I am sick, and I am tired. No, this has nothing to do with lockdown or the pandemic. I am sick and tired because I have seen two incidents of racism in the media today—one of which led to the death of a man and rioting. I am so sick of this.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I think all these incidents should be recorded in order to be shared with appropriate law enforcement officials. Sharing them widely is inappropriate. Allowing the world to see them in this way retraumatising people involved and others. Yes, we need to know what is happening, but we should not be traumatizing people by showing them in the media or on social media. (https://qz.com/725940/videos-of-police-brutality-now-resemble-modern-day-lynchings/)
These incidents SHOULD NOT BE HAPPENING! No person of colour should feel that the USA or the United Kingdom is a threatening place for them. No white person should think they have a right to treat a of colour person without respect or decency. No law enforcement officer should mishandle someone just because of the colour of their skin or their accent. When are we going to learn? I am sick of it.
We white folks like to think we are not racist, but racism is deeply embedded in our society. Did you know that Guinea Street in Bristol is named for the area of Africa from which people were stolen and enslaved? Are you aware of the role of Edward Colston, Bristol philanthropist in enslaving people? Are you aware of the connections between Scotland and the Caribbean and the enslavement of Africans? Did you know that “Penny Lane” of the Beatles fame in Liverpool is named for James Penny, slave trader and anti-abolitionist? (Liverpool surpassed Bristol and London as the slave-trading capital of England by the mid to late 18th century.)
Okay, those histories do not mean we are all racists, but they remind us that we live with a painful legacy of enslavement, of seeing other human beings as inferior, and of treating them with disrespect. We continue to live out that legacy now.
You might like to think we aren’t like that in the UK, but in August 2011 Mark Duggan was killed while in police custody. Following his death riots ensued. Maybe you saw the surgery of BAME medical staff who felt they were put closer to risk during the pandemic than their white colleagues.
It’s uncomfortable to read, to think about, but we have to face into it. We, who are white, have to change our behaviour.
If we really believe that all human beings are made in the image of God, we have to live that way. We do not have to agree with everyone. We do not have to like everyone. These decisions, however, cannot based on colour, gender, sexual orientation, or nationality. We have to treat ALL people with respect and decency. We have to demand that our police do the same. When we hear racism, we have to find a way to confront it. When we see prejudice, we have to take a stand against it.
Over 30 years ago I was in a meeting. I used a phrase someone found offensive. She was African American. She took me aside and told me why. I felt ashamed as I thought of myself as an open person, but I heard her. I changed my language. I examined my heart. I am grateful. If we truly believe that God loves ALL people, we have to find ways to confront our own prejudices and those in the people we encounter so that there are no more videos or reports of people being killed or threatened because of their skin colour, nationality, sexual orientation or gender. Enough already.