Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge September 30, 2020

wednesdaybloggingchallenge

The Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge is hosted by Long and Short Reviews.  This week’s topic is: the nonfiction book everyone should read and why. 

41aEzEzs7qL I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the reason why we need to read this is obvious considering the current state of the US.  However, in case it’s not, I have come armed with quotes a plenty.

Although this was written by a British woman, the parallels between racism in the UK and here in the US were shocking.  I won’t lie to you and say I knew how it was over there because I had no idea.  I don’t know if it’s because of the way Americans tend to only look at America, or if I’m really just ignorant about the world around me, but I had really hoped that other countries were better at handling racism than the US.  I hate to say it, but I was very, very wrong.

The author is an articulate and engaging writer.  She presents her views and backs them up with personal experience, showing that she’s not pulling all of her opinions out of a hat.  She also opened my eyes to things I hadn’t noticed (hint: I’m very white) and helped me understand better what racism is and how it effects people of color.  She also clued me in to the history of slavery in Great Britain:

Liverpool had been Britain’s biggest slave port. One and a half million African people had passed through the city’s ports.

This surprised me.  When I think about the slave trade, my information is very US-centric.  Which makes sense considering that I’m an American.  It was one of many indications of how my education has failed me.  But I’m not the only one either:

But I don’t think my ignorance was an individual thing. That I had to go looking for significant moments in black British history suggests to me that I had been kept ignorant. While the black British story is starved of oxygen, the US struggle against racism is globalised into the story of the struggle against racism that we should look to for inspiration – eclipsing the black British story so much that we convince ourselves that Britain has never had a problem with race.

I’m not sure how much better the US is at this, but slavery is definitely a lot more up front in this country due to the Civil War, among other events in our past.

I also learned a lot about coded language.  Some things were obvious to me, like the use of ‘race riot’, but others weren’t.  For example:

But the importation of the word mugging brought with it a coded implication that the perpetrators were overwhelmingly black, and that mugging was an exclusively black crime.

It’s funny because too many gangster movies as a kid has led me to equate mugging with New York City and some crazy white person holding up a woman wearing her finest.

I think that the biggest reason why this book is so important is because it breaks down what racism is as well as how ingrained it is in our society.  Not to mention white privilege, a phrase that’s been used a lot, especially lately.  But when you’re the one with the privilege, it’s hard to even know you have it.  So, for the author to explain it as well as provide examples of it in action, it was easier for me to grasp and realize that yes, it’s very much at work in my own life and all around me.

This is where I feel like I should apologize to the author and POC everywhere, because I shouldn’t have had to rely on someone else to educate me on this.

And white privilege is an absence of the negative consequences of racism. An absence of structural discrimination, an absence of your race being viewed as a problem first and foremost, an absence of ‘less likely to succeed because of my race’. It is an absence of funny looks directed at you because you’re believed to be in the wrong place, an absence of cultural expectations, an absence of violence enacted on your ancestors because of the colour of their skin, an absence of a lifetime of subtle marginalisation and othering – exclusion from the narrative of being human.

Put like that, I wonder how I missed it.  But then, I’ve been raised, albeit unintentionally, to not notice either.

This is one of the things that stood out to me the most:

The idea of white privilege forces white people who aren’t actively racist to confront their own complicity in its continuing existence. White privilege is dull, grinding complacency. It is par for the course in a world in which drastic race inequality is responded to with a shoulder shrug, considered just the norm.

The reality of this hit me in the face.  How do we not see this happening?  How are we not more active in changing the norm so that it reflects the true diversity of our country? Racism shouldn’t be the norm, it shouldn’t have ever been the norm, but here we are.  The question is, what do we do about it?

Something else that stood out to me was her take on reverse racism.  I must not have highlighted the quote (and I swear, I think I highlighted half of the book, so how did I miss this?), because I can’t find it, but she states that reverse racism doesn’t exist because racism = prejudice + power.  And she explains (because this I highlighted, hah):

Racism does not go both ways. There are unique forms of discrimination that are backed up by entitlement, assertion and, most importantly, supported by a structural power strong enough to scare you into complying with the demands of the status quo. We have to recognise this.

I know that will likely ruffle some feathers, but cries of reverse racism from white people have always rubbed me the wrong way, even as an overly sensitive white person myself.  I’m glad I finally have a way to understand why it bugged me so much now.

This, I feel, applies to Americans as well.  Especially since we have a history of taking every challenge head on:

I think that there is a fear among many white people that accepting Britain’s difficult history with race means somehow admitting defeat.

But there’s no defeat in recognizing that things need to change, in my opinion.

I feel like this post is a hot mess and a half, but hopefully I got my point across.  This book is important because it is factual and in your face reality.  It’s important because as a white person, I need to learn to check my privilege and/or use it to help others acquire equal footing.

I’m going to leave you with one last quote:

I consider myself to be part of a movement, and I think that if you are deeply touched by what you read in this book, then you are part of that movement too. It’s happening right now.

*All quotes taken from the Kindle version of the novel, borrowed from my local library.

17 thoughts on “Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge September 30, 2020

  1. Excellent, timely choice. One of the big issues in trying to discuss racism here in the U.S. (and likely elsewhere as well) is that people are frequently talking about completely different things when they use the word.

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    1. Thank you! Yes, exactly. Depending on your age, your race, your location… it could be anything. Which is why this book had such an impact. It discussed the obvious and overt as well as the more subtle ways that racism works.

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  2. The most insidious thing about white privilege is that white people don’t realize they’re benefiting from it, so they move along blithely unconcerned. The cops stopped you while you were driving? You must have been doing something wrong, because they never stop ME. The cops shot at you, then put their knees on you to hold you down? That must be your fault, because it’s never happened to ME. Etc etc. What white supremacy groups are afraid of is the reality that white skin is the minority all over the globe. And no longer will it be “default”, in that if there are 10 people applying for a job, and one is a white man, it’s assumed the white guy will get the job. Now the playing field should be equal. And when you’re used to being on top–being equal is a huge step down. But as I always say, if the only thing you can be proud of is the color you dropped out of your mother, then you’re a pitiful excuse for a human being. You know yourself better than anyone. If that’s all there is to you, that’s sad.

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    1. Exactly, and that’s the point that the author made, too. Seriously though, it really opened my eyes to all facets of racism and privilege that I hadn’t been aware of before. Which, as uncomfortable as it might have been at times, is a very good thing to be aware of.

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    1. I was shocked, honestly. But I never knew a lot about British society either, so maybe I shouldn’t have been? But thank you – I’m going to look for Hirsch’s book now, too.

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  3. This was an excellent post and not a mess at all. I applaud you for writing it, because a lot of people wouldn’t put themselves out there like that. I know I grow weary of discussing racism with people because I have spent most of my life being the only Black person at work, school, etc in too many situations- and you get tired of having people be hostile or dismissive or making it all about them when you point out racism. Some days, I completely lose hope; other times I don’t. I have not read this author’s book; my knowledge of Black UK experience needs to be improved.

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    1. Thank you, I appreciate that. Can’t lie – I was nervous about posting it, but I’m thrilled at how well received it was. The last bit of your comment is exactly the reason the author gave and I can’t imagine how hard and pointless it must feel to have your every valid concern met with resistance, dismissal, denial, or any other way that (white) people use to deflect from the truth. I’m glad you haven’t totally given up on us though. 🙂

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