Rashan Charles, Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race
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On Sunday 23 July, I learned the news on Twitter that another young, unarmed black man’s life had been harshly taken. 20-year-old Rashan Charles was pronounced dead after the police wrestled him on the ground in a shop, where he later died in hospital. My heart is heavy with the news of Rashan Charles because the CCTV shows a uniformed police officer wrestling the young man with his knee in his back whilst he allegedly swallowed an object.
Danielle Dash wrote about another black life being lost in white hands on the Black Ballad website. She rightly said that where black lives are concerned, they don’t matter to the police and this is proven in the death of Rashan Charles. It took more than 24 hours for all major news media to highlight the murder and the mass media messages show Rashan as the criminal of his death and not the victim (read the full article here).
Every one who is ‘woke’ right now should read Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race
Reni Eddo-Lodge talks about white privilege in a way that will educate black and brown people and also appeals to white people. I have read Amazon reviews and listened to podcasts featuring Reni where she has explained that white people were starting to understand their privilege in society and black people have experienced so much of what is articulated in the book.
This account is broken down into a series of essays beginning with a historical account of structural racism and how it exists in Britain. A lot of research went into exploring the Black British experience of structural racism and recognises that the focus is usually on the African-American experience.
Reni breaks down white privilege. One example of this is when you have to be careful about the white people you trust to talk about race and racism with. There is no guarantee that the recipient will understand your experience and this is an opportunity for white people to play the victim.
I’m sure many black women have experienced the label of the ‘angry black woman’. When I first moved to Kent, this was the first time I’d moved away from Birmingham. I had secured a position on a graduate scheme in a county that had a 97% white population. Even the white travellers were considered as outsiders to white people in Kent.
One of the team leaders told me that he had a ‘coloured friend’ when he was younger. I rolled my eyes and said “we don’t use that word” but I didn’t speak up enough even to show that it bothered me. He went on to say that he punched his friend in the mouth to see if his blood was the same colour. I didn’t sleep that night because I didn’t handle the situation. I felt ashamed of myself. As if I was condoning his derogatory use of the word ‘coloured’ and the story that he felt compelled to tell me which added no value to my life.
I felt like I was letting my black community down before I didn’t defend his ignorance and school him. This was my opportunity to speak up but I didn’t want to be labelled – the angry black woman. Whilst he enjoyed his evening, I racked my brain about how I could have handled the situation better so that I could have had a good nights sleep.
I used all of the excuses in the world about being new to the team, in a white environment but my frustration was that I didn’t address this man because I didn’t want to be seen as the angry black woman. Even though he was in the wrong, I should have educated him about why we don’t use that word to describe black people.
Reni discussed the way the mass media stereotypes the way black lives are portrayed when black lives are taken. This is exactly what happened on Sunday. The Twitter trolls started mocking Rashan’s young life, tweeting things such as “I bet your going to say he was a good boy and went to church”. Reni explains that racism cannot be experienced both ways because black and brown people do not have the power to shape the outcome of another race.
The reality is, he didn’t deserve to die because of a crime that he hadn’t been fairly tried for. The mass media is typically pointing the finger at him as a drug dealer and menace to society. For the black community, the lack of trust in the use of ‘law enforcement’ has been heightened once again.
I resonated with so many of the reasons why Reni no longer wants to talk to white people about race. For instance, when white people play the victim or insinuate that black people need to ‘get over it’. This is something that I have experienced in the work environment.
Reni quotes black feminist poet, Audre Lorde who said “your silence will not protect you.’ Reni asked, “Who wins when we don’t speak. Not us”.
“Racism reveals the anxieties, hypocrisies and double standards of whiteness. It is a problem in the psyche of whiteness…”
The final chapter ‘There’s No Justice, There Just Us’, concludes that racism is a white problem that white people must take responsibility to solve. This is because “racism reveals the anxieties, hypocrisies and double standards of whiteness.”
This is by far one of the most educational books I have read in recent times. It was clear, concise and well researched into a form of essays. This book should be in every library and on every school curriculum. The book doesn’t address everything about racism all across the globe. However, it does take sections of society and provided a detailed and well researched account of where structural racism exists, in an easy to read tone. The footnotes have given me the opportunity to learn more about what I learned in the book and do my own research to find out more. Paula Akpan wrote about this book for gal-dem where she also discusses that there is so much of black British history that she was not aware. She writes that Britain has always portrayed itself as America’s “less racist cousin” (read more here)