The Deafening Silence of White Privilege

What happened at this conference in the name of entertainment is outrageous, demeaning and reeks of blind white privilege. Unfortunately, some white people never seem to understand that racism is not entertainment. Racism is not Art. Racism is not something you intellectualised or play devil’s advocate with. Re-enacting a slave auction is certainly not something you entertain your mostly white audience with. The oppression of my ancestors is not your entertainment. When I read what happened at this conference in this article, I could not help but fume with anger, and to think there were people defending such appalling behaviour on twitter. You need to read the article to understand why the anger.

A quote from the article that resonates with me –

Slavery is considered an egregious human rights violation, alongside torture. The prohibition of both constitute the only two absolute, fundamental human rights which can never be justified or derogated from. Both can amount to crimes against humanity. This is for a reason. The gravity, horror and the harm of slavery, and its continued legacy, is important to understand–not intellectualised, minimised, sanitised, denied or dismissed as ‘that was in the past’ or ‘nothing to do with us’. The oppressive weight of Whiteness lives on, and its manifestations in individual, institutional, overt and covert, indirect racism are all around us, in us and in our practices. Racism and complicity in racism are always wrong. Racism is brutal. Racism is always an assault. Never entertainment.

It is also sad that most white people who consider themselves as not racist or ‘woke’ just sometimes get it so wrong. Also, it is important to bear in mind that fighting racism is not the sole responsibility of people of colour.

This reaction below was the response of a rather well-meaning white friend when I posted this article on my Facebook page

This is not the time for decorum anymore. Instead of walking out and issuing a statement the next day, why on earth didn’t those who object not stop the auction, physically, and denounce the audience for its passive acceptance of such an outrage? I’m fed up with objecting from the side-lines. If necessary, trash the place by throwing the chairs around. Get in their faces and dominate. It works.

While I was finding the right words to respond to such short-sighted statement from an online friend, another friend chimed in with her well thought out response.

I imagine that people walked out because they felt vulnerable and traumatised. I imagine that a direct response such as the one you describe did not feel available precisely because of the power dynamics and context described in the article. It would have been an option for the members of the majority white audience to take that action. Apparently they chose not to, or didn’t see the need. As white people, it’s on us to challenge racism because we have the privilege to do that. To leave it to those being oppressed to challenge that oppression by themselves is profoundly unfair because they are already vulnerable and traumatised. That’s my understanding anyway.

His response-

I see it in a somewhat different way. Sure some people will feel vulnerable and just want to get out of there. That’s understandable. However if you want to change things then you have to have the courage to challenge other people there and then, that reaction gives leadership so that other people will join you. This particular event is typical of what happens daily in many different forms. It must be met with immediate response and a readiness to escalate. It is not easy to do and often the moment is missed, but is has to be done.

Though to tell the truth, more often than not in the past, to my shame I haven’t reacted quickly enough in the moment. Sometimes it somebody totally unexpected who speaks up and demands solidarity from us all. Thank goodness for them. I suppose we have all experienced that.

When I finally found the words to respond, I wrote-

This is a white privileged view of the situation and very similar to blaming the victim rather than addressing the behaviour of the oppressor,.

You have focused on the reaction of the victim. Very tantamount to asking a rape victim…”but why didn’t you fight back or attack your rapist?”

What you have done here is blame the oppressed for the continued action of the oppressor and for not reacting the way you as a privileged white man would have preferred them to react to their oppression.

What’s wrong with this was actually highlighted in the article. You have failed to take into consideration factors such as shock, power dynamics, class and race privilege and the minority factor amongst other things.

Black people at that conference were in the minority as mentioned in the article, and the article mentioned that in that particular profession, that is the norm, which also translates to, the black people at that conference could probably only attend because they got a sponsorship or part sponsorship so as to not make the conference appear all white. I have seen this in action, I have been a beneficiary of such superficial equality action for conference organisers to look good and to tick the equality monitoring form.
Most probably the black participants were junior colleagues hoping to use such conference to network and climb up the ladder. They do not have the power luxury to start throwing a tantrum and chairs around or grab the microphone to disrupt the event to protest a play that offended them.

Walking out itself was a protest tool they felt comfortable using and I applaud them for taking a stand. They also forfeited their rest hour to come together to draft a response and insisted it was read at the conference the next day.

However, did they get support for the statement from the white audience? Nope. They were met with silence. A loud silence of white privilege who wondered why the black people could be offended by something so entertaining. To them the black people there had no sense of humour, no wonder their ancestors were enslaved.

Look , there was a time when if I was at such a conference I would have jumped on stage and disrupted that event, but that was a younger me. Would this me that is a civil servant do such a thing now? I doubt so. I would walk out, I would silently protest outside if possible, I would draft a statement and insist it be read, same thing they already did. However, I know I wouldn’t jumped on stage to stop the play. Power dynamics, civil service code of conduct, immigrant status, race factor which definitely has and would affect my getting another job or a promotion and the need to pay my Bills are factors that would deter me from reacting in the way you as a white man suggested.

Instead of being angry that the black people did not react aggressively to stop this racism that continue to happen, why not direct that anger to the people that keep doing this act of racism and the white audience who enjoy such and the white audience who maintain a grave silence in the face of such outrageous racism.

In other words, don’t tell people to fight their rapist, tell rapists to stop raping. Tell racists to stop being racists and don’t blame black people for not fighting back the way you as a white man would want them to. Finally, remember fighting and stopping racism is definitely not just the responsibility of the oppressed, it is a collective responsibility and white people needs to take a huge part of the responsibility.

From his response below, it is good to know that he has at least had a rethink

Thanks Yemisi Ilesanmi and****** for your your well considered replies. Yes I am speaking from white privelege. It is a different power dynamic. It means that I can fire back at those who offend me and if necessary go down with all guns blazing. That is a freedom I assume, wrongly as you point out, that every citizen has – no matter their race, gender or sexuality. At any rate that is the ideal, even if doesn’t exist in practice. The accusation of blaming the victims for their non-aggressive reaction rather than focusing on the oppressors – stings – and I shall remember my mistake; though I suspect I shall probably repeat it when I next try to wave the flag for more militant, break-the-limits-of-convention type of action that I am in favour of. In the last few years I have increasingly lost patience for a safe/tolerant/polite approach with my opponents. The Amazon burns, Brexit disaster looms, Trump is doing his stuff, the Tories are about to be re-elected, Racism is so much more overt, Religion is even more unbearable, Fascism manoeuvres into the mainstream and we have only a handful of years left to stop runaway climate change. We are losing, not winning. Whether I have a privileged position or not, my attitude is to slap back. The only real question is how best to carry the majority of the people with us. And in that respect my non-too-subtle approach may be counter-productive. I suspect you both have your own ideas on how, but how does it chime with the times?

It’s good to know that at least they got part of what I was getting at. However, it reiterates the saying-He who wears the shoes knows where it pinches most.

No matter how much white people think they get racism they cannot really feel the tragic impact as Black people who know and understand their history do. Even when I organise equality events , now neatly and ‘conveniently called inclusion events, with white people, I am so conscious of how they only want to speak about the ‘feel good’ part of inclusion which comes with phrases such as “We are all one”, “We all bleed same blood”, “let’s all just get over things and just get along”. However, they get very uncomfortable when words such as white privilege, class differences, race power dynamics are mentioned. Surface equality is not enough to dismantle the power structure of racism. People with the power must learn to speak out against racism and call it out, Afterall their white voices still hold more power that the people affected by racism.

All I ask is that, beware of your white privilege and use your voice when most needed to condemn racism.

Liam Neeson: The face of white privilege and the advert for “Power-walking” as a cure for racism

The confidence of Liam Neeson casually confessing without any prompt that he went out with a weapon for a week looking to kill any black man, without even thinking there might be repercussions, reeks of white privilege. Just imagine if this was a black man confessing to going out every day for a week looking for a random white person to kill, just imagine.

In the interview with UK independent, Liam Neeson said

I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by somebody- I’m ashamed to say that – and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could… kill him.

On Good Morning America, he explained:

I went out deliberately into black areas in the city looking to be set upon so I could unleash physical violence, and I did it maybe four or five times until I caught myself on and it really shocked me, this primal urge I had.

The fact that Liam Neeson could confess to this is not really about the bravery, it’s about his cluelessness, about him not even realising a black man, a Muslim, an Asian man cannot just casually confess to this without serious repercussion , and not just from an angry populace on social media, but from the legal arm of government, starting with a knock, if not a kick , at his door from police officers ready to haul his black ass in for questioning for planning terrorist attacks. Liam Neeson is blissfully oblivious to this, Afterall it is normal primordial urge to want to murder black bastards, he really deserves a cookie for overcoming this very normal urge through power-walking 2 hours a day for a few weeks. Talk about white privilege!

Well, the power-walking worked, until he suddenly felt the need to refer to black people as “black bastard” during an interview, a case of repressed racism bursting out to show his inner racist, perhaps? Why on earth did he use that racist term and tone in that interview? Maybe we have the power-walking to thank for his not adding to the long list of black men who were killed and lynched by white men just because they can, think Emmett Louis Till, and all the black men that were lynched under the guise of protecting white women’s honour.

To all white people defending Liam Neeson, keep doing so, you are showing your low-key racism. Hand Liam a medal for his ‘bravery’, give him a cookie because we live in a society where it is such a heroic thing to no longer feel the primal urge to murder any member of a whole race for the alleged crime of a member of that race, and when that race is black people, damn, give that man an extra cookie…what restraint he showed!

It is one thing for Liam Neeson to acknowledge that it was wrong for him to try to seek revenge on behalf of a friend, but he never acknowledged it was racist of him to want to machete, in his own word. a “black bastard” to death. What Liam portrayed in that interview and what he continued to miss in the nonpoplogy, ‘I am the Victim here’ interview he later granted on Good Morning America, was that while he acknowledged that wanting to take Revenge is not the solution, he failed to acknowledge that his rage for revenge was further fuelled by the skin colour of his friend’s alleged rapist. Why was he concerned about the colour of the rapist anyway? Why did he not ask for the age or height of this alleged rapist and why didn’t he feel the urge to hunt down any man of same age and height? If she had said the rapist was white, would he really have gone out every week to look for a white man to kill?

His rage to want to lynch any black man to protect or avenge the honour of a white woman is one that is unfortunately very much entrenched in black history as one of the horrors committed by white people against black people. This horror is not a distant, past memory, this white man’s fantasy for black lynching still lives with us today. Remember Trayvon Martin, and George Zimmerman’s confession of seeing a young black boy walking on a white populated street, and immediately thinking he was a demon. Zimmerman admitted he saw a demon, not a human being, not a young boy, but because of the boy’s skin colour, what he saw was a demon and that cost Trayvon Martin his young life. Liam Neeson’s casual confession while promoting his revenge themed movie, is tasteless and even more so was his attempt to convince us he is not racist on a day that would have been the 24th birthday of Trayvon Martin who was murdered by a white man with same urge as Liam Neeson, to kill a black man, any black person. Only George Zimmerman did murder, he got away with it, and till date, has no remorse.

Liam Neeson has obviously not identified the Hate crime element in his confession. It is impossible to acknowledge and deal with something when you have not even realised it is a problem. After one week of going out 4 to 5 days to hunt down any “Black bastard”, he finally realised his primal urge was wrong, but did he realise it was a hate crime? Didn’t sound like it.

Did he realised just how much hurt based on real lived experiences his confession brought black people, myself included? It is a confirmation of what we as black people already know, we are not fully seen as humans of same status by many white people. We still have every reason to have that doubt, even if it’s the tiniest doubt, about how a white person truly sees us, no matter how open minded or progressive the white person claims to be. Liam Neeson’s confession confirms what we as black people have always known, we are not safe, hence why we march with the placards ‘BlackLivesMatter’, why we bend a knee during national anthems, why we use the hashtags BlackLivesMatter.

In this Black history month, Liam Neeson has unintentionally reminded us that we are not safe, that we can be the target of hate crime just because of our skin colour, that we are easily demonised because white people painted the devil and all that is evil in black colour. If Black is the face of evil, it is perfectly understandable when white men see evil when they see a black man.

Liam Neeson claimed-

I was trying to show honour, to stand up for my dear friend in this terribly medieval fashion.

If every black person went out to take revenge for what white people did to us, our families and dearest black friends, there wouldn’t be any white person alive today. Yet they tell us it was all in the past, that we should move on, if only they would let us truly move on and not have to live with their everyday racism.

London Pride 2018: Pride Matters

London Pride 2018 took place on July 7 in central London with the theme ‘Pride Matters’. Even though I now live in Essex, London Pride is one Pride I always look forward to.

Hello from London Pride. Flying the rainbow flag and the bisexual flag with Pride. Love Not Hate

Unfortunately, this year’s London Pride Parade was hijacked by a small group of Anti-Trans women who forced their way to the front of the parade, and force-led the parade. The transphobic group of about 10 lay down in front of the parade, shouting anti-trans slogans, and wouldn’t let the parade move. I wouldn’t bother to relate their transphobic messages here because I won’t be an indirect vessel to spread their hate messages. The transphobes disrupted and held up the start of the parade. The organisers finally gave in and allowed them to lead the parade. They marched right in front of the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who was supposed to lead the parade. They held their Anti-Trans banners and distributed their transphobic leaflets. The organisers cited the hot weather for their decision to give in to the Anti-Trans group. I wished they had not given in and instead found a way to get the small group out of the parade. Big shame to the Anti-Trans group, they are a disgrace to the entire LGBT community.

Also, Britain’s largest LGBT organisation, Stonewall, stayed away from London Pride this year to protest the racism problem within the LGBT community.

A Stonewall spokesperson said:

We know this is an event that’s important to many in our communities and very much hope to attend in future years.

However last year, Pride in London’s community advisory board again raised concerns about the lack of diversity and inclusion at Pride in London – particularly of black and minority ethnic communities.

Pride in London rejected those concerns from the community in the strongest terms and, as yet, have failed to make any public acknowledgement that they may need to make significant changes if Pride in London is to be an event for everyone.

Racism is still very rife within the LGBT community in Britain. This did not come as a shock to LGBT PoC as we have been saying this for so long. It is really sad that those who are members of an oppressed group are sometimes themselves perpetrators of oppression against other vulnerable groups, when they are in position of power and have the privilege.

Aside from the unfortunate transphobic disruption at the parade, and the noticeable absence of Stonewall, London Pride was a spectacular event to behold. The parade was fun and colourful, and the entertainment at the London Pride stage at Trafalgar square was good. However, we do need more diverse entertainers to be featured to better represent the diversity in London and its LGBT community.

I did not march in the parade this year, but I did move around, cheered the parade on and mingled with the beautiful crowd.

Enjoy my pics, narratives, videos, dancing and awful singing!

I met some really lovely people from all corners of the globe at London Pride, however, this beautiful lady I met on the tube on my way to Pride. She was sitting opposite me and gave me a lovely smile. We looked up and smiled at each other at intervals. We got off at the same stop, outside Charing Cross station, she walked up to me and said ” I wanted to tell you on the train but couldn’t. You look beautiful, I love your make up. It is amazing”. I’ve been paid compliments before but from her it just kind of felt so sincere and heartfelt, and I am not really great at doing my makeup. I thanked her, told her she looked fabulous and asked if she was going to Pride, she said unfortunately not as she has to be somewhere else now. I asked if I could take her pic and share and she obliged. I love the diversity in London. This is why I miss London. This lovely lady with her beautiful smile kick-start a beautiful Pride for me. Thank you, my beautiful stranger on the tube for your lovely words.

This lovely gentleman offered me a seat when I was looking for somewhere to relax my tired feet during Pride. We ended up exchanging mints, sweets, wristbands and we shared our experiences of London Pride, and we gossiped. He sure was great company. Making friends across borders at Pride because Love knows no borders. Love Not Hate.

Ah, he photobombed my pic with his Usain Bolt move. Can’t really be angry at a bro for that now, can I? Made the pic all the more interesting.

He is so adorable! He joined me for a pic, when I did the back to back pose he said “Ah, we are doing the back to back now” and he proceeded to strike a pose, several poses. Surely, this bro couldn’t be outdone in the ‘strike a pose’ department!

Oh yes, Bisexuals are not confused, we just have the amazing capacity to love and be emotionally and sexually attracted to same and other genders. Hurray, for Genderless Love! Bisexuals are simply Bifabulous, we rock at Pride!

Flying high amongst the beautiful colours of the Rainbow in my Superpower bisexual cape. Bisexuals are not greedy, we are just Superheroes with the ability to love, be sexually or emotionally attracted to same and other genders. Our Love is genderless. Wrapped in the genderless love of the Bisexual flag. Love Not Hate.

These beautiful, lovely ladies gave me their beautiful rainbow adornment to wear and took my pics at London Pride. Then I asked them for a selfie together. This is the spirit of London Pride that I love so much. Let’s foster Love and friendship cos Love knows no borders, we are one.

Queens make Prides rock.

Jesus came to party at London Pride. It’s his Pride too, after all he was Bisexual…what with all that playing the field with the two sisters, Mary and Martha, while always hanging out with 12 hot men. Jesus was seriously ahead of the game. No discrimination was his motto. So, we hung out at Pride and took a pic.

Funny how this pic and my caption caused such upheaval in my home country Nigeria and ended up trending in Nigeria. I woke up to messages next day from family members, friends and enemies alike, telling me I was trending on the social/gossip blogs in Nigeria. Turned out enraged Nigerian Christians and anti LGBTs were cursing me out and calling for my head on a spike, for daring to associate their beloved white, blue-eyed Jesus with my ‘gay’ (or is it Bisexual?) agenda! Good thing I don’t read these blogs, and I do pity these who do. To think some of them had the guts to harass my family members with calls and messages! Ah, well, curses and threats for daring to live openly as an atheist and bisexual Nigerian? What else is new! If anything, I was concerned about how unbothered I was by these nasty blog sites and the nasty comments directed at me. The level of ignorance, religious fuelled hate, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and open threats of causing harm to another based on religion and sexual orientation just left me numb. It is sadly the norm. My people are living proof that ignorance fuels hate, and hate leads to violence.

Love goes the distance. Love knows no borders. Love does not discriminate. Love is the wheel we need to move towards a better world for all. Love is Love. Spread Love Not Hate.

There is enough room in the sky for all colours of the rainbow and more to shine and thrive. Diversity is the spice of life, fly and support the rainbow with Pride.

 

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