By Cynthia Vera
There used to be a time when I used to believe that America was best country in the world. I believed it was the Land of the Free. I guess as a young immigrant from a British-colonised African country, I had no other choice than to believe otherwise. I am from a “developing” country after all, so how can I not idealise and romanticise a country where dreams are supposedly made of?
I have been subjected to racism here in the UK – a place I call home. Whether it be random white women and men touching my hair as though I was a display figure for them to do as they please or people telling me to go back to my own country. Back where I came from, fresh off the boat supposedly, because my accent was too noticeable at one point, too African. As though I do not belong here and will never belong here. Or being told my skin is too bleak, too dark; or being an called an oreo, black on the outside but white on the inside. I am not black enough, then I am too black, too loud, too vocal. Too intense.
However, I used to be so thankful that my parents did not migrate to the US when it comes to the discussion of race. At least here in the UK, I do not necessarily need to worry about gun violence, or ‘too much’ death being inflicted on innocent people by the police. Our “protectors” who get rid of the “thugs” and “criminals” infesting our neighbourhoods.
At least here in the UK, I do not necessarily have to worry about anyone I love getting murdered by the police for simply have brown skin. For simply existing. I used to be grateful because I thought I was not exposed to as much racism as other people of colour in the US who are being denied of their human rights and lynched before our very own eyes.
My ancestors fought for their freedom against British colonisers, so I could have a sense of cultural identity. Like the great warrior and spirit medium Mbuya Nehanda who led the great rebellion against white colonial rule during the First Chimurenga of 1896-7. She lived and died for me, so I can proudly call myself Zimbabwean. She lived and died for me, so I can be black without apology. Without fear. She refused to be kept under the shackles of white power.
I often feel foolish for being grateful about the ‘gentle’ levels of racism I have experienced. I guess I thought it was not as impactful because it was not life threating. I am not being hunted down like my brothers and sisters in the US after all.
There used to be a time when I used to believe that America was best country in the world, I believed it was the Land of the Free. But who is it free for? The “United” States of America was built on the blood of native peoples who wanted to protect their sacred land. The “United” States of America was built on slavery, which still exists today through the prison industrial complex. People of colour are still slaves under the US constitution –a product that legitimises white supremacy and privilege.
The UK is not innocent either. It never has been because it was the catalyst of colonial rule and oppression of too many indigenous people to count. Whilst we are witnessing the modern-day lynching of black bodies, our own government had been exporting tear gas, rubber bullets and riot shields to the US. UK is actively complicit and fuelling the raging fire of racism each and every day. Whilst we are witnessing yet another systematic genocide of black people in the Land of the Free, our own government is still refusing to acknowledge the history of centuries of brutal and barbaric British colonisation of stolen land.
Whilst I am witnessing my own brothers and sisters being slaughtered like animals in the wild, I am reminded that my own government and home was built on white power, privilege, oppression, and bigotry. It too was built on the blood, sweat and tears of people of colour much like America. I am tired of watching my people suffer. I am tired of suffering but like Mbuya Nehanda, I too must become a warrior and fight.
Though my black voice is often too thunderous, and unapologetic, it alone is not enough in this fight. We all must become warriors and fight, as one.
One warrior who is using his voice and privilege to encourage, educate and advocate for social change is Andriy Zapotichny, alongside his friends, has created a website called We Create Change detailing the many ways you can help in the fight for justice. From signing petitions, to emailing your MPs and donating to charities and organisations, together we can create change.
“Our website was designed to help people within the UK to take action in a variety of ways. This can be through signing a petition to bring justice to those who have been wronged because they were black. We have several ways that people can show support for black people in this country, no matter who you are or your income. We have already received many responses from MPs showing support for the national/international movement and also condemning the unjust killing of George Floyd and Trump’s subsequent rhetoric. Our initiative will evolve to ensure we are consistently providing effective resources to educate people.
The very fact that we all have different backgrounds and are different races, is the amazing part of this collaboration. We were all born and raised in the United Kingdom, and through different junctions in life have managed to come together to become friends.
This is what the future looks like. A future where every race is equally represented in society, treated equally, given equal and unbiased opportunities based on talent, not race.” – Andriy Zapotichny of We Create Change.
What are YOU doing to change the world?
Though it might seem like a heavy question, it is a question we all need to ask ourselves. As an individual, I do not hold the power to change the entire world, to eradicate racism or any type of bigotry / hate towards others based on qualities they are not able to control. Qualities that make people who they are.
I do not expect you to have the solution for a better world, or the power to change the current horrific state of society either. However, I expect you to educate yourself and begin to truly understand the weight of racism and the insidious nature of oppression and the excessive deaths of countless people of colour.
Whilst it may seem like there is too much learn, and indeed there is, below is a list of some insightful books that can help unravel the deadly ideologies of white supremacy in this ‘contemporary’ world that seemingly keeps repeating the horrors of its past.
- Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde
- On Intersectionality: Essential Writings by Kimberlé Crenshaw
- Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter by Jordan Camp and Christina Heatherton
- The Heart of Race: Black Women’s Lives in Britain by Beverly Bryan, Stella Dadzie and Suzanne Scafe
- Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins
- If They Come in The Morning: Voices of Resistance by Angela Davis
- The Invention of The White Race by Theodore W. Allen
- We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity by bell hooks
- Futures of Black Radicalism by Gaye Theresa Johnson and Alex Lubin
- Reclaiming the Black Past: The Use and Misuse of African American History in the 21st Century by Pero Gaglo Dagbovie