Even when carnival is cancelled, it will still attract some controversy around it.
But this year, the controversy was not the usual. It wasn't around the numbers of people who got stabbed which, by the way, is always sensationalised by the media. Nor was it around all of the mess on the streets Notting Hill carnival leaves in its wake.
This year’s carnival (or non-carnival) attracted controversy because of Adele’s hair. Yep, to celebrate non-carnival, the pop star decided to tie her hair in Bantu knots, a hairstyle typically worn by black women to protect their afro hair.
And many voices within Britain's black community were in an uproar.
To some black observers, Adele had shown poor taste by ‘culturally appropriating’ a hairstyle that is traditionally worn by black women. Many of her critics pointed out that Adele would never wear that hairstyle on an album cover and has never worn that hairstyle in any other context outside of carnival. For many, this demonstrated that Adele is not really appreciating black culture but culturally appropriating a black hairstyle only when it is safe to do so.
Would Adele wear Bantu knots on her album cover? Probably not. Does that mean she is culturally appropriating black culture? Probably, but how harmful is it really and does it warrant this much aggravation from the black community?
Cultural appropriation is not the same as cultural discrimination
I would never make an argument that cultural appropriation of black culture does not exist and that, in specific contexts, it's not an insult and exploitation of black heritage. Films which cast white actors to play African people (e.g. all those Egyptian epics from the 50s). That is negative cultural appropriation. Britain plundering Africa of its cultural artefacts and displaying them at museums without any permission from those who created those artefacts. That is negative cultural appropriation. White people who wear blackface at parties as some kind of grotesque joke. That is negative cultural appropriation.
But Adele wearing her hair in Bantu knots? Yes, it is undeniably cultural appropriation but is it the type that is dangerous or harmful to black culture and black heritage? Of course, it isn't. You'll need to come up with a convincing argument that it is without looking very, very silly.
Scrolling through the internet and reading some of the criticism, something became apparent to me. Many of those who are deeply upset with Adele's choice of hairstyle (and it is understandably coming from black women) are looking at cultural appropriation and cultural discrimination as if they are the same. It is for this reason that the black community's anger is misplaced.
Yes, it is true that if a woman were to wear Bantu knots to her corporate job, she would be met with raised eyebrows and probably an email from HR. There is no denying the stigma against black hairstyles in the workplace and within other institutions in western society. But that is a matter of discrimination which should not be conflated with cultural appropriation.
Every one of us culturally appropriates other cultures, including black people. Whenever a black person goes to a Chinese restaurant and uses chopsticks to eat food, we are culturally appropriating Chinese culture. Black people who read a lot of manga and go to cosplays dressed as their favourite anime character are culturally appropriating Japanese culture. All of these examples are done in the spirit of celebrating that culture. How do we celebrate it? By consuming it and sometimes adopting its customs.
Justified but misdirected rage
Adele, who, don’t forget, grew up in Tottenham, which has a sizeable black community, was celebrating the spirit of carnival with her chosen hairstyle. To think otherwise means you are projecting your unjustified and misplaced rage onto her because of the stigma around black hairstyles perpetuated by the white elites in western society. The fact that she wouldn’t wear it on an album cover is because her record execs, who control her image, decide what is and what isn't an appropriate look for a pop star. If you want to have this rage, you should direct it at them, not at Adele.
Furthermore, why does the black community pick and choose which forms of cultural appropriation is deserving of their wrath? The Indian community have been profiting from black hair and black hair products for a long time, but black people are curiously silent about this. Yet we have our pitchforks raised when a white woman decides to adopt a black hairstyle. I can't help but think that Adele being a white British person is the reason she is getting this much heat. If she looked more tanned, would black people have cared? The cynic in me says no.
Lastly, black people have a lot more urgent and essential matters where we need to be channelling our energy and rage. The killing and imprisonment of our black men, lack of job opportunities for young black men and lack of economic prosperity among the global black diaspora – these are matters that need our urgent attention. Remember, only very recently, a black man was shot in the back and paralysed in front of his children by white police officers.
Black people’s fight is not with Adele’s hair. It’s with the elites and the establishment. Can we please redirect our rage back to the real battle?
This post is the third part in my five-part series of blogs educating white people and all non-black races about the injustices, prejudices and conspiracies designed to oppress and encourage discrimination against black people. You can read the first two lessons here (1,2).
In this lesson, I am going to explain the often debated and very heated concept of white privilege. I am going to look at what it is, how it manifests and if anything can be done about it.
With the preamble over, let's start the third lesson.
White privilege – Once you understand it, you start seeing it a lot
For a long time, I ignored the conversation around white privilege. I did not want to be one of those black people who blame all their misfortunes on the advantages of white people and the disadvantages of their skin colour. Some within the black community do play the race card to deflect from their shortcomings, and I did not want to have that mindset.
But my perspective changed in 2015.
I remember watching the news about the Charleston church shooting in that year. A 26-year old, white male named Dylan Roff had entered an African-American church in South Carolina. He then massacred nine black church members in cold blood. The brutality of the act angered me in such a way that for two days, I was not the nicest person to have a conversation with.
It's what happened to Dylan Roff immediately after his killing spree that made me realise that I needed to take white privilege seriously. After he had been apprehended following a short manhunt, the police had given Dylan Roff a Burger King meal when he complained that he was hungry. It was then that I understood what white privilege was.
Imagine if a black male walked into a church with a predominantly white congregation and slaughtered nine white people with a machine gun. Do you think he would be given a Burger King meal afterwards? If you're struggling for an answer then let me help you: he would have probably been killed by the police immediately after they caught him.
How white privilege affects the black community in the UK
As I've said many times, the UK is a far more tolerant and sophisticated society than the US. The British judicial system is impartial, and those who commit a crime receive the most appropriate punishment, irrespective of their ethnic background. Of course, it is not always the case, but it's more often the case than it is not.
But white privilege does exist in the UK, and I am going to give two examples of it; one mainstream and one personal.
Let's start with the mainstream example. Last year, Blue Story, a film about young black men involved inner-city gang warfare, was released in cinemas across the UK. Unfortunately, a small group of teenagers incited small-scale fights during the film’s screening in Birmingham.
Following this incident, cinema chains across the UK temporarily stopped screening the film. Some of the mainstream media started attacking the violent nature of the film and how it encourages bad behaviour among young people. Now during this period, The Irishman, Martin Scorsese's violent film about a murderous hitman who worked for a white crime syndicate was also playing in cinemas. Also, on British television, we had Peaky Blinders, a TV series about a violent, white youth gang terrorising Birmingham’s street shortly after the First World War.
Both The Irishman and Peaky Blinders are far more violent than Blue Story. Still, both received critical praise from media outlets. There were no calls to ban The Irishman from cinemas or cancel Peaky Blinders from British television screens because of their depiction of violence. Conversely, Blue Story was criticised for its supposedly excessive brutality (it's not as bloody as Peaky Blinders, trust me) and its depiction of gang culture by several media outlets.
Content about white people committing crime and violence is seen as just entertainment. But any content about black people committing the same acts is encouraging bad behaviour in our society. That is one manifestation of white privilege within mainstream culture.
Now let me give you a more personal and very recent example. Boris Johnson had announced, during his now-infamous daily updates on the COVID-19 national quarantine, that British citizens could exercise once a day. Following the Prime Minister's words, I left my house in the afternoon. I took a stroll to Cassiobury Park in Watford, which is about a 40-min walk from where I live.
Watford's town centre was teeming with people. Three police officers in the middle of the town watched as dozens of people, all white and Asian as I remember, walked through the high street. As soon as these police officers saw me, the only black person on the high street at this time, they confronted me.
Not one to antagonise police officers, I remained calm and exercised patience, as they began questioning where I was going and what my reasoning was for venturing outside. After I had calmly answered their stupid questions, they left me alone to continue my afternoon.
These police officers racially profiled me because I was a young black man. That afternoon, I saw young white men walk past them, but they did not confront them. It was me, the black man, that they had to stop for questioning. When you're white, the police are rarely suspicious of you. When you're black, for many police officers, you're suspect purely on the basis that you're a young, black male. I do not have the white privilege to protect me from their assumptions.
Can we do anything about white privilege?
White privilege gives white people an advantage over other ethnic groups, particularly black people. Being white enables white people to have access to certain benefits, to excel much quicker in their chosen fields and be protected from specific criticisms and punishments. Black people do not have these same benefits.
But here's the caveat, this is not necessarily the collective fault of all white people. History has made it this way.
The British Empire was the largest in the history of mankind. At one point it had control of over 23% of the world's population. The English had successfully conquered the world. Even though they are no long the uber power they once were, the English still dominate the world. Britain's colonisation efforts destabilised a lot of African and Caribbean countries. Therefore black people, many of whom were part of the British's Common Wealth territories, had to scatter around the world for a better quality of life. So now, many black people find themselves as a minority in many Western countries, especially in the UK.
The fact is there is a much larger white population in the UK than there is a black population. By that admission alone, white people will always have more representation and more advantage over the black community as we are rather small by comparison. We are called an ethnic minority for a reason.
However, what is essential is that the white population, particularly those in positions of power, recognise their advantage and influence, and then use this to create more opportunities for ethnic minorities. Asking the white establishment in the UK to give up their advantage is never going to happen and why would they give it up. But, they can provide a fair chance for others to be able to climb the social ladder and make the UK more of a meritocracy rather than one based on nepotism.
We can't expect the powers that be in western society to eradicate white privilege. Still, they can ensure that it does not stop ethnic minorities from fulfilling their potential.
But most importantly, those with white privilege must use it to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and justly, regardless of their skin colour.
Next lesson: Why saying ‘All Lives Matter’ is incredibly racist
Disclaimer: I have made some edits to this post as I realised I got an important date wrong.
This post is the second part in my series of blogs educating white people and all non-black races about the injustices, prejudices and conspiracies designed to oppress and encourage discrimination against black people. You can read the first lesson here.
The second lesson is about why white people and anyone who is not black for that matter cannot use the 'N-word'. To avoid putting those reading this article into a moral problem, I am not going to spell out the complete word but instead, refer to it as the 'N-word'.
So let’s begin the second lesson.
If you can say the ‘N-word', then why can’t we?
I must have been around the age of 24 when a young white male called me the N-Word to my face for the second time in my life.
It was late 2014. The Black Lives Matter movement was still in its infancy, having only been formed a year ago following the police killing of African-American teenager Treyvon Martin in 2012. It was a time when black racial injustice was still occurring, but it did not make headline news a lot. Bear in mind that social media was not yet the global beast it is today. The establishment could still control the message.
During this time, I was working at a marketing agency based in the heart of Soho. I worked closely with this white male colleague who was around the same age as me. Surprise, surprise he was from America. Now, this colleague, let's call him Dickhead, was not close to me. Still, we went out for lunch occasionally to discuss football and girls as young men in their early 20s often do.
One day, after work, myself, Dickhead and a few other colleagues were staying at the office late one evening. We had been having a serious drinking session and playing a very dodgy game called ‘Cards Against Humanity’ (look it up) in one of the meeting rooms. For some reason, and I can't remember why, but we had started discussing race.
During this group conversation, Dickhead decided to stand up and tell everyone in the meeting room “But why can’t white people say the N-word?” Even as he said this, Dickhead glanced at me. Then he fully turned to me and said “If I call you the N-word, why should it piss you off? Black people say it to other black people. It doesn't mean the same thing anymore. So why can't everyone say it?"
I am not making this up by the way. At the time, I did not confront Dickhead about this and just shrugged my shoulders and continued drinking. It was a period of my life where I wasn't very political, being more focused on making money and having a good time. But now, in hindsight, I realise I had experienced not only racism but a form of white privilege.
Ownership of the ‘N-word' and white privilege
The usage of the N-Word is still debated among the black community. A lot of black people, myself included, have reclaimed the word. We use it as either a friendly term to address another black person or in a sarcastic or snarky way depending on the context. Others in the black community feel the word carries too many negative connotations and dark history. For them, the N-word must never be spoken by any human being, black or white.
But the black community have the right to debate the use of the word. A white person or any other non-black person cannot say that word whenever they please. The use of the N-word is one thing black people have total ownership on. Can we at least have that?
When Dickhead was arguing that he has the right to use it because black people do, he was saying that from a place of white privilege. He felt, as a white male, that he is entitled to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants and to whoever he wants. After all, he's used to a world which allows him to live as he pleases without any judgement. Black people cannot relate.
I would be extremely offended if anyone who is not black called me the N-word. It's a racial slur and a hate crime.
However, merely uttering the N-word is not automatically offensive if you're white. It's the context in which the word is used. In 2018, Kendrick Lamar got into a heated exchange with a white female fan who uttered the ‘N’ word. He had asked her to sing the lyrics to ‘M.A.A.D City’ from his critically acclaimed album ‘Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.’
Personally, and this a controversial opinion among the black community, I felt Kendrick Lamar was wrong to scold the fan for using the N-word. If the word is part of a lyric of a song which he has written then is a non-black person supposed to censor themselves when the N-word pops up during the song? Or if a non-black person is reading a book aloud and the N-word appears, are they supposed to not say it?
It can become a bit too overbearing if black writers and rappers are demanding that non-black people never say the N-word but then frequently use it in their art.
Using the N-word to address a black person if you're white or any other race that is not black is wrong, and that is non-negotiable. However, saying the word if it's in the context of a lyric or in a book is acceptable. But this is my opinion on the matter. I do not speak for all black people.
Remember, not every black person feels the same way as I do. Black people are individuals. We are not a bunch of ants with a hive mentality.
Next lesson: White privilege and can white people do anything about it?
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.
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.
“Fam you said you’d be here at 7.30pm but it’s 9pm now?”
“Allow me, bro. I am moving on black people time.”
If I paid myself £20 every time I had this conversation with my friends, then I would probably have enough money to afford a mortgage in Chelsea.
In the black community, especially among black men, the belief that we are always late is almost treated as a universal truth. Black people always being late for work, for parties even for their own wedding is just expected because of ‘black people time’ (BPT)
Even I used to laugh about this and treat it as a joke.
Until one day something happened.
Then I realised BPT is a dangerous stereotype that is designed to stop the progress of the black community.
The insidious agenda behind the idea of ‘black people time’
It was around my mid-20s and still in the very early days of my marketing career.
Innocent-eyed and with an ‘I-ain’t-that-bothered’ attitude to work at the time, I remember consistently arriving in the office ten minutes late.
To my surprise, my colleagues, who were mostly white and middle-class, didn’t reprimand for my tardiness. Quite the opposite. They would make jokes like “Leke is late again” or “Leke, forgot to set that alarm clock again.” And me, like the mug I was at the time, would laugh with them, thinking that my co-workers didn’t mind that I was late.
In hindsight, what I realised was that they subconsciously expected me to be late based on my skin colour and instead of me to prove them wrong, I proved them right. In my naivety and foolishness, I thought I was bonding with the team when really all I was doing was confirming their preconceptions of black men as unreliable and tardy. This would have negative repercussions for me as I was overlooked for promotion on several occasions.
What we, the black community, need to understand is that some of these jokes about black people, which might appear harmless or dismissed as ‘bants’, are actually designed to paint black people in a negative light and can actually foster bias in non-black people to not give us a position because of the perceptions of us as “lazy” and “unreliable” which are reinforced by these so-called BPT jokes.
The racist origin of the term
Recently, I’ve been very curious about where the notion of BPT originated from? How did this come to characterise and popularise black people so much? Who started this propaganda?
After doing some reading around the subject I discovered that the phrase had been used as early as 1912 where it was called “coloured people time.” It was a derogatory term deriding black people as lazy.
Yet here we are in 2020, popularising the phrase and using it within the black community lightheartedly.
Now this wouldn’t be a problem if we weren’t taking it seriously.
The problem is we are taking it seriously and living by it.
Why we must not internalise black stereotypes
I’ve lost count of the number of times I have gone to black-organised events where the event has started late or, sometimes, not even started at all. Honestly, I went to Afronation last year and I was astounded, yes astounded, by how flawless the whole event was. Things happened on time!
Within the black British community, there is always this expectation that events will not go as planned and will be disorganised. As much as it pains me to admit it, for the most part, it’s true. When events don’t start on time or are disorganised, we throw our hands in the air and proclaim “black people time” and “so typical of black people” and then proceed to keep it moving as if this is just the reality of black people.
This is a significant problem that goes beyond the issue of BPT. For some reason, many of us in the black community have seen the negative characteristics that have been purposefully placed on us and then, rather than reject these proclamations against our character that are not rooted in anything scientific, we have internalised them. I am guilty of it myself.
Sometimes, it’s difficult not to internalise these negative portrayals of black people. Jokes such as BPT are reinforced by our cultural artefacts via movies, comedians and music. All these subliminal messages eventually seep into our subconscious until we begin to accept it as reality without even realising.
By accepting that ‘black people operate on their own time”, we are now holding ourselves back to progress as a people because we are allowing ourselves to think that being late or disorganised is fine – it’s just a black thing.
"...rather than reject these proclamations against our character that are not rooted in anything scientific, we have internalised them."
But by doing this, we are now collectively seen as untrustworthy and lazy, halting our progress as a people. Some of us, who do not adhere to the foolishness of BPT, now have to work even harder to fight against this negative stereotype placed on us which has also been reinforced by many of us.
So the next time you find yourself running late because of BPT really ask yourself: why you think it’s ok to be late to meetings, gatherings, parties etc? How do you think that makes you look? There is already so much working against black people's progression, does it make sense for my own development to never be on time for anything?
It’s not too late. You still have time to change (pun intended).
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.