“Now if we are concerned with our awakening, it is because we’ve been asleep. Now we were put to sleep by historical catastrophes. And you know when people get into an accident; they need to go to sleep in order to survive the accident. If you are totally conscious when it happens, you won’t survive. So sleep is sometimes useful. But after sleep we have to wake”Ayi Kwei Armah
I have written and spoken about the four types of racism – individualised, structural, institutional and internal. I have rarely talked about the latter for many reasons, mainly because the majority can interpret it as attacking People of Colour. I do not pen this piece of writing for the gaze of white folx; thus, if you are racialised as white, please read with caution; Hold your privilege in mind, and I humbly ask you to stay in your lane face your front. These words are not about or for you.
Growing up as a man of colour in the UK is a dichotomous process. As a Brown child, you are raised through a schizoid process with one part of you having to water the garden of your ancestors (in my case, mangos and pomegranates), and simultaneously we are forced to tend the garden of whiteness (apple and apple pears). If you are not au fait with whiteness, of you pop and go and do your homework.
While we tend our gardens, we find ourselves having to deny the existence of the mango because we taught through an ethnocentric curriculum that the pomegranates are ‘exotic’ and not part of the normal.
The normalisation is not a passive or secondary process from the education system, but this is a deliberate act. Education is the root of a system designed to uphold white supremacy; it always has and always will. This system is working at peak efficiency; let’s not fool ourselves by giving it the grace of morality.
“In the colonial context the settler only ends his work of breaking in the [N]ative when the latter admits loudly and intelligibly the supremacy of the white man’s values” (Fanon, 1961. p42)
Read that quote again. Does it make you feel uncomfortable? As a Person of Colour, how often have you refused to talk in your mother tongue or swapped your traditional garments for a suit and tie? Changed the accent of your parents? Have you anglicised your name? felt imposter syndrome (through your existence)?
Even as an experienced school leader and educator, I have been taught to espouse these very values. It has been usualised into my daily practice; Even now, the thought of not wearing a three-piece suit to a professional sphere starts to fill me with anxiety. Yes, my mind is also colonised; our resistance is natural; the following line in the quote:
“In the period of decolonisation, the colonised masses mock at these very values, insult them, and vomit them up.”
We should look back at the opening quote. We need to think about the idea of trauma. Some traumas are incredibly powerful, so ingrained that it embeds in the dispositional of unborn foetuses (Williams, 2020); they span centuries and through a diasporic spread both through ‘voluntary’ and forced migration encompasses the globe. These traumas lead to the environmental factors that lead to the same cycles that destroy the meritocracy premise.
Yes, I am saying that chattel slavery, colonisation and every act of racism between then and now impact People of Colour today.
Sleep. Sleep is important. The unconscious state is not necessarily a place of healing but one of survival. Without a level of denial of the hurt, how would one exist in this world? Imagine for a minute. a Black person in the UK being subjected to the daily glorification of those who thought of their ancestors as animals, commodities. Stack that with the fact they were compensated by the government (for their loss of stock). At the same time, the descendants of those very same people use their privilege to run the country (two whole prime ministers).
Sleep is important. I have often seen the media point to those embued and enamoured by whiteness. Look, here are a few Brown and Black folx who agree with our ideology. While this is fundamentally and systemically damaging, we still have to consider all our Brown and Black brethren as victims of the same racism.
Sometimes, just sometimes, it’s easier to pretend that the violence inflicted on melanated bodies is not based on racism but anything else. It’s easier to blame other folx for not working harder enough, centre on class, the wrong place and time or my favourite ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’.
I am not asleep, and I refuse to keep my morning calls on silent mode. It’s time to wake and awaken those around you.