By Alexandra Brown •
I wish to begin by sharing a prose I wrote in response to the murder of George Floyd.
Institutional, systematic and structural racism, feels like I am dying a slow and painful death. When I learnt of the murder of George Floyd, it was like trauma to the sou. I fell silent, as I screamed. I am filled, consumed and embroidered with RAGE.
The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black people has acted is very much an eerie reminder of the precariousness of Black life;life. This attains not to both thesimply within the British and global context, but also on a global scale. That coupled with the knowledge of the murder of George Floyd’s murder, has created a sense of collective pain and trauma, that words could never attest to.
We must cease to understand and explain the cries and groans of Black people merely within the context of recent events. On the contrary, its genesis is rooted in slavery. I put it to you that we must refrain from identifying slavery as a historical event, but rather, it should be seen as a relational dynamic, that continues to persist.
- An oppressive relational dynamic between a master and their slave.
- An oppressive relational dynamic between whiteness and Black bodies.
- An oppressive relational dynamic between an a subject and its object.
This oppressive relational dynamic is consequently embedded within all institutions and structures that govern society. This includes; the NHS, housing, policing, and the education system. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to conclude that what occurred in 1833 was not Britain’s abolishment of slavery, but more accurately, it was itss reconstruction.
The gravity of this reality lies within and beyond the parameters of Western euro-centric epistemology-, theorieose theories of knowledge developed overwhelmingly through a White gaze, centered upon the experiences and logical reasoning of White propertied middle-class cis-heterosexual men. Subsequently, we must explore the established canons, received understandings of wisdom, truth and knowledge that lie within the central rubrics of the Black experience Black history. These are encompassed within by autobiographical accounts, historical texts, memoirs, folklore, songs, and the cultural practices of our ancestors and forebears.
These sources of authority establish that the truth the world is witnessing is nothing new for Black people. It is not a coincidence that Black people are protesting across the globe. It is not a coincidence that Black British people can easily draw parallels to the narratives of their brothers and sisters across the diaspora. This is because the Black experience outside Africa and the Caribbean bares a painful and violent resemblance and this truth is an integral part of our heritage and something, we continue to teach our children.
Many of you may take exception to what has been said thus far, but I assure you
Statistics, empirical knowledge, and logical reasoning cannot not speak of the reality, potency, and pain of the following
- The conversation many Black parents have with their children about how ‘The world is not fair’. As a Black person you will have to work twice as hard just to be seen as equal and ten times as hard to be seen as above average (take Obama and Trump for instance).
- That the collective unconscious still views Black people as biologically subhuman, inherently aggressive, and intellectually inferior
- How Black people are violently reminded of their Blackness whenever they stray beyond the norms and expectations of society
- Despite not seeing many people who look like us occupying positions of power and leadership, and despite living, toiling, and contributing to this society you will still be made to feel that ‘you don’t belong here’
Statistics, empirical knowledge, and logical reasoning cannot speak to the loss of innocence and gaining of wisdom that Black children experience upon hearing this truth and eventually coming to this realization for themselves. Neither can it capture the pride and joy we feel when we see people in our community achieving, holding positions of power and leadership and surpassing expectations, despite the barriers.
Racism is not an invisible omnipotent being that affects Black people. It is a racialised ideology that is dependent on social actors (namely white people and white dominated institutions). Therefore, there is a harsh truth humanity must accept. Anti-racism cannot solely reside within personal beliefs and interpersonal interactions. Rather, it dwells within the relational dynamics and structures of institutions. Until we admit and act upon this reality, what we are essentially saying is ‘Whilst I am anti-slavery, I am pro-slave master’.
This article was originally published on Conversations With and was written by Alexandra Brown, a secondary school RE teacher with an academic background in Liberation theologies (specialising in Womanist theology). Alexandra also specialises in Islam within the Black American experience and social justice, with a particular focus on race, class and gender. Within her capacity as a teacher, Alexandra both theoretically and pragmatically engages with critical pedagogy and Black feminist theory. She is also a freelance writer, poet and academic. Alexandra is British born of African-Caribbean (Ghanaian and Jamaican) heritage.