Friday, 6 October 2017

How Not To Patronise Black People


When you’re in the majority, white, with all the privileges afforded by that demographic status and ethnicity, it’s easy, maybe even natural to patronise blacks who are the minority population, and carry the opposite of privilege. Moreover, our typical narratives in personal and public life make it highly unlikely that white folk will ever have discussed how not to patronise black people. People are simply never taught anything about this and not because they already know how, despite all the legislation that supports equality. If the legislation did the job there’d be no discrimination or prejudice, but we all know the answer to that one. So here are some pointers on how not to patronise people we often inadvertently, by our socially and culturally learned behaviours, casually patronise without even being aware of it.
 Compliance with your world narrative.
The first thing is not to expect black people to ascribe to your narrative of world and social events. Their narratives are likely very different to yours for good reasons. They were on the wrong side of colonialism, empire and the prevailing but rarely frankly stated attitude of white supremacy. The biggest mistake is to expect that they will see or experience life as you do.  To assume that is the greatest, most patronising act of all.
 Censorship of Speech
There is an unwritten but very active social contract which bars discussion of the black experience from “polite” conversation. Their speech is censored often to spare the blushes, shame, guilt, sometimes ignorance of the majority population. Being patronising is to expect a sovereign individual to live in the box you and folk like you have created for them. One must listen to what they say in the clear without asking them to bite their tongues just because their truth might upset or make you feel uneasy.
You’re not the normal standard
While white folk might be in the majority, they are not the normal standard, that by which all others are judged. In social habits, this would be akin to judging a fish by the behaviour  of a bird. It just doesn’t work. Culinary tastes, appearance, standards of beauty, social memes, dress styles, even body types will vary and each is beautiful in its way. When you expect people to be judged by your standards in these social affairs and tastes you patronise them and set them up for failure as would be the case if the tables were turned. This does not conflict with our mutual need to agree on the basic positive human values like respect, compassion, kindness, fairness and truthfulness.
Active listening
When you don’t censor the speech of others you will likely hear truthful and meaningful narratives which are new and unfamiliar. Some may be uncomfortable for you to hear some will make you laugh out loud, some will show vulnerability you never knew existed. Whatever the impact, when you actively listen rather than hold an expectation you unreasonably expect to be met, you get to the truth of the situation and engage with the other as a real person, not some poor reflection of yourself. 
Become and present as “You”
Through years of shared experience, often conflictual, it’s easy for relationships with folk of other races to be very scripted. My observation shows that people snap into role play when in such encounters and fulfil the socially scripted stereotypes society has imposed over the years. That is why many whites subtly expect black people to accept their leadership and imposed narratives. Some don’t know or have never been taught to see black people as having real , self-determining agency, but pretend they do. It’s very transparent. The only solution is to be yourself, not the role society has created for you as the white supremo or leader. You should be able to express not only your thoughts loves and aspirations but also your natural vulnerabilities and anxieties in a constructive, honest way. The relationship is not one of conflict, domination or subjugation though social stereotypes may impose that conflictual dynamic. The relationship is one of sovereign equals, and if what you do wouldn’t be done to a white person, don’t do it to a black person. It’s very simple. That’s hard to do when social values place one group at the top of the totem pole with the role to lead, and the other at the bottom with the role to follow.
No new skills required
Nothing above requires new social skills. You behave like this to other white people all the time and don’t think about it for a moment. All that is required is that the same happens when you meet black people. It won’t be lost on you that what is written above applies to black folk, just in the reverse. They should not invite patronisation by compliance with a world narrative that is untrue for them, censor their speech for the comfort of others, should recognise that they are another perfectly normal standard, actively listen to hear the real person behind the role play they associate with inter racial relationships, and fight the impulse to be defensive in the face of overwhelming privilege given to others by society and denied to black people.


It just requires the will and effort to unlearn ingrained behaviours.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Cool Britannia and “Hail to the Chief” changed our world and my behaviour....


Bottom of Form
http://bit.ly/IsabellaDC

When the times change, they change. Brexit was followed by Trump and both unleashed long and well-hidden truths about the values people hold in their hearts. The nice name for these values is populism. But in detail we've all seen an upsurge in nationalism, racism, white supremacism, misogyny, religious extremism and intolerance, the bold face of white privilege, the extreme vulnerability of Africa, and the ways in which all have been institutionalised to maintain the rigged status quo. 
No matter how many cheesecake pics, landscapes and little bons mots of inspiration or criticism we post, actions talk now and bullshit walks.
http://bit.ly/IsabellaDC

Old behaviour won't fly

That's why the behaviour that flew before won't fly anymore. I used to avoid embarrassing people over their hypocrisy here and abroad. I used to almost try and manage or take responsibility for the racial attitudes of others. All it did was normalize toxic behaviour. That won't work anymore because I realise I infantilise those who need to wake up to what THEIR behaviour and privileges mean for others and for world peace. They can own their own coy supremacist, racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic views themselves. I did not make them behave and think that way. Their culture did, and its they who live it. I will take responsibility for what I think and do, and my cross is heavy enough to bear without adding that of others.

Owning their actions

http://bit.ly/IsabellaDC
So those who are not mature enough to deal with a person of my colour and race as a human being without expecting me to be the instrument by which they prove themselves worthy by way of their exclusions and privileges, will find they have no traction. They can fix their low self-esteem by themselves. That's no more than I impose on myself. You are NOT how I prove myself to be of worth.

We need new structures

And different associations​ need to be formed to bypass the rigged systems that institutionalise inequality. Of course, it won't be easy, because people who have gotten great by oppressing minorities will likely not give up a rigged game without push back, whether by denial, minimisation, or subtle obstruction.
http://bit.ly/IsabellaDC

Times have changed and will never be the same again. And if one person is writing this, be assured that millions are thinking, even doing it, already...they just haven't told you.
Britannia and Uncle Sam, it was probably not your intention, but you just kicked off a new way of life, a new level of being woke for many who weren't before.


Thursday, 5 January 2017

Intersectionality: a cure for "quiet" racism and bigotry



Whether it's sexual orientation, age, religion, race, gender or different levels of ability, every issue impacts different groups in different often unexpected ways. The social consequences of being gay for example vary significantly across ethnic, religious and even different age groups, and the solution to each “section’s” challenges needs specific consideration. One size, in this case, does not fit all. Intersectionality is the name given to the differentiated impacts of issues on different groups or sections of society, and the more each group finds its voice the more they articulate what their section's experiences are.

Intersectionality 
The more I go, the more important this seems, and to think I only started to think about intersectionality after a brilliant series of posts on Huffpost  around the time of Trump’s Presidential campaign. One article had a woman talking about feminism and how it is often just thought of in terms of the rights and opportunities for WHITE women without really addressing the special issues faced by non-white women.


Mono issue warriors
I suspect the important thing is to avoid a situation where your mono issue, framed in the narrative and needs of your specific section, is pursued at the cost of its negative impacts on other sections. There are very few homogenised societies in the world owing to migration, and it is patently unfair, even sometimes illegal, to deny the rights of any subsets of human beings. Yet I see Muslims who only pipe up when the Middle East is mentioned; Christians who have an almost familial attachment to Israel and the "holy lands" overlooking the injustices meted out to Palestinians; Brits who think primarily of the concerns of native born white Brits above those of other Brits; even men who moan about being discriminated against (when what they probably really mean is they can't behave like monsters to women with impunity​).

Red flag
What makes me suspicious of such people is that they seem to want to replace one hegemony with another. They're just sad their section is not top dog, and lacking sensitivity to others’ needs and rights would be every bit as oppressive to them should they have their issues resolved. Diversity is a multiple edged sword. You can't bang on about your issues without having sensitivity to those of others. Quiet racists, quiet religious bigots, quiet cultural bigots don't understand Intersectionality at all, and it's a big red flag.


Wednesday, 21 December 2016

BAFTA Diversity Changes Could Also Help Us Suspend Disbelief In Storylines



Idris Elba as DCI John Luther
BAFTA (The British Film Academy of Film and Television Arts ) has just changed its rules to increase diversity in its awards and membership. The changes are designed to ensure that both outstanding debut and film nominees demonstrate that they’ve increased opportunities for minority ethnic and disadvantaged film makers by reference to gender, and disability in front of and behind the camera. Well l applaud them for efforts in the right direction. But I’m writing about storylines and depictions reflecting the life we live and not the laudable dream we wish to achieve.
 
I remember the day I first watched BBC TV’s Luther starring Idris Elba as DCI John Luther (years after every one had been raving it) and was so impressed by it!!
No I didn’t delay watching the hit show because I was  jealous all my women friends became weak kneed at the mention of screen heart throb  Idris Elba's   name. Now I better understand what made me feel weird about the drama, why I could not suspend disbelief to really get into it.
The real dynamics of of race 
The truth is it didn’t portray the actual workings of racial dynamics like “white privilege” on screen when the black character is cast as the senior officer with people calling him "boss" or "guv'nor". It’s not that black bosses don’t exist, rather that when they do they don’t behave with the freedom and ease portrayed by Idris and his white colleagues around him on screen. In our popular culture the black guy who behaves as if in charge is acted as a screen fantasy. It's as rare in actual daily life as hen's teeth for many reasons. Firstly, the stereotype does not exist, and secondly people just have not been taught to react with ease to black men or women as characters in charge. Most black men that have executive titles in real life appear more there on sufferance than with the authority a real leader should have. That's why all these portrayals are such a huge fantasy, a picture of the world we might like to see but have not yet actually realised. This must be shocking to some because I’ve never read anyone else say this on any medium in the UK. But it’s the truth black folk won’t tell you because they judge society doesn’t want to hear it.
BAFTA: British Film Academy of  Film and Television Arts

Shifting goal posts
I'm no shrinking violet and while for years I focussed on getting better at everything I do, the day I realised our social environment would keep shifting the goal posts to frustrate my goal strikes, I heaved an enormous sigh of relief. I knew at last I was not perfect, but not bad at all either. There was nothing wrong with ME. It was just that society was not yet ready to accept the best of me without reacting with defensiveness and the sense that it felt hugely threatened. My way of being, apparently, challenges white supremacy because I've never believed white folk innately better than me. White privilege is about subtly enforcing that falsehood. Of course, it is always denied.

Nikki Amuka-Bird as DCI Erin Gray
Real dramas not fantasy
So, I'm gagging for the drama that tells the story as it is NOW! The script that puts the black guy in charge and acknowledges that our philosophy or social working of white privilege means the character would be a snowball in a very hot room. That would be a real slice of life, and an uncomfortable but enlightening one for us all to watch. Till then I guess we must learn our lessons on this paradigm from the reality show running in America with Mr Trump and his followers who are happy to live in denial of how they are. If BAFTA has made the changes in personnel possible, I’m looking forward to the changes in output also!!

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Blame Yourself If You Keep Buying The Snake Oil



When you’re buying the fifth bottle of Snake Oil it’s time to look at yourself, not blame the salesman for his product being a fraud.


Who to trust, Putin or the CIA?
When America is told by security services experts who have served both Republican and Democratic governments, some for decades, that a foreign power attempted to and possibly did influence elections to choose her leader, you’d have thought the President Elect would listen. When the same agencies questioned the inappropriate use of private emails for state business by Hillary Clinton, the then campaigning Donald Trump threatened to investigate and even put her in jail. But no. the same agencies are saying President Putin authorised or knew of the cyber-attack on the Democratic National Committee's emails, the same, now president Elect Trump, says their advice can’t be trusted. Weren’t they, he now says, the same people who claimed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq leading to that country’s invasion? But America, the nation that bought the snake oil from the salesman is caught in the headlights not knowing what to think, who to believe, their security services or their greatest adversary in President Putin.

Gaslighting
She can’t blame the salesman who conned her into the first bottle of snake oil now she has bought and consumed so many bottles. This is the sales man that buys 800 jobs for a $7million kickback to Carrier Corporation for keeping those jobs in the USA, and sells it as evidence of his economic wizardry. Set this against the 168,000 jobs that were legitimately created in the USA that month without crony capitalism, and that went almost unremarked in the media or by the voters.  Only a change in America and its people’s attitudes will stop her buying more and more of a product of highly dubious worth.

If America continues to lie to herself, she remains vulnerable to further gaslighting by her new elected leaders. All the snake oil salesmen are having to do is repeat the lies America tells herself and which she so desperately fears to confront.

The biggest lie of all 

The biggest of these lies is that America is egalitarian, that she values all people equally. America says she is not racist, that her institutions are not predicated on maintaining the social economic and political superiority of any white Americans over any other Americans. But that's exactly the opposite of the truth. Any policies or activities that will deliver the prime yet  vociferously denied need to maintain white privilege there will pass muster among the masses. The nation will continue to buy the oil from the salesman as she gets sicker and sicker. The promises to “drain the swamp of establishment insiders”, to control immigration, to control abortion, to maintain law and order - all are cyphers for maintaining the established heirarchy in the USA, especially if the ostracised parties can in any way be associated with the liberalism that diminished white power in America. Many women voters went for this pitch, sacrificing their dignity on the alter of their soon to be restored ethnic superiority.  Buyer beware. Wake up. The medicine you’re being sold certainly diminishes your perceived enemies but will undermine the sovereignty, ethics, morality, cohesion and international dignity of your nation. Everyone can see America is being conned. Her enemies will enable it all they can, but only Americans can start owning their truths and lies to change this situation. 

Monday, 12 December 2016

4 things I learned From Engaging With A Trump Supporter

It is in the face of ugliness that one recognises and yearns for beauty. It is when confronted by anti-value that one discerns the importance of creating value. I have learned 4 lessons from engaging with a Trump supporter, and all incline me more than ever to seek the beauty and goodness that is the potential in all us humans, for to be a Trump supporter one must abandon many of the higher aspirations that spring from our humanity. 

 They answer with questions
Trump supporters answer questions with questions leading one on a trail of disjointed issues all disconnected one from the other. At the end of the conversation you’re left empty, wondering what they really said, because there is no overarching logic or narrative that connects their thoughts. Thus, they themselves are unable to say what they stand for except on a few, mostly self-aggrandising issues. An example is when asked how they justify a dog whistle campaign that unleashed the legitimation of racism and misogyny, they won’t answer that question they’ll answer with the question, “what about making America great again?” or “why are all American jobs going abroad to Mexico?”


They see no big picture
Trump supporters being very disjointed in the issues they espouse are unable to draw a big picture of the world they will create. They are unable to connect the dots of their individual ideas to form a panorama anyone can examine as ugly or beautiful. Connected to this is their short termism in thought. They don’t consider the flow of history beyond a few years ago, and so are completely unable to draw from the lessons of history. While they know the facts of what happened before, they cannot string them together into a narrative that yield moral or other lessons. So, they’re confused when you ask them about how Hitler came to power, and any parallels they might see in the present. It’s irrelevant to them. They just don’t do “bigger” pictures.

The ends justify the means 
Trump supporters think the end justifies the means, implying that immoral acts are justified to achieve their personal goals. So, in an election it’s ok to demonise Mexicans as rapists, the disabled as freaks, blacks as criminally violent, women as fair game for predation, so long as these ideas play to existing stereotypes and get the vote out. They are a morality free zone when it comes to social and ethical values.

Extreme information sources

The final thing I learned was how ignorant they are, or appear to be. This is not because they are unintelligent, but because their human intelligence is applied to sources of information, oft repeated, that make them hold what seem to be bizarre views. Thus, climate change becomes a figment of the imagination, the mainstream media is an instrument of a conspiracy to bring them down, and Clinton is the demon that deserves to go to jail for email malfeasance she’s been cleared of by the FBI. Elsewhere, the advice of duly appointed security agents (The CIA) is shunned even when they warn of dire threats to the constitutional integrity of the united states as in Putin interfering with US Presidential elections.


The net effect of engaging with Trump supporters for the neurotypical person is emotionally bruising and intellectually draining. The former because it hurts to recognise a fellow human you want to respect is demonstrating a callous disregard for the humanity of others. And the latter because they are simply impervious to reason owing to the extreme sources from which they take their information and the shallowness of their analysis avoiding the big picture. So be prepared when you encounter a die-hard Trump supporter, it will be debilitating, though the up side is you will come away yearning for the light and fresh air of reason and humanity.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Being Seen But Not Heard: #BeingBlackInBritain


"The Cart that overturns on the road ahead is a warning to the one behind” said the Buddha in an ancient text. Sometimes we learn from the failures of others and by observing take lessons that could save us pain and anguish in the future.

The outpouring of racial tension in America this summer brought on in equal parts by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the shootings of young (and older) black men by uniformed white officers, shocked the world. Here is a country with a black President not just in his first but in his second term of office - how could things be so bad when the popularly elected chief executive himself is black? Then there is the apparent willingness to absolve Trump of wrongdoing in his core support (mostly white, non-college educated voters) group following his "Pussy Grabbing" live mike incident, in which he suggests you can do anything to women so long as you’re a star. Endless radio programmes have wondered how the “Teflon Don” has not yet had any accusations stick despite the loud calls of his unfitness for Presidential Office. 
As the Trump Clinton campaign has laid open the fault lines hidden but denied in American society, so we in the UK have also hidden fault lines in our social fabric. I’m going to lay bare some of these in my series #BeingBlackInBritain. The challenges I write about all hide in open sight but are cloaked by a web of public denial, personal censorship and minimisation.

The truth hides in plain sight
If black folk in Britain act as society expects and say only what is “welcomed” by society, the faults lay hidden, incubating to burst forth in unhealthy ways later. Black folk can even act in a criminal way, especially the younger ones, and be absorbed. They are acting out the stereotype script. They can fail educationally and be absorbed, again acting right on script. Above all the most important thing that ensures our societal status quo is for blacks to be silent - not engage too vociferously with the democratic process or social relations in terms that white Britons don’t approve of. That would include talk of issues like white privilege or the unspoken but presumed greater value of white lives in all ways than black lives. The statistics from the judicial educational and economic systems don’t lie.  All put black Brits far behind other ethnic groups. So long as this silence is maintained, our social fault lines remain well hidden in plain sight.


Blacks can’t lead, the stereotype does not exist.
The immediate result of this law of silence, this mafia style social Omerta , is to give a false sense of normality, even progress. However, the current silence hides the fact that a stereotype or role of a black Brit as a leadership figure does not yet exist in any group activity. In individual sports and creative endeavours like music you do find exceptions, but wherever recognition depends on the support or cooperation of others, blacks must play the invisibility card; they advance best when they are silent or saying ONLY that which society wants them to say. But of course the most important thing about being an executive is to be a little more visionary, to go beyond what everyone else says does or thinks, and so open new vistas and pathways. If the stereotype of a black person at the helm of affairs, does not exist, even talented black folk must be limited by the imaginations of their judges and appointers – a mostly white society. The second big effect of the great silence is that it stifles creativity. Who even knows what black folk can do if they are disapproved of, for speaking freely.  


Society “assumes” what black folk think
Finally, society by so dumbing down thought and expression in the minority group act on repeated assumptions of what black folk think and want.  My experience shows that the best advocate for the individual is themselves. We end up with people who have no idea what black folk actually think and feel speaking on their behalf. Because of the social pressure to dumb down public expression of their experience, such expression from blacks when it finally bubbles over is loud, angry, and sometimes destructive.  Meanwhile a stitch in time could have the saved the nine that are required following say radicalisation into a terrorist cause, crime, a riot or even mental health problems brought on by the social pressure to be mute. In another post I will explain why Black folk do not speak up, but even in social relationships, blacks don’t typically talk to their white friends about how they feel. Such talk leaves people uneasy and is quickly disabled. So even when white Brits and black Brits are friends, the former don’t discover what the other knows thinks or feels.  They only know what they ALLOW black Brits to tell them. Conversation is censored to avoid embarrassment on both sides, but mostly the white side because, being dominant, it sets the agenda for what is on the menu of "appropriate" talk. All of this is unspoken, unacknowledged and usually just denied.


So, until black Brits rise beyond being seen and not heard, we store a world of unease for our society, block social mobility, destroy creativity and exclude many from the social mainstream, then wring our hands in wide eyed disbelief that this could be happening. It happens because in this case society has decided silence is golden.