I was going to share a silly video this week, but then I was stopped in my tracks the other day when a BBC News update appeared on the screen on my phone telling me that 9 people had been shot dead at a church in Charleston.
At first I wanted to sigh at the thought of yet another shooting in America…because I’ve never understood their gun laws (or lack thereof) and often feel a little sick when I see some Americans teaching their kids to shoot and posting these family time pics on twitter and instagram. But I clicked and read more…and it became clear this was not just another shooting. It was in a very specific church, with a very specific history, and the actions of the man who committed this act was very much intentioned, calculated and is not simply a ‘tragedy’.
I didn’t have the words…and then late last night while I was fighting a stomach bug I saw this clip from Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. And I just thought…thank you for articulating my own thoughts Mr Stewart.
Years ago, I joined a community set up by my blog friend Lori for female Christian leaders. At the time I was the face of a Christian ministry organisation. Some of the women bloggers who are part of it are African American women who are part of the leadership of churches in the Southern States of America. I honestly fear for them and their families when I hear stories of McKinney, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Ferguson. I’m not American. I’m not a woman of colour. I am white (you really can’t get much more pasty than me) and I’m appalled at the thought process of some white men and women – not just in the USA, but in particular countries in Southern Africa, Australia and the UK as well. I don’t get racism. I just don’t. It is taught, and I simply wasn’t taught to be racist.
It can creep in subconsciously from people who don’t even realise how they are ‘othering’ people who have a different skin colour from them. I don’t want certain friends to be referred to as “Laurie’s black friend” (especially as that’s basically like saying ‘Laurie’s ginger friend‘ – both descriptions that could account for several people that I call friends). I don’t want to live in a world where when I’m sitting having dinner with a friend and a stranger asks the question “How are you two friends, you must be so different?” and I don’t want to fear that my friends that have darker skin than me are going to get treated any differently than I would be by the people who we pay taxes to serve our communities and work with us to keep them safe places.
I also think it’s time that we did something about our history. The way we teach it (Dear Great Britain, just because you made the slave trade illegal before America did doesn’t mean you can hold your head up high. You still have statues and streets named after those involved in it). The way we portray it in books, film and TV. The way we skip over it and ignore parts of it completely.
It’s time for all of us who believe in equality to step up and start calling things what they are, and also to show a different way. To stop telling the single stories that perpetuate prejudice and bias. To listen and to be willing to learn.
I’ll leave you with a blog post a friend shared on Twitter. I don’t know this lady, but I think her words are important, as she has a much higher stake in all this than I – just an opinionated lassie from Scotland who is sick of inequality, violence and injustice.
To the writer of that post, Osheta – I’m so sorry. And yes, I’m most definitely doing my best to listen too.