each one invites a greater fury," writes researcher and author Hannah-Rebecca Eldritch. "How dare you? A lifetime of systemic injustice, generations even... and you don’t have the courtesy to take the time to think about what you can actually do to make a difference?"
I am not my grandmother, but I am my father’s daughter.
I am not the black woman who came over on a colonial promise to face racism in the streets, abuse and hatred. I am not the woman who raised four children working three jobs due to systemic and institutional racism limiting opportunities. I am not the Jamaican woman who found resourceful ways to deal with this vile British racism that infects everything we see.
I am not my aunties. I am not the first-generation women who were raised and educated in England to become nurses. I am not the women trained in the one opportunity as an evolution of the mammy figure — still caring for whiteness. I am not the women who excelled in the national health system, despite institutional barriers systematically put in place to prevent the progression of black women.
I am not all of those countless women who tolerated this. I am not as strong as those who went through this. I do not have to be. I am not a woman you can idolise to be strong so you no longer feel the responsibility to care for me when I am hurt. I am not blessed with the perseverance, dedication or diplomacy of these women. I am not my grandmother.
My mother taught me because she knew the schools would not
I am my father’s daughter. I say this with ease because I know almost nothing of that black panther black power 80s struggle. I know that all of my uncles excelled in martial arts — because it was accessible to black people growing up in Handsworth and because it was necessary. I am borne out of that fight. I spent my life in Saturday Schools and after school clubs and community based church provision. Because the state systematically fails black students. I knew these statistics as young as five. My mother taught me because she knew the schools would not. I can tell you I first experienced racism from my primary school head teacher but I understood it before then, because I am my father’s child. I am my mother’s child. They taught me the realities of racism alongside my alphabet because that is the England I grew up in.
- See also: Breaking down racism in mental health care
- See also: How we can engage with race in a meaningful way for the people we work with
I am the community-based programmes that taught me how to read, write, black history. I learnt the saxophone through a church based community music programme. I got my career from this. I learnt how to do fundraising through the statistical inequities of inner-city Birmingham. I learnt how to do community work because my mother and my father dedicated their lives to teaching the community in the absence of the state. Everything I am starts here. In this.
So when I tell you I am not my grandmother, I am telling you I am not a woman prepared to do what is necessary to survive. I am a woman who is prepared to take you down with me. I am telling you I am not a woman prepared to coddle you into understanding racism. I did not receive this luxury and I devote little of my time to your comfort. I am not that woman. I am a child who knew at five that schools alone were no good, my parents and their peers knew from their first and second-generation experiences that the system would take no such care for their children.
'I have walked this walk from day one'
I am not the woman prepared to be patient. I am a woman equipped with the knowledge of the first-generation immigrants handed down, a woman who knew your prejudice better than you as a child. I am a woman who is over this. This is the fire that has been building up, watching how you respond and react to what is arguably the most important civil rights movement in history.
How dare you? I read your statements of solidarity and each one invites a greater fury. How dare you? A lifetime of systemic injustice, generations even- and you don’t have the courtesy to take the time to think about what you can actually do to make a difference? You have the gall to throw together these hasty words that mean nothing. You insult me further by presuming I won’t see through it — and why, because your years spent systematically hindering my education and progression opportunities makes you think I won’t be intelligent enough to see it? Just who exactly do you think you are talking to?
Let me remind you, I have walked this walk from day one. This is it. You think you own the conversation on racism because you are the oppressors but you don’t. Racism is my world, this is my game, this is my damn wheelhouse. I had to learn how to hide my blackness to gain job opportunities, knowing when to shut up in order to progress — taught the secret language of subversion. That shit didn’t end in slavery, that’s what we do today when wandering the halls of your hallowed corporate world. So when I read your statement, stripped within an inch of it’s life by your PR team — you aren’t helping. Your message doesn’t contain support. You refuse to acknowledge your role in an environment you’ve created, you refuse to hire black people who are more than qualified for the job and in every action you take, you uphold the status quo. So when you put out a message of support that fails to acknowledge your role, doesn’t indicate any way forward for change and asks for a conversation with no responsibility, no onus to take action and no obligation to be better — I see through it. and I’m over it. You do more harm than good, and it would have been better to stay silent. If you’re not about that life, that’s fine. You don’t have to pretend you suddenly value black lives when everything you have done says the opposite. What you do have to do, is shut up and take it. You need to sit down and wrestle with, and reconcile your failure. Take a look in the mirror, I don’t care if you don’t like what you see — it’s your own damn face. I do not have the emotional time, space or energy to devote to soothing you through a cultural revolution.
I’m over your virtue signalling.
I’m not my grandmother.
The author is a researcher and author in the fields of Pentecostalism, Disability, Community Activism and Mental Health.