Keep learning and speaking about it and talking to those who want to make a change. The people who truly want to become allies in the movement will seek you out – hold on to them.
BLM, My Experiences Of Racism, and Tips For Being Anti-Racist
As we look back on 2020, it’s natural that we reflect on the days and months gone by and hopefully try to see what we’ve learned. Last year’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement started the important work of highlighting or reminding people of the amount of work still needed to even get to a place where we live in a truly inclusive society and world.
What I think was odd and concerning was the the dialogue coming from some circles about ‘why is it not: all lives matter?’ These comments just smacked of a lack of awareness of what the campaign was trying to highlight and also how deeply entrenched the problem of racism is and how some people cannot handle the focus being away from them for even a short while.
I’m not black, so I hold my hands up and say: I cannot know what it means to be a black person in the UK today. But, I do know what it feels like to be a British-Pakistani woman and visibly Muslim. Double whammy (triple whammy, if you include gender).
This post is not intended to get sympathy. In fact, I was unsure if I should post this at all, as this blog and my writing in general is about positivity and inspiring others – but part of that is being real and sharing real experiences and not suppressing experiences which may be uncomfortable. Speaking about it raises awareness of the things people take for granted and the fact that white privilege is very real.
BLM has triggered or reminded me of my own experiences of race, but it has also shown me that there are white people who genuinely want to become allies and fight the fight together. For this, I’m grateful.
Some examples of how I have experienced racism (including microaggressions – seemingly mild forms of racism which accumulate over time):
- The classic ‘Where are you from?’ – This has happened quite a bit in my line of work (I work in education). Shockingly, I have even been asked ‘are you sure?’ when saying which UK city I am from. I know that my colleagues who are white (even if not from the UK, and with obvious accents) would never get asked this question. Thankfully, I work in a fairly progressive environment and my colleagues have never asked this question. Alhamdulilah for small blessings!
- Avoiding my gaze – It really grates sometimes that people don’t seem to be able to look a hijab-wearing woman in the eye!
- Speaking more slowly – Not that common, but I have had instances where the shop assistant has very clearly started speaking more slowly once they have started serving me. They soon clock on that they don’t need to once I open my mouth…
One thing that has come from BLM is the fact that being anti-racist and not racist are not the same thing. The former requires action, whereas the latter might simply be passive. The former would involve calling out something as racist, if it were to occur.
So how can we (yes, it is a collective effort) begin to change this? Before listing some tips, a small caveat: I don’t think the burden should be placed on people of colour to educate and change all of this. However, that equally doesn’t mean we wash our hands of any involvement in helping to reeducate (if we feel we can cope):
1. Don’t change to try to fit in
People need to get used to seeing differences – if we dilute them, then racism has won. Be you. Caveat here is: be safe; read the room.
2. Don’t let comments slide
Any time you see any hint of underlying racism – call it out, question it, make the other person reflect on what they have just said. This includes holding ourselves accountable too i.e. questioning our own unconscious biases and actively working to change these.
3. Don’t belittle people’s lived experiences
We cannot belittle the experience of black people just as a non-Muslim should not belittle the experience of a Muslim, or a non-hijabi belittle the experience of a hijabi and vice versa. Listen and try to understand and educate yourself.
4. Your duty as a Muslim
Justice will be done to those wronged. But while we’re here on this earth, I strongly believe it is our duty as Muslims to uphold justice – it goes against our faith to not do so and be part of the problem.
5. Actively learn
Don’t think this is a fad; rather it is lifelong work that needs to be done in order to see any difference in the future and for generations to come. Keep learning and speaking about it and talking to those who want to make a change. The people who truly want to become allies in the movement will seek you out – hold on to them.
Don’t turn a blind eye to stories related to this and don’t be afraid to speak out. If you have a platform; no matter how small – use it to speak out. But do so once you have educated yourself. Nobody needs more fake news!
This article was originally posted on Blogging Believer, republished on TMV with the author’s permission.