This moving, courageous and thought-provoking Blog post called “BLACK AND BIASED IN BRITAIN” was written on 7th June 2020 by my nephew Richard Pain who has African-Caribbean heritage. I am proud to be his aunt.
Richard is uncomfortably honest and challenging about his experiences, feelings and thoughts about racism and how we all have racist attitudes, whatever our so-called ‘colour’. It reminds me of a photo taken over the weekend in London of a placard which says “Even the least racist is racist”. I hope I have done him justice in this summary – but read on for yourself…….
BLACK AND BIASED IN BRITAIN
“I identify as both black and mixed race. I am both racially privileged from my light skin and racially biased to discriminate against black people. You are too… we all are.
“I did not want to write this. Despite having faced racial discrimination my whole life, I am also aware many others have faced incomparably worse. I now realise I have an opportunity provide the perspective of someone who has faced & benefitted from discrimination due to my relatively lighter skin.
“In Britain, the recent Black Lives Mmatter (BLM) protests are perceived largely as a USA phenomenon. A response to well documented police brutality. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Botham Jean, Tamir Rice (to name just a few) maybe catalyst, but these killings are symptomatic of a more distressing truth – that those born black are subjected to a constant barrage of discrimination. If you believe any country is different, then it is time to question your understanding of racism.
“I no longer refer to people as racist. Actions and systems can be racist, but not people themselves. When we start dividing the world’s population between racist and not, there is always justification to categorise ourselves as non-racist. There is always someone worse. The relative racial atrocities of others become our personal redemption.
“We have all been taught to racially bias against black people. An often-repeated 1940’s experiment by Clark & Clark asked three to seven year olds to attribute positive and negative characteristics to dolls identical except for race. Both black and white children preferred and attributed positive qualities to the white doll and negatives to its black duplicate. We grow up internalising a barrage of messages that white is better. An untruth that white people are more beautiful, intellectual, cultured, rational and hardworking (among others) than their black counterparts.
“My most shameful secret is that I am biased against my own race. This is despite the majority of my role models and loved ones being black. I am a product of our system and our entire system is racist. History books glorify white colonisation, dismissing prior black achievements. TV and film too often romanticise “blue eyed” protagonists and vilify black actors as criminals. News media have allowed us to associate black culture with violence. If you believe that you are still somehow racially neutral or unbiased- think again.
“I can’t breathe” – George Floyd, 2020
“George Floyd’s final words are even more poignant in the context of a black life. Every black breath comes slightly harder than its white equivalent. This small but incessant resistance takes its toll over time. It is this that is responsible for our exclusion from positions of power across society.
“Two identical children, W & B, enter an education system where teachers are marginally faster to assign positive attributes to child W and negative to B. The slight biases compounded over thousands of teacher interactions result in a slightly worse annual performance for child B compared to W. In the next school year the new teachers have their slight biases against child B reinforced by W’s higher previous years grades. How many interactions and reinforcements until child B is in a lower set, taking less challenging subjects or offered less University options than child W? How much compounded and reinforced bias does it take to convince child B that they are less intelligent?
“The reality is that while I focused on education this racial friction permeates every aspect of a black child’s life. A slight increase in probability of a police officer feeling threatened by a black citizen compounded over thousands of interactions dramatically increase the likelihood of becoming a victim of police abuse. When our individual biases are taken in aggregate we create a system which increasingly prevents black participation in boardrooms, editorial positions and top political positions.
“Progress takes frequent small steps forward and occasional giant leaps back. Ultimately the steps will outdistance the leaps.
“I was recently asked what simple action the UK government could take. Like asking how to achieve world peace, the question is too broad to have meaning. There are many positive racial changes to be made to education, law enforcement, business diversity, political representation and hundreds of other areas. However, Governments are prone to do the minimum to appear to appease its electorate, rather than to fully commit to meaningful change. This is understandable, we do it ourselves every day. We post our support on social media, but refuse to fully commit to real personal change. However, if you feel inspired, here are 3 steps:
“Accept you are racially biased against black people. We all are! You are not absolved of this by being less racially biased than someone else. Tests like the Harvard IAT tests are useful in revealing range of biases. (https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html)
“Recognise your resulting benefit from racial privilege. This does not lessen your acheivements or trump other social barriers. Just a recognition that whatever your accomplishments, these would have likely been harder if you were black.
“Use this racial privilege to continually challenge the system we have created as often as you can. Vote out Governments who try to bribe you to ignore racial inequality with other populist policies. Challenge your company on the diversity of their leadership. Boycott non-inclusive brands.
“This is a lifetime commitment – not just a socially convenient one. Ultimately, we have all made a choice, to reinforce the system created by our racial biases, or to actively challenge it and ourselves to be better. You can start right now. Just know that for your black sisters and brothers, because that’s what we are, every day it’s getting more tiring to take our next breath.”
Thank you, Richard, for writing this and for your courage in sharing it.