Sophie Williams: ‘No one gets a free pass on racism’août 16, 2020
Every day I get messages from people who have been sucked into “debating” the same predictable, repetitive arguments about race. These are both tired and tiring, but can be hard to respond to in the moment because it is shocking to be faced with wilful ignorance. Here are some of the comments and questions I hear most, and some useful prepared responses, so we can spend more time making real change and less time engaging with nonsense.
“All lives matter”
All lives should matter, yes. But all lives won’t matter until black lives matter, and at the moment we treat them as if they don’t.
“Black people don’t value their own lives – look at black-on-black crime”
In most crimes, the victim and perpetrator are from the same ethnic group. We don’t say white-on-white crime, we just say crime – so why do you call out race in other groups?
“My child is too young to learn about racism”
Children from marginalised backgrounds learn about racism very early, often from being victims of it. If we don’t talk to children about racism, we leave them to form their own views, via a society and culture that are often anti-black.
“My parents are too old to change”
No one is too old to change. No one gets a free pass on racism.
“Racism will die out in a generation”
My mum heard this, so did hers, and so did hers. If we don’t do the work, nothing will change, because the systems we live in weren’t designed to work for everyone.
“The UK isn’t racist”
Sorry, you don’t get to decide that. Talk to marginalised people in the UK and listen to their experiences.
“Racism is over – just look at Obama and Oprah”
Imagine being able to point to one or two successful white people. The very fact that there are few enough examples of powerful black people that they can be called out by name shows the scale of the problem, not that there isn’t one.
“You’re only making racism worse by talking about it”
We’re making you uncomfortable, but we’re not making it worse. Nothing is ever made worse by being brought into the light.
“Slavery ended ages ago – you should get over it”
Legal slavery might have ended, but the legacy very much lives on.
“I’m not being racist, but…”
Yes. You are. Stop it.
• Sophie Williams is the author of Anti-Racist Ally (HQ, published in October)