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?
Although it's cringe that I am writing this, black people are having their '#metoo' moment. That is to say that the tragic and horrifying killing of George Floyd has given the Black Lives Matter movement an unprecedented global momentum in the same way the exposure and subsequent downfall of Harvey Weinstein did for the modern feminist movement.
White people, for once, are genuinely listening and responding. This moment feels different. Before all this, it felt like educated white people would only pay lip service to the injustice black people experienced without admitting their own unconscious bias, yet now they appear to be confronting the issue of racism, not only within their ranks but within themselves.
So to help white people understand the injustices, prejudices and conspiracies designed to hold black people back, I will be writing a series of blogs this week to educate white people on various untruths about black people.
So let the class begin. Lesson one: ‘Why Black on black crime is a myth’
The insidious meaning behind the myth of ‘Black on black crime’
Black-on-black crime is the biggest load of bullocks since someone thought the Earth was flat.
The very idea of black-on-black crime is nonsense. It does not exist.
The problem with using ‘black-on-black’ crime to describe or to group offences by black people towards other black people is that it implies that this sort of behaviour is unique to the black race. Pick up any tabloid newspaper, and it talks about the "black-on-black" stabbing pandemic that is tearing through London's streets. It's another way to make black people seem more barbaric than other races.
Think about it. When a white man murders another white man, and this happens a lot because black people do not commit all murders in the UK, the media do not call this white-on-white crime. If a Chinese man steals from another Chinese man and then kills him, the media do not label this Chinese-on-Chinese crime. It's not called a Chinese murder. It's simply called murder. End of.
The very term 'black-on-black' communicates that the crimes committed by black people are far more atrocious than the same crimes committed by any other race. If one black man stabs another black man and he dies, suddenly it’s an issue across the whole black community.
Black-on-black crime is utilised by the powers that be to distract attention from the injustices and unfairness that black people experience. Racist white people use it whenever they begin to feel uncomfortable when they realise black people are systematically held back by society. To avoid the uneasiness of the truth, white people will say "yeah but black people stab other black people" as if this justifies the inequality black people face.
I must admit that, not so long ago, I was hoodwinked by this nonsense. As someone who consumes mainstream media a lot, it was easy for this consistent myth of black-on-black crime to make its way into my head and masquerade as the truth. I used to think that black men killing other black men was just a problem within the black community. Imagine that. That’s the power of the media.
So to conclude today’s lesson, Black-on-black crime is a myth. It does not exist. There is only human-on-human crime.
Next lesson: Why white people can't use the 'N' word...
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 am a black father to a mixed-race daughter (my ex-partner is a white Italian woman). So, I know in the future, my daughter will face a challenge or maybe even a crisis of identity. Neither her father nor mother would have ever experienced this type of predicament before. As she reaches a certain age, she might naturally begin to ask herself:
Is she British Nigerian or Italian? Can she call herself a black woman? Can she ever claim to represent or stand for black women?
Personally, parents who shield their children from the darkness and complexities of the world are doing them a disservice. I won't be that type of father. At some point, I will need to help my daughter navigate this difficult period as a mixed-race girl. Challenging as it will be, I must show some understanding of the identity crisis she might struggle with.
So this post serves two purposes. Firstly, to analyse the question "Are you black or are you mixed-race" purely from my perspective and opinion. If I cause offence in any way, it was unintentional on my part. Secondly, this is my first attempt of addressing this issue as I might with daughter once she's realised that the pigmentation of one's skin is attached so much external meaning created by the world.
Is a mixed-raced person a black person?
It's such a loaded and sensitive question that, sometimes, I feel I should not even attempt to confront it. But now that I have a mixed-race daughter, I must face this question as I don’t have any choice.
In my opinion, we can examine this from two perspectives. Firstly, from a purely scientific standpoint, a mixed-raced person is not a black person. Biologically, you couldn’t make a logical argument that a mixed-raced person is the same as a black person who has two African or Caribbean parents.
The one-drop rule, whereby someone who has a black parent, or any kind of black heritage is automatically classified as black, is entirely absurd to me. An invention from the US (no surprise there), the one-drop rule was created and applied mainly in Southern America. Its primary purpose was to place children born to mixed relationships, and marriages into the lower socio-economic class. And I don't need to tell you what colour of people were considered to be of a lower class. While the one-drop rule is not recognised in law, it's still upheld by many people, both black and white. In 2011, Halle Berry infamously evoked the one-drop rule during a custody battle for her daughter. Halle Berry herself is mixed-race but identifies as a black woman.
The second perspective looks at the concept of blackness from a cultural and social context rather than from a purely biological rationale.
Now, this is where it gets interesting.
We can't argue with biology. If you were born to two black parents, you're black, regardless if you hate black culture or not. However, if you were born to just one black parent but your whole life evolves around black culture and working within the black community, then does that make you completely black by default? Can you reasonably stand up and say "Yes, I am a black woman" or "Yes, I am a black man" because all your friends are black, you consume black music, black films, black food, and sleep with black people exclusively? Do you have the right to play a black woman in a movie about a historically, biologically black woman or man, if you're mixed race?
What does it mean to black?
To answer those questions, I need to ask myself "What does it mean to be black?” How do we measure one’s blackness?
Of course, if you were born to two black parents, then the answer is clear. But as a mixed-race person, it all depends on the context. My daughter has the right to identify as a black woman, in that she is more connected to that part of her. After all, she is half black. Still, she must recognise that it could be culturally insensitive of her if she claimed that she is completely a black woman. Nor can she pretend she represents the lives of the average black woman.
Simply put, she does not. She represents the life of a mixed-raced woman. It's not the same. While my daughter can stand with black women and fight with them, she will not experience the full challenges of women who look completely black. Biologically, my daughter is not qualified to say she is a fully black woman and she should respect that fact.
I love Drake and I am a massive fan of his music. He has done so much for black culture, in both the US and UK, that we owe him so much. But even though he identifies as black, Drake would struggle to claim he was the face of black men. Even Obama cannot claim to be the epitome of the black man as he is half white and not completely black. Black culture will of course claim these great men as it should, but we must acknowledge that these men are half-white which makes them different from the black man who was born to two black parents.
From my own experience growing up in London, where there is a sizable mixed-race population (looking at you South London), and just my own observations, many mixed-race people with black heritage strongly identify with black culture. While the reasons for this are multifaceted, ultimately black culture is dominant and mainstream in London, so it's easier to be part of it. And black culture is just effortlessly cool, let’s keep it real.
Above all, love yourself as an individual first
Should the day come, in a few years, where my daughter asks me "Dad, am I black?" or if I see her struggle with this aspect of her life, I will say to my daughter:
“You are you.”
Nobody should be defined by or confined to the colour of their skin. Ultimately, we are individuals, and it's the various aspects of our personality which shape us, mould us and give us form. Of course, biologically speaking, my daughter is not a black girl. Still, if she chooses to identify with her blackness and have more solidarity with black people then more power to her. Conversely, she may decide to have more of a connection with her white, Italian side. It doesn't matter.
The question, then, needs to be re-framed. Rather than asking if someone is mixed-race or black, maybe we should be asking: "Do you know yourself and do you love yourself?"
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.
“Black women are the toughest women on this planet. Do not believe me? Just try dating one.”
Before the coronavirus came along and decided to take a big poo on our social lives, I remember speaking to a friend about our dating experiences. During our conversation, he said that quote to me, and I howled with laughter. I have heard so many black men tell me that the sisters do not give it up quickly when it comes to an emotional connection and sex.
Even though I have predominately dated outside of my race (much to my own surprise when I think about it, but that's not a discussion for this blog post), I have also had experiences with black women. While I have enjoyed these experiences, I have noticed that when a sister is dealing with a brother, there is a lot more expectation. Even if it is just meant to be casual 'situationship'. She will demand to know where she stands with you from the onset.
Does this mean black women from London are more difficult to date? I believe it is a lot more complicated than that.
Tough women living tough lives
Obviously, I am not a black woman, but even I can see, as a keen observer of culture and modern life, that black women lead tough lives. In some cases, their lives are more challenging than black men's.
Firstly, black women must deal with the fact that they are woman, so that is a lot of judgement from the world. This happens internally within the black community and externally, in the outside world. Secondly, they have black skin which brings with it a lot of negative connotations that they must also cope with in different contexts such as in the workplace and at home.
Looking at it from my own black male perspective, black women in London are less likely to quickly open themselves up to a man sexually and emotionally because they are more attuned to the bullshit of the world than women from other races. Many black women in London come from families where growing up was not rosy and sunny. Times were hard. As a result of this experience, black women from the capital are a lot more street smart and aware of a man's bullshit. To ensure you're the real deal or you're going to take them seriously, they are less likely to jump into bed with you until you've proven yourself as a man in whatever way that is for her.
Particularly in the UK, many millennial black women grew up with very headstrong fathers. For reasons that are too big and too off-topic for this article, black men, especially Africans, who came to the UK from the late 60s and started families, faced monumental challenges which made them very strict men. Also, many African cultures are predominantly patriarchal, so young black women grew up with fathers who made it clear they ran the household.
One characteristic I have noticed with black women who grew up in London and come from a poor background is that they expect their men to be very tough and very masculine. The reason some black men might have such a difficult time dating the sisters is that they really do test how much of a man you are and what you bring to the table. You can sweet-talk them all you want, but if you cannot deliver, they will let you know about it. They are not wowed by your melanin skin like women of other ethnicity might be.
I tend to find that black girls who grew up in a fairly middle-class household with a father who was not very strict, tend to be open to men who are a lot softer or just talk a good game and can show them a fun time. But most black women in the UK, especially London, did not grow up middle-class. They require a man who can help lift them out of the poverty they have grown up in.
Religion plays a big role in their lives
Although this applies more to black women from an African background, religion, particularly Christianity, is hugely important to black women from London. Especially as they reach their mid to late twenties. I have seen many African black women who used to be a little wild in their teenage years become devout Christians almost overnight.
This devotion to Christianity paints every aspect of their lives, especially when it comes to dating. If you are a man just looking for some quick fun, then you should look elsewhere. Such behaviour will simply not fly with black women in London who are deeply religious, which many of them are. Not only must you be a man of the faith, but you must also be one who is responsible in every aspect of his life.
Decide if the juice is the worth the squeeze
I always tell some of my friends that when you are dating a black woman from London, you must decide if the juice is worth the squeeze. That is to say, are you, as a man, willing to really step up and put in the effort and be a man, in the traditional sense, at all times? That is what it will take to date a black woman from London. If a black woman chooses to waste her time with the wrong man, it is more devastating to her for all the reasons stated in this article.
So if you're dating a black woman from London, just remember one thing: "The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice and the tougher the skin."
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.
Coronavirus has shown us both the bravery of black doctors and nurses and the plight of ordinary black people
Coronavirus has brought the whole world to its knees.
Whether you are a third world country, a rich country, a democracy or a dictatorship – coronavirus didn’t excuse anyone. It didn’t discriminate. Many people (125, 196 as of the publication of this article) have died from the virus. The victims have all come from different ethnicities and backgrounds.
As the UK fights this pandemic, the real heroes of society have emerged for us to see. And, surprise, surprise, the heroes were not those smartly dressed politicians and bureaucrats in Westminster who suck up to Boris Johnson to keep their overpaid jobs.
No, the real heroes are the medical practitioners, from doctors to nurses, who have risked their lives to take care of the sick and the dying. These brave people, men and women, young and old, have gone above and beyond to treat those infected by COVID-19 - risking their own health, coming out of retirement and separating from their families.
And many of these brave people on the hospital front lines are black.
Black people are the lungs of the NHS
Like the transport sector, the public health sector, basically the NHS, has always been dependent on staff who are from ethnic minority backgrounds. Despite what the recent campaign to whitewash NHS might have you believe, many of the nurses, doctors and surgeons in our NHS hospitals are in fact of African or Caribbean origin. Of course, I am not downplaying the importance of Asian and white medical staff, and Asians do make up a sizeable majority of the NHS headcount, more so than black people.
But 72, 321 black people are part of the NHS (6% of the NHS workforce), and we must honour every single one of these people. When the dust settles, and we return to normality, I hope the people of this country do not forget that the NHS is not just full of white faces but black and Asian faces too and way more of the latter. After all this, those who were in favour of Brexit must ask themselves:
“How much more damage would the coronavirus have done to our loved ones if not the ethnic minorities who served the NHS diligently during this extraordinarily difficult times.”
Black people are still disproportionately living in more impoverished conditions in the UK than other groups
Latest research from an organisation which monitors intensive care patients has revealed that of the 2000 people who fell ill to the virus within its data set, 35% were from a black, Asian or ethnic background. Specifically, 268 of the cases within that data set were people from a black background.
The fact many black people in the UK are disproportionately falling ill to this disease illustrates the sad reality. In essence, most black people are still living in rougher conditions than other races in the UK because many are still working-class and poor.
Like our Asian counterparts, black people live in multi-generational and often cramped households with many family members living together. Also, this pandemic has battered the British economy, and many of the sectors where black people earn their bread to maintain their livelihoods have been completely shut down albeit temporarily.
Even if the government is paying 80% of their salaries, this will not be enough for some black families who were barely getting by on their full salary. Older black people, those over the age of 60, do not have comfortable middle-class jobs or wages. Therefore a pandemic like this will be crushing for them. I have seen this personally.
The harsh realities that black people face is nothing new. Of course, none of these problems is exclusive to black or Asian people in the UK as there are working class, poor white people who are experiencing a similar experience.
Having said that, we must remember that, in the UK, many black people, perhaps too many, do not have the luxuries of the middle class and the wealthy in which the majority are white. Millions of black people in Britain survive by their wit's end. Now I am not necessarily blaming anyone for this. The reasons why this is the reality for the UK's black population are complex and beyond the scope of this article.
Once this coronavirus pandemic is over (and it will end, even if it seems like it's dragging on like a horror movie that has gone on for way too long), I know things will just go back to normal. People will simply return to their constantly stimulated and always distracted lives.
Yet a part of me hopes that more people will at least now have more of an appreciation of the crucial contributions black medical staff made during this period, even as their loved ones suffered and endured in silence.
To be black. To be British. To be a man.
If you first came to London and read a British newspaper, then you might think that most millennial black men from the UK were basically a 'roadman.' In Britain, a 'roadman' is sort of the equivalent of the African American 'gangsta' but not really on the same threat level in all honesty. However, many millennial black men in the UK are not 'roadman' at all.
As someone who was born and bred in London, I have hung out with a variety of different types of black men that populate Britain. Black culture is born in London, and then it spreads to other major British cities like Birmingham and Manchester. So if you want to understand Black British men then look no further than London.
Of course, every black man is an individual, like any other human, but we can also be broadly categorised into a type in terms of how we present and view ourselves to the world. So, I am writing the first article which exists (to the best of my knowledge) which explains the different types of black British men in the UK.
Feel free to agree or disagree.
1. The modern Black British black man
This is the type of black guy who is usually born in the UK to parents who came to Britain in the late 70s and the 80s. They can be poor, middle-class or wealthy. These types of black guys are very in touch with their Britishness while also acknowledging their African or Caribbean roots. These are the guys who watch EastEnders but also know their afrobeat artists or can speak Jamaican patois. They often speak with a London accent (or the accent of the city they come from) and have a mixture of friends from all races. They can be at a pub during lunchtime eating bangers and mash but also be eating jollof rice at their mum's house for supper. They are part of the African or Caribbean diaspora, and they are proud of it. Their vocabulary often consists of words such as “fam”, “wagwan”, “innit” “mazza” “dickhead” “wasteman” “mandem” and a few others.
Examples: Anthony Joshua, Stormzy, John Boyega,
2. The ‘Roadman’
Probably the most well-known group of black British men, the roadman is usually born in the UK and can be described as the corrupt version of the "The modern Black British man" but not always. There are cases where he is, in fact, a ‘British African’ but now finds himself living the criminal lifestyle that encompasses the roadman's existence. The roadman is basically a criminal who either sells drugs (i.e. trapping), robs people or places and/or spends most of his days roaming the streets with his boys. They often produce questionable drill music or hang around aimlessly in their estate. Some of these guys do go on to have successful music careers where they rap about their trap life. Often black boys in their late teens to mid twenties, the ‘roadman’ is not a new phenomenon as they existed as early as the 2000s. However, with the popularity of drill music and social media, the roadman has, unfortunately, become a more prominent representation of millennial black British boys.
Examples: Headie One, Nines, AJ Tracey
3. The coconut
Although sometimes used in a very derogatory way by others within the black community, a coconut (sometimes referred to as a bounty) is essentially a black boy who acts 'white.' That is to say that these types of black boys talk in a very refined or posh way that many would classify as sounding ‘white’. He may or may not listen to black music, eat African or Caribbean food or even have many black friends. Still, he usually does not overtly emphasise his roots. His hobbies include activities that you would find are popular with British white people and ditto for his music taste. However, this doesn’t make him less black (in my opinion). The coconut is not as hated among the black community as he might have been in the past. Nowadays, he is more accepted as another type of black guy as opposed to a black guy who isn't proud of his heritage.
Examples: Ncuti Gatwa (technically he is Scottish but still he is example of what some may classify as a coconut), Nathan Stewart-Jarrett
4. The eccentric and unconventional black British man
The eccentric and unconventional black British man is different from the coconut in that he is very much aware of his roots and displays that. Unlike 'The modern black British man' or 'The roadman', his personality is very loud, very humorous or very weird. However, his unusual behaviour comes out in a way that is acceptable to the mainstream without gaining the disapproval or indifference from black people that a 'coconut' might have. These types of black British men are often entertainers, but they can also be people with ordinary lives. They are very similar to ‘The modern black British man’ but just a lot louder and whackier in their personalities.
Examples: Mo The Comedian, Michael Dappah, Big Narstie
5. British Africans
British Africans are not a new type of Black British men, but they have become a lot more vocal and visible over the past decade. This is primarily due to the popularity of afrobeats music, which has made African culture a lot more mainstream in Britain. Sometimes born in the UK and sometimes born in Africa, but then immigrated to the UK, British Africans share some similarities with 'The modern Black British man.' But the critical difference is that they emphasise and practice their African culture much more strongly than the former. These are black men who speak their mother tongue with their friends and families even if they were born in the UK. They frequently travel to Africa and wear clothing from their African country of origin. While they may occasionally acknowledge their Britishness (usually in a way to mock British culture) and are comfortable around different races, they are much comfortable carrying on the traditions and behaviours of their motherland.
Examples: Burna Boy, J Hus
So which one do you think best describes you as a black British man? None of them or a mixture? Have I got it completely wrong? And ladies, which type from the list do you tend to date? Feel free to leave your comments below.