Race, White Privilege & Taking a Seat at the Table.

MOTHER OF ALL LISTS

Screen Shot 2018-07-08 at 20.46.53.pngI feel oddly drawn to Candice Braithwaite, partly because of her energy, but also because   she has moved out to a village in Buckinghamshire close to where I grew I up. While I have made South London, where she was raised, my home. For some reason I find that dynamic fascinating (there is definitely a more articulate and highbrow way I could explain that, but words fail me currently, sorry).

Candice has opened my eyes to many things, not least owning your story and being bold in your ambitions. She has also shed light on issues that had otherwise not been on my radar. Here she talks about that in more detail:


 

  • I always knew I was black. But it wasn’t until I was about six or seven that I noticed my complexion. My best friend was a light skinned girl called Jadell Mcleish. All the boys played kiss chase with her. 

  • My first obvious experience of race relations was the OJ Simpson trial. My grandad would allow me to watch bits and pieces as he believed it would be ‘the case of the century’ (he wasn’t far off) 

  • One of my fondest and most heartbreaking memories of my father was him telling me he always wanted to be a writer but it was a far fetched dream for a young black boy coming up in the 70’s, so he settled for banking instead.

  • I’m the eldest of three siblings and the darkest in  complexion. My mother never made me feel as though I wasn’t pretty enough but now when we speak as adults it’s clear that colourism affected my life in a way that it did not for them. 

  • Most recently I was featured in Stylist in magazine talking about colourism and most recently I received a message basically saying that I was making an issue out of nothing and that no one sees colour. If I were an extra in Hogwarts this is the kind of thinking I’d use my magic wand to erase.

  • When I was eleven I distinctly remember Joanna Jeffrey’s dad telling her that she shouldn’t be friends with ‘people like that’. She never invited me to her house again. Nor was Aisha. It took me a while to put two and two together. We are friends on Facebook though. Screen Shot 2018-07-08 at 20.47.08

  • I spent my teenage years being rebuffed by most boys that looked like me. So in my late teens to early twenties I went through a heavy ‘Jungle Fever’ phase. I’ve believe as humans we end up going where the love is.

  • Unfortunately many of the dudes I ended up with only saw black woman as a fetish and never good enough to take home to meet mother. That was a shock to the system.

  • None of the above has left me salty it was actually very educational. I learned that some black men being conditioned to believe that the woman who looks the most like him is repulsive and some white men seeing black women as sexual trophies are weapons of thinking that were used during times of slavery to ensure the break down of black families and they are problems which will take more than my own experience to undo.

  • On a lighter note, my friends now are so shocked that my husband is Nigerian. They all believed I was going to pull a Harry* on them. 

  • Being with a black man who grew up in Nigeria is a true revelation. Through his eyes I’m able to see the confidence that can come from being the majority. It’s wonderful. 

  • We always toyed with the idea of living outside of London. But personally I couldn’t see beyond the multi cultural melting pot which had become like a safety net.

  • I just knew RJ was going to be a boy. And bringing up a black boy in London is scary. My brother is 16 and tells me first hand that every time he leaves home, he is anxious. Whatever I could do to alleviate such future fears, I was willing to try.

  • But of course now in more ways than one my children are now the minority. Since leaving London, Esmé has become the only black child at school. 

  • Honestly sometimes I wonder if the trade off will be worth it. As I remember being her age and starting to learn self acceptance. Hopefully their Dad’s confidence will rub off on them. 

  • Esmé was four when she first mentioned her skin colour. She said ‘mummy, brown girls can’t be princesses’ I think it’s a statement that will stick with me to the grave.

  • I work hard to ensure that she can see herself reflected in books, toys and multimedia. It’s a hard and sometimes expensive task (black dolls are always at least £10 more expensive than white dolls. Must be the dye they use I guess) 

  • Creating something like Make Motherhood Diverse is my tiny contribution to the ocean of changes that need to keep happening in order for all of us to see ourselves equally represented.

  • I once wanted to share a video of RJ in a baby grow which resembled an old school striped prison jumpsuit with Akon’s ‘locked up’ playing in the background. Then I thought about how the media already portray young black boys and thought better of it.

  • Although it’s more often than not a difficult conversation to have I urge white people to not shy away or dismiss white privilege. The first step in dismantling it, is admission. The second is step is making space.

  • Whilst I hand on heart believe I can achieve anything, I don’t think we can use the Oprah’s of the world to try and pacify the rightful feelings of others. For every Oprah, there are ten Letterman’s. Even if it can be done, it doesn’t mean the race is always fair. Screen Shot 2018-07-08 at 20.46.37.png

  • But it’s wonderful to live in a time where I can see people crossing the finish line. Virgil, Enninful, DuVernay and a host of other talents and visionaries are doing things I wish my father were alive to see. 

  • But for every victory, there is another shooting of an unarmed black man, a celebrity tweeting racist bile and constant social micro aggressions. It can all get a bit much. 

  • I’ve often spoken about ‘seats at the table’ in terms of the world, it seems like very few ‘seats’ or positions of privilege are reserved for people of colour. 

  • In my mind the privileged table has a variety of Michelin star food and great wine. Other tables have leftover pizza and water. Of course it will keep you alive. But there is more to eat elsewhere. 

  • For a long time I wrongly assumed that I had to wait to be offered a seat at the table or just get used to one serving a pretty lacklustre menu. 

  • But having the courage to just walk up to a table and sit down without invitation has taught me that waiting to be offered a seat was the wrong move. More often than not, you just have to take what you want. 

  • It’s also important that those with easy access to the table send out invites and pull out chairs for those who have more hurdles to jump due to racism and classism. This doesn’t mean having one token POC as a friend but it means actually doing the work to ensure that the spaces around you are diverse and inclusive. 

  • Lastly I guess one could ask, why do you always bang on about race and diversity?  I’m in a rare position where I have a platform that may encourage some to listen. That in itself is my privilege. And I intend to use it. 

  • *’pulling a Harry’ means doing the complete opposite of what was expected of you Screen Shot 2018-07-08 at 20.47.31

 

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1 Comment

  • Reply Ann July 15, 2018 at 9:45 am

    I loved this article , so true. WE must all do our ‘bit’ to bit , so your brother is not afraid , so your can be a princess. x

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