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

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.

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
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.

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.

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.