The thing about black women is... [insert insult or criticism about how black woman behave]
As someone who has said the above line on numerous occasions, this was always going to be a difficult post to write. I was going to have to be brutally candid and honest with myself. So here goes…
For most of my twenties, I put down black women. I’ve got nothing to hide, and I don’t want anyone who might wish bad on me to think they have something against me. Now that I have reached my 30s, I am committed to uplifting black women and creating both platonic and romantic relationships with them. But, for a long time, I only ever criticised black women. That’s right; I was that guy. Below are just some of the statements criticising black women that I used to spout from my big mouth:
“Black women are too stubborn."
“Black women are too demanding.
“Black women always have a resting bitch face."
“Black women are too materialistic."
“Black women don’t show enough emotion.
“Black women make you wait for sex for too long."
“Black women don’t support black men."
The above is not even the complete list. So what changed in me? Well, last year, I travelled to Portugal for Afronation, where I saw and interacted with so many beautiful black women from around the world. Immediately after Afronation, I spent a week solo travelling in Lisbon, where I had a sustained period of deep self-reflection. Like I had to question a lot of my thought processes and deconstruct who I even was as a black man.
How could I proclaim that I love my black people if I were always so quick to put down black women? It goes beyond the fact that my mother was black. I had to examine not only why I had developed these thoughts but also understand the dangers of perpetuating such negativity about black women as a black man.
The purpose of this blog post then is to examine what I feel are the main reasons some black men put down black women
. But also, to look at why black men who are critical of black women are doing themselves a disservice.
Don’t attack black women to justify why you date outside your race
I have dated more women outside of my race than I have dated black women. To keep it real, I can count the number of black women I’ve had an intimate relationship with on one half of my hand. My ex/baby mother is a white Italian woman and my exes and lovers before my ex had all been different types of ethnic white.
The reasons why I have dated outside of my race are complex, and not the focus of this blog. Also, I am far from the only black man who dates women who are not black, so this is not necessarily much of a talking point. Instead, what is important is addressing the fact that some black men put down black women to justify why they date outside their race.
50 Cent and Lil Wayne recently came under fire for their disparaging comments about black women. During his interview with the Young Money CEO, 50 Cent talked about his love for ‘exotic’ women while dismissing black women as ‘angry’ and who get ‘mad’ at his dating preferences. Lil Wayne chuckled at 50 Cent’s comments. It was disappointing to see both of these prominent black men disrespect black women, but I couldn’t judge as I had done the same in the past.
To black men who do find other race of women attractive and exclusively date outside of our face, more power to you. A black man has the right to be attracted to whoever he wants, and as a black man, we don’t owe black women our love or our bodies. However, black men should not criticise black women to justify their choice to date outside their race. By doing this, black men are covering up their insecurities and self-hate that has been subconsciously instilled within them by mainstream rhetoric.
If any black man criticises black women when speaking to his white girlfriend, then he needs to ask himself why that is. A black man came from a black mother; he might have a black sister or black female cousins. Black men disrespect themselves when they disrespect black women.
The dangers of buying into stereotypes of black women
There has always been an agenda against black people within society. For example, if a black man commits a violent crime, then suddenly it is representative of most black men. Or if a black woman is portrayed as overly aggressive on television, then this is how a majority of black women behave.
As a result, some black men have bought into the mainstream narrative that all black women are angry, rude, and greedy. Firstly, this is not all black women, and secondly, these traits are not exclusive to black women. I have met aggressive white women, rude Indian woman, and materialistic Asian women. Let us stop immortalising this myth that black women have the worse attitude in the world.
Are black women more challenging to date compared to say, white women? An argument could be made that they can be. But, as I’ve explained in one of my earlier blog posts, many black women have grown up in a particular environment that makes many of them very tough. Often, it is our black women who are the backbone not only of black families but of the entire black community. Many of the strongest single mothers and wives I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting have been black.
Black men should be celebrating the resilience and toughness black women have rather than condemning it.
The dangers of only respecting light-skinned black women
For such a long time, to the point that it's tiring now, there has been an ongoing debate within the black community, mainly in western society but also in Africa and the Caribbean, about the perceived superiority of light-skinned black women. Many black men, and sometimes even black women themselves, have placed women with a lighter shade of skin on a pedestal. And this is reflected in black popular culture such as in black movies and films where the central black female lead is usually light skinned. And many black men have announced their preference for lighter-skinned black women over dark-skinned women.
For me, a black woman is a black woman, irrespective of the pigmentation levels of her melanin. Black men must be uplifting all black women; not only the ones whose skin is the colour of caramel. Black women with skin as dark as coca-beans are just as beautiful and rich.
The importance of cherishing our black women as black men
I want to end this article by imploring our black men to cherish our black women. It does not matter if you’re currently dating a woman who is not black, still love and honour our black women.
Many times over, black women have held it down for black men. No matter how tough we may feel they can be (and all women can be challenging anyway), we must uplift and encourage all black women.
So, I apologise for every time I ever put down a black woman. As I grow into a more mature black man, you will never hear me put down a black woman again. The world can be a cruel place for black women; they don’t need their black men to be cruel to them as well.
Saturday 27th June was a historic day for the black British community.
When I saw #BlackPounDay trending on twitter on that Saturday afternoon, I felt elevated. It was as if my whole body felt immense joy, and I had the biggest smile since my daughter was born.
For years, going back to even my late teens, I have talked with other brethren about the importance of supporting black businesses and creating a black economy in the UK, the same way the Jewish and Asian community have. Most of the time, this conversation would fall on deaf ears and we continued talking about football, music and girls.
Many of us black people in the UK generally tend to be more focused on bettering our own individual lives and the lives of our immediate family and friends. For a very long time, especially in my younger years, the black British community never really saw itself as an actual community. Instead, we were a disparate group of people, African or Caribbean, who just happened to live in the UK at the same time. That was it.
But the viral sensation of #BlackPoundDay, a movement started by ex-So Solid Crew member Swiss, has shown that there has been a massive shift within the collective psychology of the black British community. It's taken decades to reach this point, but finally, the black British community is a functioning community of black people in Britain who finally see themselves as one group regardless of their heritage. Last Saturday, we came together all in the name of the black pound.
The black British identity has fully come into its own
It is too simplistic to attribute the success of #BlackPoundDay to the #blacklivesmatter movement and the death of George Floyd, which rocketed the whole #blacklivesmatter movement to the global stage. Of course, both have certainly given more urgency and relevancy to #BlackPoundDay, but it would have eventually existed even if racism had not become the current cultural zeitgeist.
Put simply, #BlackPoundDay was inevitable. As a black Londoner, born and bred, I had witnessed the divisions among the black community, both culturally and geographically (e.g. postcode wars). Then, as is always the case with black people, I started to see black people come together in the form of music. We started to hear a black British sound which started with garage, then grime, followed by UK funky house (RIP), bashment, drill and afrobeat.
From my research, back in the 60s, 70s and 80s, African and Caribbean kids did not go clubbing together. African and Caribbean music was not played in the same clubs in London as it is today. But by the 90s, African and Caribbean kids had all grown up together in the UK, so we now shared a Black British identity that overshadowed our Caribbean or African heritage, even if we did not admit it to ourselves.
Today, millennial black people listen to the same black British music, speak the same black slang (wagwan fam) and share the same black British jokes regardless of our heritage. We now have a recognisable black British identity.
So, with this fully realised albeit quietly acknowledged black British identity, the idea of a #BlackPoundDay was able to garner the serious traction and galvanise an entire group of people to spend on black businesses. We we’re supporting our own.
More work to be done
#BlackPoundDay will undoubtedly become a cultural fixture the same way Black History Month is. The economic empowerment of black people in the UK is what will create a visible and large black middle class, facilitate social mobility within the black community and thereby lift most of us out of poverty.
The next #BlackPoundDay is set for August 1st. Like I did last Saturday, I will spend my money on black businesses and will do my best to do this as often as I can – not just on a specific day.
But to create an actual black economy in the UK, we will need to do more than support a few black businesses. We need to diversify the types of black-owned services we provide, and we need to ensure the current and next generation of black boys and girls have the right skills to thrive in the economy.
There are many black hairdressers, black cake shops, black nail shops, black fashion retail shops, black barbers and black event services. Trust me; I will continue to support these businesses in any way I can and as consistently as I can.
But we cannot limit our burgeoning black economy to only these types of services. We need to start creating black companies which offer services and products that are in high demand.
For example, a franchise of black supermarket retailers like ASDA which sells African and Caribbean products from all over the world. Or a B2B software service where most shareholders and employees are black British people. Or imagine a chain of properties purchased by a collective of black people, akin to a housing association, which are lent exclusively to other black British people.
All of that is a pipe dream right now. We are probably another 30 years away before we reach that. However, there is no reason we cannot start building the foundations now.
We can mentor and encourage our black children to equip themselves with skills that the economy needs such as IT and healthcare skills. We can even launch a national black trust fund which requires black people in the UK to contribute a small percentage of their salary into it. Black entrepreneurs in the UK could access this trust fund to obtain capital to fund their business, or black parents could access it to send their most gifted children to the most prestigious schools.
Now is the time for the black British community to capitalise on the powerful #blacklivesmatter movement happening across the globe and rally together to grow our wealth collectively.
Let #BlackPoundDay be only the start of a revolution that will not only be televised but economised as well.
Visit the #BlackPoundDay website and find a large directory of black-owned businesses: https://blackpoundday.uk/
Another black man assassinated on the streets of America.
Another black man’s spilt blood fuels the anger raging within African Americans like a wildfire.
From this rage, a riot emerges. Buildings burn. Placards are raised. Shops are looted. People attack. The police attack back.
As we watch several parts of America burn to the ground following the death, no sorry, the murder of George Floyd, we are once again reminded of what happens when black people have had enough of the brutality they are subjected to by racist police officers. They swore to protect lives but treat black lives as not worth protecting but destroying.
Rioting is not just a physical manifestation of hurt, angry and disenfranchised black people but a catharsis – a release of decades of oppression by those who have more power than them and abuse it to inflict suffering upon African Americans.
Thankfully, Britain is a much more tolerant country than its cousin across the Atlantic. I am proud to be Black British, and I do love being part of British society.
That being said, Britain is no black utopia. Sadly, nowhere really is. Not even Africa.
As much as the British try to bury it, history shows us that the English have not always been tolerant or even accepting of its black population. It is easy for us millennial black Britons to forget the struggle the previous generation went through when the first set of black immigrants from Jamaica arrived in the U.K. on the HMT Empire Windrush.
We've had black riots in the U.K. over several decades. As the British black community shows its solidarity with it African American counterparts, we should also look back on the black riots that have happened in the U.K. and reflect on how far Britain has come, and how long America still has to go.
1958 Notting Hill race riots
The Notting Hill race riots were the first type of riots specifically targeted towards Britain's then-burgeoning black community. Working-class white boys who wanted to keep Britain white carried out a series of attacks against West Indian families living in Notting Hill.
The riot erupted when a white Swedish woman named Majbritt Morrison, who was dating a Jamaican man in the area, was assaulted by a couple of white youths. Later that night, a mob of white people, around 400, began attacking West Indian houses for over a week until the police finally decided to intervene and arrest the perpetrators.
1977 Battle of Lewisham
Although Lewisham has a visible and thriving black community today, 43 years ago, it was an entirely different story. In the 70s, New Cross and the surrounding areas in South London was a hotbed for the National Front, a British political group who were mainly against multiculturalism, and neo-Nazis.
On Saturday 13th August on 1977, hundreds of National Front members marched through Lewisham. A counter-protest group, a mixture of anti-racist and anti-fascist groups and local black residents, confronted the National Front. Soon these factions were fighting amongst each other, and the police were brought to calm the clashes but only made the situation worse as they began attacking those demonstrating against the National Front.
1981 English Riots (Brixton, Chapeltown, Toxteth, Moss Side and Handsworth)
As I explore in my first novel, A Prophet Who Loved Her, the 80s was a challenging and alienating period for black Britons at the time. The introduction of the Sus laws, which gave police the power to stop, search and potentially arrest anyone they felt had committed a crime, was disproportionately targeted towards black youth.
The introduction and the subsequent abuse of the Sus laws by the police was the catalyst for several riots across the U.K. during this period. High unemployment and boredom among the black youth at the time were also contributing factors. The first wave of riots began in Brixton in April. A series of riots then happened in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham, but to a much lesser extent).
1985 English Riots (Handsworth, Brixton, Broadwater Farm)
High unemployment rates among black Britons and the continued hostility between the police and the black community fed the fire of the riots that erupted across England during the Autumn of 1985.
Firstly, there was the riot in Birmingham which took place in Handsworth just like it had in 1981. Soon after that, Brixton experienced it second rioting when the police accidentally shot an old black woman named Cherry Groce during a botched arrest, an incident which plays a significant role in my novel.
With tension between the police and the black community at boiling point, the Broadwater Farm experienced its second riot due to another botched police raid which resulted in a black woman dying. The Broadwater Farm riot is notable in that it resulted in the brutal death of a police officer, PC Keith Blakelock.
1987 Chapeltown Riots
Following the violent arrest and assault of a young black man, around 70 youths began rioting in the Chapeltown area of Leeds. Again, high unemployment among the black youth and a fully realised and deep-rooted malice towards police were both significant, contributing factors.
1995 Brixton Riots
Ten years after its second riot, Brixton experienced its third one in 1995. Unsurprisingly, the uproar began following the death of a black armed robber who died while in police custody. What started as a peaceful protest outside Brixton police station quickly descended into a full-scale riot across the area.
For five hours, black and white youths turned Brixton into a warzone, just like it had become in the 80s. Missiles were thrown at police officers, cars were turned over, and buildings were vandalised. According to eyewitnesses at the time, the police behaved very aggressively towards the youth.
2011 England Riots
Anyone over the age of 20 who was living in London during this period would remember the 2011 England riots. I was 21 at the time and a recent graduate. Mark Duggan, a local man from Tottenham and a suspected gang member, was shot dead by the Metropolitan police when they stopped the minicab where he was a passenger.
News of his death quickly spread through London via Facebook, BBM (Blackberry Messenger for those of you who remember) and WhatsApp. I always refer to these riots as the 'social media' riots because social media apps played such a crucial role in the organisation of the rioting.
What angered people was that Mark Duggan had been killed when he possessed no handgun even though initial reports from the police said he had pulled out one on the police before being shot. For many of the older generation, Mark Duggan's death reignited the black community's scorn for the police.
Mark Duggan's death, as well as the high unemployment among the youth, were factors which, in my opinion, caused the 2011 England riots. I remember my BlackBerry going off constantly with people I knew asking me to participate in the looting in my local area. All I am going to say is I was young, but I was not dumb.
From the 6th-11th of August, various parts of England were subjected to these riots. First, it started in Tottenham and spread to other areas of London. Soon other cities such as Manchester and Liverpool, to name a few, had copycat riots which were organised by young people using social media and messaging apps.
Can the U.S. learn from the U.K.?
The 2011 England riots were the last in England with a racial element involving some form of police brutality against the black community. While I cannot say, hand to heart, that racism is well and truly gone from the U.K. (one word: Brexit), it's no longer as damaging as it used to be. Relations between the police and the black community is at least lukewarm, even if the mistrust still lingers quietly.
America is such a different animal compared to Britain that the improved police relations between the Metropolitan Police and the black community primarily comes down to British culture. The British did not want that level of smoke (literally and figuratively speaking) anymore. America, on the other hand, just seems to be escalating the violence as the latest reports on what's unfolding has shown the world.
In my opinion, the officer who killed George Floyd needs to be made an example of for this callous act. He needs to be punished with the full severity of the law, so police officers are deterred from killing another black man.
But on a deeper level, the police need to build bridges with the African American community, and this is no easy feat. Deep-rooted racism is too institutionalised within the American police and legal system. For the situation to improve, this racism needs to be eradicated like the cancer that it is to American society. More good police officers need to stand up to and call out those white police officers within their ranks who abuse the power and responsibility that the badge provides them.
If America does not deal with the racism that blights African Americans, then a riot will only be the start. England managed to avoid a race war. I am praying America will do the right thing before it finds itself in a full-scale one.
I criticise my people because I love my people.
When I decided to write this blog, I had to repeat the above phrase to myself. On the many occasions I’ve debated with my fellow brothers about the current state of the millennial black man in the UK, I have been called an ‘Uncle Tom.’ For those of you who have no clue as to what I am on about, an ‘Uncle Tom' is a derogatory term. It means a black man who shows no allegiance to the black community because he is against them or views them negatively.
It has hurt me when I’ve been called an ‘Uncle Tom’ by other black men because of my honest views. But to suggest I hate my own culture is deeply disrespectful but also just untrue. I am black and proud of it– not that I needed to justify myself.
However, just because I love my black people doesn't mean I won't criticise the negative behaviours that are common in our demographic.
Now, these points do not apply to every black male under 35 living in the UK. Instead, these are negative characteristics that permeate within black masculinity which holds many of us back, and we don't realise it.
So let’s get straight to it.
1. Too stubborn and egotistical
Being stubborn and having a big ego is shared across all races of men. However, sometimes I feel these characteristics are dialled up a notch among a lot of young black men. I sometimes suffer from this negative behaviour as well.
Many black men are not open to direct criticism unless it’s from someone they know and respect, even then they might feel attacked. Due to many factors such as our strict upbringings and/or our negative experiences at school, many black men are quite fragile. Behind the bravado, they lack genuine self-confidence in themselves. To conceal this, young black boys put on this "you can't tell me shit" attitude even when really need to listen to what someone is telling them. Especially when it's a matter of life and death.
Taking advice from another person is not a sign of weakness. Someone reaching out to help you is not a sign of weakness. Some black men need to be more open to change for their own sake rather than stubbornly ignoring all advice because of
2. The need to stunt all the time
Let’s keep it real. Many black men love to stunt. Any opportunity to show off our wealth and status, you better believe we gonna take it. We are gonna glow, so everyone recognises our swag. I remember when I passed my probation at work and so to celebrate I bought a £300 Hugo Boss watch which I flashed everywhere I went. There was no need for me to buy a watch that expensive but a brother gotta stunt sometimes. As you can see, I am not excusing myself from this.
Black culture, in the UK and the US but also in many parts of Africa, is materialistic. Money is the universal language of black people. Why? I suspect it's because many black boys did not have much growing up. So when many of us start making a lot of money, through whatever means, we spend it lavishly and often stupidly. Sometimes, some of us, and this applies to me, grow up middle-class but still throw away money because we feel that's what 'cool' black boys do. They get tables and pop bottles.
Look, there is nothing with wrong with showing off sometimes (myself and a good friend of mine coined the term ‘shinning’ to describe this) but I do feel young black men take it too far. Black men will burn absurd amounts of money on champagne, leasing cars, and buying a Gucci belt even when they don’t have it like that, but they must appear like they do. It is this behaviour that I feel is very detrimental to us, the need to look like we've 'made it' when we clearly have not.
I have seen with my own two eyes and heard of black men do whatever it takes just to obtain material wealth. 419, AC scams, pyramid schemes…. the list goes on. Making money is good but making money just to blow it all on a table every weekend or to get a Porsche on finance is ridiculously short-sighted.
Bringing me to my next point.
3. The rush to be successful so early
Many black men are ambitious. Especially black men with an African background. We strive for success like it's the meaning of life. But this drive for success does not give us a lot of patience.
I have spoken to many black men who want to be on six figures by 30. But I always scratch my head when I hear this. Why do you want to earn that much by 30? What even makes you think you deserve to take home that much at such a young age?
Look, it’s fantastic if you can earn six figures by 30 and I’ve known a few black men who have managed to achieve this. But this should not be a benchmark. Most people don’t earn that much by 30 because they don’t have the experience to command such a salary. Personally, I would instead earn a six-figure salary at 40, when I have two decades of substantial work experience. It's better than blagging my way to that salary at 30. And this doesn't make me unambitious, it makes me pragmatic.
There is no rush. As the saying goes, it’s a marathon, not a race.
4. No respect for hierarchy or organisation
We cannot all be the captain. We cannot all have the spotlight.
Sometimes, I do feel that many black men hate being below another black man. It goes back to my previous point about our stubborn and egotistical nature. Personally, I have no problem following orders from another black man if he knows what he’s doing.
But for many black men, it is difficult to follow instructions. I've seen it countless times. Black boys will argue and sometimes even fight over who gets to make the final decision. If you get a room full of six black men under 35 in a room to start a business, I guarantee almost four of them will get into a verbal or even physical fight. And this will be over who is going to be the CEO of the business.
We cannot all be the CEO. Someone will have to play a lesser role, and it's no shame on that person. Hierarchy exists to bring order to groups so that they can function effectively to execute a collective mission. But every ship needs a captain, and sometimes black men need to throw away their ego and pride and defer authority to the most capable black man in the group.
The black community across the world, including Africa, would flourish better if we learnt to be better organised when we come together rather than treating structure and discipline as unimportant. This disorganisation is so rampant among black men; it's a cliché, but it's a sad one that is limiting our potential.
5. Competing all the time
Arguably the most crucial and common trait which affects so many black men is constant competition with one another.
Competition, in and of itself, is not necessarily bad. In fact, healthy competition among driven black men is to be encouraged as it pushes us to do better and strive further.
But the problem is competition among black men is not healthy.
I have had bitter arguments with my friends just because we turned something into a competition. How many girls we've slept with, who has the best swag or who got the most numbers on a night out. Sometimes this is just banter, but there have been instances where it's been clear jealously brought on by this desire to compete with each other.
Black men have died because of this nonsense competition we have with each other. All these postcode wars and ‘opps' all manifest from young men competing for territory they don't even own. Black men have lost their lives because another brother was jealous of his success.
As I stated earlier, perhaps it’s because so many of us black men grew up poor, that we have this scarcity mentality. We feel that if one of us is successful, then none of will be able to emulate that success. Instead of encouraging one another, we always compete with one another. Sometimes, it's to the point where this competition can become toxic and even deadly.
To any brother who has read this post, I hope you have done so with an open mind. I am not on a mission to attack black men; I am an African man myself. But, as black men, we must be able to analyse what we are doing wrong as individuals but also collectively within our broader culture.
Sometimes, we gotta show each other that tough love. And that starts with complete honesty about how we behave.
Stephen lawrence day: A tragic incident that shifted police’s attitudes to the Black British community
For decades, the British police and the black British community never had a comfortable relationship. Actually, I am putting that lightly. They both despised each other equally. Black people in Britain, especially those from the Caribbean, did not trust the police, and the police didn't trust them.
As I explore in some detail in my first novel, A Prophet Who Loved Her, the British police, particularly in the 70s and 80s, made life very difficult for many black British people, especially young black people. All of the major riots during the 80s, the Brixton riots, the Broadwater Farm riots and the Handsworth Riots were all caused by police constantly harassing black people daily.
A major house fire in New Cross (an event I also examine in my novel) in 1981 where 13 black teenagers died in a suspect arson attack by white racists in the area was a significant turning point for the UK's burgeoning black community at that time. It was the first-time black people realised that not only did the British police harass them, but they didn't even care about their lives. If black kids die in a racist attack, then so be it. The police figuratively and literally shrugged their shoulders.
But the death of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 changed everything.
Suddenly, the police had to start listening.
And it had been a long time coming.
Black British people had become to be reckoned with
For those readers who might not know, Stephen Lawrence was a 19-year-old black man, born to Jamaican parents who immigrated to the UK in the 60s. On his way back to his home with his friend, Stephen was confronted by a group of young white men who brutally murdered him in an unprovoked attack. According to his friend who was with him at the time, Duwayne Brookes, the men had said “What, what nigger” before engulfing Stephen and killing him. It was a racially, motivated attack.
I was quite young, maybe no older than 13, when I was taught about Stephen Lawrence's death in London. In the time we are in now, the idea of a white man killing a black man in a racial attack on London's streets is almost unbelievable.
Believe me; it was not always that way.
I recall, when I was around the age of 11, a few years after Stephen Lawrence's death, my younger brother and cousin were chased by a group of white boys in Canning Town. They had confronted us in the park and called us "niggers."
As we were outnumbered, myself, my brother and my cousin fled the park and ran as fast as our legs would allow back to my cousin's house while these young white boys were chasing us. Fortunately, we made it back to my auntie's home safely. Sometimes, I do wonder what would have happened if we had not. Would one of us have suffered the same fate as Stephen Lawrence? Thankfully, we never had to find out.
While the death of Stephen Lawrence did not eradicate racism in London or the UK, it transformed how police treated black people. Unlike the New Cross Fires in 1981, the British police could not just silence the family of Stephen Lawrence.
Of course, the Met did try to sabotage Stephen Lawrence’s friend and discredit his family, but their shameful tactics failed. The murder of Stephen Lawrence gained massive coverage in mainstream media. Such widespread media coverage would never have happened in the 80s and 70s. But what was unusual about the media coverage was that it was sympathetic. In the past, British tabloids would always shift the blame of any tragedy that had befallen black people back to black people, or they would ignore it entirely like they had the New Cross Fire tragedy 12 years earlier.
As we remember the anniversary of Stephen Lawrence’s death today let us acknowledge that his death finally forced the British police to be held accountable to the black British community. Suddenly, the death of a black man at the hands of racists deserved justice.
It had been a long time coming, but black lives finally mattered in the UK.
In late January this year, Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, a well-respected black female lawyer and woman’s right activist got into a verbal spat with white British actor Laurence Fox, on BBC Question Time last week.
You can read more about their heated exchange here but essentially Mr Fox accused Dr Mos-Shogbamimu of racism because she had referred to him as a white-privileged male due to his comfortable upbringing and the fact he is a white male. Dr Mos-Shogbamimu responded by continuing to argue that Mr Fox life is much easier than hers because he has white skin and he is a man.
Now, I completely agree with Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu.
White privilege is very much weaved into the collective consciousness of western society, enabling white people, in some, not all cases, to get away with actions that a black person would be severely reprimanded for had they committed the same act. It is true that a white person, middle or working class, cannot begin to fathom what it means to live the black experience, where we must watch the way we talk, speak or act in fear of being judged or labelled due to the persistent negative stereotypes about black people.
But here’s the caveat.
Ultimately, white privilege doesn’t matter. And I am a black man writing this.
The black community are the only race who complains about white privilege
The black community is the only group of people who shout about white privilege as if we are the only race it affects. Asian people are also affected by white privilege. In fact, people who have white skin but are European, for example from Poland, are also, sometimes, treated as an “other” by white British people.
As unfair as it is, white privilege will exist for a long time simply because the history of western civilisation has made it this way. Yes, it is somewhat unjust that white people, especially white men from middle to upper class backgrounds, get to enjoy this advantage, even if some of them don’t want to acknowledge it. But that is just the reality in which we live in and the cards that black people, as a collective, have been unfortunately dealt.
It simply is what it is.
Having said that, it’s great that people like Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu have brought attention to white privilege so black people understand they are often at a disadvantage from birth and white British people at least recognise the advantage they have because of how they look. However, this paradigm is not going to change anytime soon so to continuously complain or shout about it will ultimately not lead to any progress.
There are lot more issues within the black community that we need to be addressing if we want to see real change for black British people.
We have too many internal problems within the black community
The only way black British people will circumvent white privilege is for us to be collectively better as a people. And yet, when I look around, we often failing at this incredibly.
For the most part, and this is just my own anecdotal observations, black British people don’t invest their money back into their own community to generate wealth for everyone the same way Jews or Asians do. We do not support or champion each other, especially our young men, who would rather compete with each other and boast of fancy cars and of girls they’ve slept with.
It’s all well and good preaching the evils of white privilege but the black community honestly needs to be looking inwardly at our own problems. To me, when the black community puts too much focus on white privilege, it's like a sprinter complaining about a competing sprinter that has been giving a head start in the race, yet the sprinter that is complaining isn't even in a good condition to run the race anyway.
Young black boys are dying on the streets on an almost weekly basis. More than half of young people in jail are from a black and minority ethnic background. Our cultural artefacts, from black music to black films, perpetuate and reinforce all the negative stereotypes associated with the black experience.
Simply put, there are too many internal issues within the black community, particularly among our young men, that we really shouldn’t be wasting our energy shouting about white privilege.
" To me, when the black community puts too much focus on white privilege, it's like a sprinter complaining about a competing sprinter that has been giving a head start in the race, yet the sprinter that is complaining isn't even in a good condition to run the race anyway. "
Instead, we should be addressing the issue of our “black culture” and what values we are passing down to the next generation of young black British people. The only way we, as a community, will get ahead is not by condemning white privilege but by cultivating and encouraging the right attitudes and values among our people, despite what other people may think of us.
Since the end of slavery, our right to do better and be better as people is a privilege that has always belonged to black people.
And white privilege cannot take away our freedom to improve.
So let’s be better, instead of bitter.
That was my immediate reaction when I learned about the death of Cadet (real name Blaine Cameron Johnson) as a result of a car crash on his way to perform at a university.
Cadet’s sudden and unexpected death was honestly the last thing I expected to read on my Twitter timeline on Sunday 10th February. With a slot booked in Wireless and having just featured on the popular 'Trendy' track, 2019 was set to be an even bigger year for one of grime’s most impressive lyrical MCs. An inexplicable death of young talent like Cadet makes you ask God: Why though?
I did not know Cadet personally in any way other than through his Commitment EPs and other tracks where he featured but, as many people have pointed out, he was such an authentic rapper through his raw lyrics that you felt like you knew him on some level.
Having watched the heartfelt videos of a memorial gathering in Hyde Park which I was sadly unable to attend, I decided to honour the Clapham rapper by listing my top five Cadet tracks.
So, without further ado: CADET! CADET!
5. Cadet - Wanna Know Why (Album: The Commitment)
The riddim on this track reminds of the old grime sound from the Channel U days. When I would listen to this during my gym workouts, the energy and pure hype had me lifting weights and making angry faces at the gym. If you want that hype Cadet track, this one definitely does it.
4. Da Beatfreakz x AJ x Deno x Swarmz x Cadet - Pumpy
Obviously, this is not a strictly Cadet track however, of the tracks Cadet as appeared on, this one is my personal favourite. I love his flow and the playfully boastful lyrics: "She wants the ball like she's Pele" and "I got asthma let me pump that" always bring a stupid grin to my face.
3. Cadet - Don't It Take Personal (Album: The Commitment 2)
In my opinion, this is the best track on The Commitment 2. Although, i'll admit, I am very biased. Ghetts is my favourite MC so seeing him featuring on a Cadet track was always going to gas me up. And the pairing did not fail to deliver. The bars are deadly from both MCs. Who says East and South can't come together and create pure fire.
2. Cadet - The Stereotype (Album: The Commitment)
I think a lot of grime fans will agree that this track was the first taste of Cadet's masterful storytelling. This is such a strong track because of the vulnerability and rawness of Cadet's lyrics. Few MCs would dare be this honest. No bravado. No hype. Just a brother barring his soul for us to listen to. An amazing track and a classic.
1. Cadet - No Way ft Donae'o (Album: The Commitment)
This was the first Cadet track I listened to (in a ponsy club in Shoreditch which I didn't expect) and I used my shazam app to find out who this MC was. I love Cadet's flow on this track (he was one of the few rappers who could truly rap to any tempo) and Done'o gives the track that nice touch with the addictive hook. This will always be my favourite Cadet track.
What are you favourite Cadet tracks? Feel free to leave a comment below listing your top five tracks.
Why I respect Liam Neeson for his honesty and dislike being told that I must be outraged as a black person
When I first listened to Liam Neeson’s recent interview to promote his latest film in which he, very shockingly and bizarrely, admitted he walked around London “with a cosh (a thick heavy stick) hoping to get into an altercation with a black person to kill them," I was taken aback and immediately angry.
To provide some context (not that any context justifies Liam Neeson’s mindset 40-years ago), Mr. Neeson’s late friend was raped by a black male. Enraged, Liam Neeson took it upon himself to seek revenge on any unassuming black man who was unfortunate enough to cross paths with him.
It was appalling to know that an actor I much admired and whose films, such as Taken, I greatly enjoyed, could be capable of such terrible thoughts.
However, after my initial anger had cooled and my emotions had cleared, I looked at Liam Neeson’s confession as objectively and rationally as I could. After some thought, I realised that I respected Liam Neeson for his honesty. I checked my social media feed to find out what other people felt, and I grew frustrated by some of the reactions.
To admit personal failure is a sign of strength
One of the main reasons I came to respect Liam Neeson after his awful admission was that I realised he was very candid about a personal failure of his. In the interview, he clearly states that after a week of roaming around London with a weapon like his character from the Taken movies, he realised his thirst for vengeance was shameful and stemmed from his experiences growing in the Troubles in Northern Island, where revenge between the Protestants and the Catholics was rife.
Now, of course, I am not condoning or excusing Liam Neeson’s actions. Thinking about what he wanted to do to an innocent black man is quite horrifying. It's also immensely brave that Liam Neeson is so self-aware that he can admit his failings. No one can deny that the Hollywood actor did not show genuine remorse.
Many if not all of us can do terrible things in the right circumstances. Nobody is above moments of madness, and we should learn to forgive, especially people like Liam Neeson who can express genuine remorse.
The left-leaning mainstream media only focuses on black people when we're victims
A big part of me believes that the mainstream media, especially the liberally-inclined sections of the press, love it when a black person is victimised. It doesn't matter about the context of any situation so long as black people can be the victims, allowing left-leaning liberals to feel good about themselves for supporting black people.
The fact is if you take into consideration the entire context of Liam Neeson's interview and examine what he has said objectively, then this was an unplanned revelation from the actor in a moment of vulnerability. Personally, I believe this should be commended.
Instead, the left-leaning media and other liberals have weaponised the situation to drive home once again the narrative that black people are will always be victims.
All black people are expected to be outraged
Prominent black figures such as John Barnes, Whoopi Goldberg and Terry Crews have congratulated Liam Neeson for his outright honesty. However, many people, both black and white, have condemned these stars for supporting Liam Neeson.
There seems to be this idea, among left-leaning liberals and among black people with massive chips on their shoulders, that black people in western society should always be outraged about perceived slights against our demographic. This belief harkens back to my earlier point about a percentage of black people still needing to feel victimised and the left-leaning liberals encouraging this thought.
I am not outraged, and I won't be told by anyone how I am supposed to react as a black person. I am not just the color of my skin - I am an individual. Like Liam Neeson, I have my dark days as well. Growth comes when we recognise our destructive behaviours and rise above them. Liam Neeson has done that, and we should all learn from that.
What does it mean to be a modern feminist?
Ever since I became a father to a beautiful baby girl in 2017, I have been increasingly pondering this question. As a young father (still a fresh-faced, slightly jaded 29-year-old millennial) I am now facing the prospect of raising my daughter in western society. Doing my homework on feminism is crucial for me if I want to build my daughter to be a strong and independent woman who fulfils her full potential.
After doing a lot of reading about the history of feminism, examining media stories around the issue and engaging in my own self-reflection, I have concluded that I won’t be raising my daughter to be a feminist - well not the modern iteration of feminism.
An extremely brief history of feminism
Western women, particularly in the early ninetieth and twentieth century, were prohibited from having the same rights as men. Of course, I don’t need to explain why this was absurd. The woman suffrage movements that spread throughout western society gave women their rightful freedom to vote.
Later, we had two devastating World Wars which forced western women into the workforce while men went off to go and kill each other. Becoming part of the workforce made women realise their own economic potential – they did not have to be domesticated housewives as they could do the factory and office jobs just as well as the guys. This epiphany planted the seeds which eventually grew into the spirited feminism movements of the 60s and 70s, finally bringing about the much-needed equality between men and women.
So far, so good.
Fast-forward to 2019, and this new incarnation of feminism has me worried. Instead of pushing for equality (despite claims that modern feminism is promoting equality between the two sexes, the messages I am seeing from feminists tells a different story) modern feminism is now about cultivating female superiority while ridiculing and dismissing masculinity in its entirety.
Therefore, i have developed my own beliefs around femininity that I am going to impart on my daughter, so she grows up into a happy woman rather than a miserable one, filled with unrealistic expectations.
Women are not better than men. Men are not better than women. We complement each other
Anyone who knows me on a personal level is aware I am not religious, but I do consider myself to be spiritual to some degree. I sometimes read the Bible as I find it to be an excellent guide when I find myself facing morally tricky decisions. The Bible clearly states that women were created by God to support men and help them.
In my mind, God created men and women with different characteristics so the sexes can complement each other. This is what I will teach my daughter. Modern feminism, utilising mainstream media as its primary vehicle, seems to be driving home the message that women are competent and independent and men are bubbling and inept Neanderthals. Women have gone from being damsels in distress to the saviours of humankind. In modern feminism's attempts to rightfully champion women, its advocates have swung the pendulum too far in the opposite direction.
It’s my responsibility to show my daughter that men are caring, confident and competent – not the idiots that modern media wants to perpetuate.
I want my daughter to understand that there is nothing wrong with doing things to make your boyfriend or husband happy (and ditto for the man as well). Wanting to please your male partner does not make you a weak woman. It does not make you a conformist to the "patriarchy." It makes you the type of woman that a man will do anything to keep by his side.
Not all traditional masculinity is toxic
I don’t deny the fact that some men, particularly those with status and power, have abused their positions to sexually exploit young women. Recent high-profile cases are a testament to this. I will never condone the actions of a man using his status to dominate a woman in any way, and I will teach my daughter never to tolerate it either.
However, I will not teach my daughter that traditional masculinity is terrible. Toxic masculinity has become this buzzword that seems to encompass anything men do that make them inherently men. Cheeky banter, checking out a pretty woman, play fighting or being competitive – all of this has been categorised as toxic masculinity at some point by modern feminist commentators. Just take a look at this condescending Gillette ad as a case in point.
Quite frankly, I find the concept of toxic masculinity to be ridiculous, and I will teach my daughter not to be offended by a man who play-fights or a man who is competitive or a man who kindly and appropriately expresses interest in her.
Being pretty and feminine will always be important to high-quality men
I would love my daughter to go to university, obtain a degree which she enjoys studying and then totally owning the corporate world or be a brilliant artist. Whatever makes her happy and, it goes without saying, she should accomplish goals for herself, not to impress men.
Having said that, I will tell her that if she wants to one day marry a high-value man (one who is masculine, responsible, reliable, caring and hard-working), then she will need to pay attention to her appearance and ensure she has traditional, feminine qualities. Telling my daughter that looks don’t matter is ridiculous. There is a reason the market value for the beauty and personal care industry in the UK alone was expected to have reached over 15 billion euros in 2018.
" I want my daughter to understand that there is nothing wrong with doing things to make your boyfriend or husband happy (and ditto for the man as well). Wanting to please your male partner does not make you a weak woman. It does not make you a conformist to the "patriarchy." It makes you the type of woman that a man will do anything to keep by his side. "
Of course, I will never tell my daughter she needs to resemble a malnourished, catwalk model or she must have curvy hips and a massive backside. Beauty is subjective, and she must work with what she has. But I will teach her to take care of her physical appearance and try to stay as attractive as her age will allow. Not only to attract a man but for her own health and self-esteem as well.
You cannot have it all immediately
The notion that “women can have it all” has been the rallying call for modern-day feminists. Women cannot have it all, and I believe many women don't buy it. Modern feminists would have you think that all women can grow a career or business for twenty years and then expect, at 40 years old, to bear children with any high-value man of their choosing. While they are indeed examples of women who have achieved this, this is not happening in droves.
Thanks to the marvels of modern medical technology, women are freezing their eggs in their late thirties and forties so they can put off child rearing without the fear of being childless when they grow older. But freezing eggs is far from a guaranteed success.
As a father, it is my responsibility to teach my daughter the reality of her biology rather than regurgitate the falsehoods about womanhood that is perpetuated by our current feminist commentators. I will show my daughter that if she wants healthy children, she will need to have them while she’s in her twenties to thirties. If she wants children with a highly-desirable man, she will need to be maternal and feminine.
Finally, if she wants to be the best mother she can be in the early years of her child's life, she will need to work less for some time. Her career will be waiting for her. But I will never tell her she can have everything because it’s more likely that she can’t, and she must prioritise.
Ultimately, I must be the best version of a man I can be
Raising my daughter to have a healthy relationship with men will eventually come down to me. How I behave as a man, how I treat her mother and other women will form her understanding of intersexual dynamics. Inevitably, there will be outside influences but her first point of reference will be me, and when she's a fully-grown woman, her expectations of men will be anchored to how I raised her.
There is a well-known platitude that says women end up marrying men like their fathers. If there is truth in that, then I absolutely must strive to be a good man.
If I don't want modern feminism to be responsible for shaping my daughter's understanding of men and the world around her, then I must ensure I am the best version of a man that I can be. It's what our daughters deserve and desperately need right now, instead of modern feminism.
I don’t know about you lot, but I am anticipating BckChat Uncensored. It’s switching up the usual format of ‘round-table’ discussions and moving abroad. From the preview, it looks like a black, South-London version of Love Island and I can tell this is going squeeze so much laughter out my lungs.
My more highbrow, intellectually-minded friends don’t quite understand why I like BckChat London. Yes, it's loud. Yes, it's vulgar, and yes, it can be misogynistic. But you know what? It is unapologetically Black British. Being born and bred in London, the cast of BckChat are around my age, and they are so recognisably and refreshingly familiar in their mannerisms and viewpoints. It is refreshing to watch a show like this which is so true to its roots.
Another familiar show I’ve recently started watching that is similar to BckChat London is 3shotsoftequilla. Its premise is identical to that BckChat London but exclusively features Black British men discussing a variety of topics. Like BckChat, it's very Black British, very loud and, if you grew up in London, very entertaining. It’s like I am listening to the sort of banter I have with my friends.
Black British is an identify now
I think now, arguably more than ever, we are in a period where Black British culture is permeating confidently through mainstream British society and feels authentic, rather than trying to be African American. I don't think we've quite reached the renaissance or the golden era, but there's been a shift. Growing up in London, I remember a time where the notion of ‘Black British' was a nebulous concept. I never identified as a Black British person when I was a teenager. When I was 13, if someone asked me what I identify as, I would have replied that I identify as a Nigerian. Ask me now, at 29, and I’d say I am “Black British” or, more specifically, “British Nigerian.” I have reconciled my Britishness with my Nigerianess.
A massive factor in this successful reconciliation is because the idea of being “Black British” is a tangible construct because we have a collective culture, albeit a developing one, but a culture nonetheless. The forging of a truly authentic black British culture started with the Notting Hill Carnival followed by a series of events throughout the 70s and 80s that are too complex to cover in this single blog post. The emergence of jungle and garage music in the 90s added another layer to black British culture. The rise of grime music in the noughties further gave the young, third generation Black British youth a voice. Black British identify has become even more concrete now with afrobeats, drill music and with entertainers like Mo The Comedian and Michael Dappah, who have entertained the mainstream without losing their Black British identity.
From a sociological perspective, a confident Black British identify has manifested because black people in England have become more unified. Growing up in Newham, East London, I remember a time where African and Caribbean kids didn't get along. There was this silent animosity between us mainly because the Caribbean culture was seen as ‘cooler' than African culture. The only reason this was the case was that Caribbean people had been in England longer than Africans, so their culture was better acclimatised into British society. Now we have reached a point where all black people in England play together. The second and third generation of African and Caribbean adults now have mutual respect towards each other in England which has helped solidify the Black British identity.
We have not yet entered the Black British cultural renaissance
As much as I love shows like BckChat and 3shotsoftequilla, they are very similar in style and structure. Both of them are very London-centric, and both of them can become a little too immature, a little too loud and a little too foolish. But it’s entertainment. And good entertainment at that.
But what I would like to see is more content from Black British creators which is more intellectually stimulating. We do have the Mostly Lit podcast which I implore you to check out if you’re looking for some Black British content which is less in-your-face and more cerebral than BckChat and 3shottequilla. Rapman's Blue Story trilogy and Shiro's Story are examples of mature, Black British storytelling in film.
I am not saying every single piece of Black British culture must be brainy and have some deeper subtext. We have highbrow and lowbrow white British culture, and we should also have highbrow and lowbrow Black British culture. But I feel we do not have enough of the former. Now the drill genre dominates Black British music, and our content online is entertaining but mostly loud and silly. Even our movies are just big and flashy, with little introspection or any thoughtful analysis of the Black British psyche. This year's most prominent Black British film was Intent 2: The Come Up. While I paid to watch that movie and enjoyed it, it’s a damn shame that this was the biggest and most advertised Black British movie of 2018.
For Black British culture to reach new heights, we need more Black British creators developing content which goes beyond just entertaining us. We need material that makes us think and takes a proper look at Black British lives growing up in Britain and all its complexities. The reason why I've decided to become a part-time, cultural writer is that I wanted to write fiction and non-fiction books which explore the lives of Black British people in a way that truthfully comments on our flaws, our conflicted lives while also being entertaining.
Black British culture is varied and black creators should be communicating every aspect of it. Loud, fun and flashy is great, but Black British culture is and must be more than that if we want real longevity.
They still talk about Shakespeare; let’s do our best to make sure they are still talking about us 200 years from now.
Feel free to leave a comment below if you would like to share your opinion on this issue
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