For my brother. For my sisters. And for myself.
Her: I don’t like Beyoncé
Me: oh yeh? Why not?
Her: because she bleaches her skin
Me: well she’s quite light skin to begin with
Me: and anyway there’s societal pressures for people with dark skin to lighten their skin
Me: it’s genuinely considered an attractive feature and something companies capitalise on
I will never get over the entitlement of white middle class women to not only assume they know what societal pressures for *women of colour* are like but ignore information when they are given it.
This is why your feminism is not my feminism and your liberation will never be my liberation.
I have not been writing for a while. I’m not sure why exactly. There are many a times when I have written a whole entry out in my head, phone in hand, yet not typed it out. A few weeks ago I even wrote a whole entry in my little black book. But I did not type it out.
The world has kept on spinning by and my little world has done the same.
We’ve had the inspiring protests against the American anthem, the reelection of Corbyn and his cabinet being the most diverse labour has ever had, the Tory conference, and the rise of Trump and Clinton exploiting#BlackLivesMatter.
As for updates in my little world I am stuck on an awful project and thinking of leaving my company, I am worried about the turnout of a Black History Month event I am organising and am thinking of moving it to next month – after all why stay in October to have an event that focuses on us, I have tried to reduce the amount of “student activism” I do but feel lost in what my calling is, my brother has “come out” as bi, and I am in a new relationship but am worried about whether I should be.
So maybe last month has been eventful. Well it’s not the first day of the month but I’ve never been good at dates anyway. For the next few weeks I’d like to get back into the habit of posting daily. Because I miss it. And the dialogue in my head is getting pretty busy.
With a project I had been part of coming to an end it was time for celebrations. And what better way than to get the most junior member of the team to book a swanky dinner.
Panic ensued. How much is appropriate per head spending? How close does it have to be to the office? What time should I book it for? Does there have to be posh wine? I just knew this would be another story to add to my chest of work dinner horror stories – from booking a place a partner (think top dog) joked about hating at pre drinks to enjoying dinner in a place everyone else laughed at because it was too cheap. Let’s just say I am not made for organising corporate days out. A quick message of my initial idea to the person at the level above me confirmed my fears. It was too cheap. So I used my networking skills and emailed my fellow colleague who happens to spend her free time at the races and galleries. She had a few good recommendation.
After much googling and another quick message to the guy above the previous guy it was confirmed that the place was appropriate.
Booked and done.
Except now one of the guys complained I had booked it too late in the evening. Messaged the most senior guy to check if it was ok – no reply. So the booking stayed.
The day came round and I was so nervous! Being the only brown person, only women and probably only “lower than working class” person means I don’t often have a lot in common with my colleagues. I prayed it would get cancelled. Instead 2 people cancelled. So then there were 3 – me and the two most senior guys.
I arrived on time. No news from the other two. I’d watched enough tv to know it’s appropriate to wait at the bar and order a drink. Still no news from anyone else. How long do I wait? Can I play Pokemon Go?
They arrived 20 minutes later and so began the charade. Laughing at their stories of partners buying €200 shirts and explanations of why cars are so expensive in Denmark. Drinking sparkling water (which I call acid water) because I was too awkward to ask for still.
But perhaps most worrying of it all is how easily I merged into that world. I found myself smiling at the right time. Asking the right questions. I started to feel at ease and welcome. I was enjoying myself.
And there’s nothing wrong with that of course. I worked hard on the project. I deserve a treat too.
But it’s my merging that worries me. Spend too long putting up a charade and I may just forget which part of it is me and which part is for them.
Don’t lose who you are in the blur of the stars
Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing,
It’s okay not to be okay.
Sometimes it’s hard to follow your heart.
Tears don’t mean you’re losing, everybody’s bruising,
Just be true to who you are. – Jessie J, Who You Are
When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game. – Toni Morrison
[comments from my colleagues at work]
Monday: “Russia did well in Syria. Yes I agree there is more collateral damage than they let on but the benefits outweigh that.”
Tuesday: “I feel sorry for pedophiles. Watching child porn is the same as watching murder videos online. Would you get arrested for the second? And anyway, watching porn is a victimless crime. It’s their sexual orientation and it’s unfair that we see them as monsters without giving them a chance.”
They spell my name wrong even when my email is my name. It is not just rude. It is lack of care. Othering. Demonstrating just how unimportant I am.
Do you have a nickname?
No. Not for you. My pet names are names my loved ones call me with care.
When we apply we have to consider changing our name. Jay. Not Jayanet. No not Jay-a-net. Never mind.
When we know they turn us down for jobs. When they assume we are already too stupid when we hand in our work. At the very least they can call us what we are.
Every time I correct you is my political warfare. I exist. I am here. I survive.
Named by my grandfather. The history of my ancestors passed through me and I carry their strength. Queens, Warriors, Mothers’ of Prophets. It surpasses above and beyond the time you exist in and cold land you know. My name is fire. It is power.
give your daughters difficult names. give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. my name makes you want to tell me the truth. my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right. – Warsan Shire
I have been invited to work for “special teams”. And by that they mean the police, ministry of defence, home office and so on (and yes even the ones I can’t name).
My immediate reaction was hell no – they won’t let me in. Then I realised, well actually they will let me in. I haven’t broken any laws and I am a British citizen. Maybe I can change the system from the inside? So I started the process to get security cleared.
But now I am not so sure. See, I will be doing project work – not starting a one person revolution. I will be not only upholding the structures that oppress me and my community but improving them. I may be told things that will haunt me and I will not be able to share them. And let’s be honest, they very well could kill me – that is how little trust I have in those teams.
So now I’m in two minds about the whole thing. And the guy who invited me in the first place – a white, upper class, rugby-playing lad tried to persuade me to go for it. “What are you all ‘fuck the police’?” he asked. “Yes I am actually,” I replied.
And then I described my reality with the very people who I pay to protect me. I have seen them beating up a young boy in the street while the others stand in a circle, their backs to this incident. I see them dragging students by the hair during peaceful and legal protests. I see them stopping black people for no reason whatsoever. I see them snarling at me and my friends. I see them not believing me or even caring when I reported sexual abuse. I see them to be the oppressive force that protects the rich and keeps the poor, black and brown down. Over 1500 have been killed in police custody since 1900 and not one officer has been charged. That is my reality with the police.
He listened and nodded.
A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect
I apologise for being lost over the last few weeks. Working all day and volunteering all evening has left me with so much to say but so little energy to say it with.
One of the members of our team is Jewish and he will be taking the afternoon off for sabbath.
As I spoke to him about sabbath, I realised I don’t actually know anything about Judaism. In school we concentrated on Christianity and Islam as our two R.S. topics. I have a two Jewish friends – both who are spiritual but not what they would call traditional Jewish. One is gay. And the second leads the pro-Palestinian BDS movement. (I would just like to point out here that I am not equating being Jewish with being pro-Israeli).
As I asked him about the sabbath he described the prayers which are followed by meals with the whole family. The idea touched me as being so beautiful and grounding. I am very close to my family and though we spend hours chatting, our schedules mean we rarely eat together. And there’s something unique about eating together in the way it brings people together. It reminds me of Ramadan when we would all sit in a circle on the floor, sharing stories about our day, patiently waiting to break our fast. How lovely to be able to replicate that weekly.
He is visibly Jewish and I am visibly Muslim. Even though we never discussed it, I feel like a sense of solidarity with him. It must be hard to have to explain why you’re taking time off followed by the same questions again and again. I, too, am guilty of putting him through that. I respect him for his patience and the smile on his face as he explained – again. It’s nice to be around someone at work who’s faith is just as important to them as mine is to me.
- Is it acceptable to be a Beliber now?
- Is Adele going to wait till she’s 30 for her next album?
- Why is the man near me talking so much so early in the morning?
- How on earth will I get out of the Christmas party to make it to an event I’m speaking at? I shouldn’t have pulled a sickie last week – would have been useful this week!
- Will I survive another week with no coffee? (I don’t usually drink coffee but this is getting more and more difficult with each passing day)
And the Monday morning pickup:
Britney Spears got through 2007, you can get through today! – Unknown