My Black Experience by Oyinkan Bello
So, the past week, as I’m sure you’re all aware, has been a lot. Ria asked me to share my experience from a black perspective to elevate and allow black voices to be heard which I really appreciate so, thank you Ria.
It has been really hard to verbalise and properly articulate all the emotions I have felt the past week and I don’t think I can even fully explain myself in this blog post. It has been a real rollercoaster. I have felt a deep sadness, I have felt anger, I have felt confused, I have felt disappointed but despite this, I’ve felt empowered.
Police brutality and the killing of innocent black people is not a new thing, the sad reality is that it has been part of this world for centuries. Time and time again, especially in our generation, when we hear of a black person being killed, there is outrage and just as quickly as the story finally makes its way to mainstream media, it leaves; we forget about it and move on with our lives. However, I feel like this time around, there has been a very tangible shift in the way the world has responded.
In quick succession, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd lost their lives due to white supremacy (amongst many other unknown murders). These murders were followed by Amy Cooper who called the police making the false claim that an African American man was “assaulting her”. Doing this, she knew perfectly well how the police perceived her as a white woman (victim) and how they perceived Mr cooper as a black man (criminal).
The discrimination against the black community is being recorded and laid out plainly for the whole world to see.
People are finally starting to acknowledge the fact that overt racism and murderous discrimination did not end in 1865, with the abolishment of slavery. Racism is still such a big part of society and it cannot go on for any longer. There are deep-rooted infrastructures put into place at the expense of black people that need to be dismantled piece by piece, and we can only do that when systematic racism is not only identified but weeded out from society in a united effort.
Earlier, I mentioned that this past week has made me feel empowered, and that may come across as a strange thing to say but let me expand.
Growing up and going to school in predominately white areas, I really felt the need to supress my black voice. As I got older, I would call out racism less, I would try to distance myself from “typically black things” to not fall into the stereotype of a “typical black girl.”
I didn’t want to stand out more than I already did.
If anyone was racist towards me, I wouldn’t take the steps to hold that person accountable because I felt that my white peers would neither understand my anger, nor take me seriously.
During A Levels a teacher said to me,
“Just because they are accepting more black people into Oxford doesn’t mean that you have more of a chance of getting in”.
What she said shook me to my core and it honestly has affected me till this day. I didn’t report this case to the school, because this particular teacher had a major say over which university I would go to. I didn’t want her to ruin my university application, out of spite of being called out. She had this huge power over my future, so I had to submit, and suppress myself. I’m not telling you this to garner your sympathy but to give you a personal example. What she said was not okay, I saw it then, but I see it even more now.
Black people and people of colour should feel able to call someone out on their racism without fearing the repercussions of that or feel that the racism has to be overt to count as ‘real racism’.
Maybe it’s because I’m older or maybe it’s the magnitude of how the black lives matter movement has grown now, but I and I’m sure many of you will agree that we have learnt a lot about racism. There is information all over the internet and social media about the use of the US law enforcement to oppress black people; micro-aggressive racism, the model minority to name a few.
Right now, we have the power, information and connectivity to change the world so that we can create a better future for us and our future children.
There is no excuse anymore to be ignorant and racist.
If this talk of racism has made you feel uncomfortable, annoyed, defensive, ask yourself why. If this whole movement, is making you feel called out, defensive, ask yourself why you feel the need to defend the fact that you aren’t racist. Why do you care more about being called racist, than the people subject to racism? My sister posted a thread she wrote on her Instagram account, highlighting how the young people of today, will become the businessmen and women, lawyers, police officers, doctors of the future. I understand that most of these positions will be dominated by white people. If anything, at least because of the demographic of Western nations. However, if we do not have a complete reform, I 100% guarantee that systemic racism, hate crimes and the disproportionate bias in the workplace, against black people, will continue, in our generation, and in the next. We need to break this cycle.
Some of you have the privilege of being able to simply “forget” about police brutality and the murder of George Floyd, amongst several others. Some of you can stop posting black squares and call it a day for your performative activism. Some of you can act like the biggest fight against racism in our lifetime, is not happening right now. Meanwhile, all I have to say is this: Change starts with people like you. People who have the power to dismantle the systemic racism in almost every society. There are articles, books, podcasts – endless means to educate yourself so please tap into those resources. To further understand what systemic racism even means, I HIGHLY recommend you watch 13th on Netflix. They have also released the whole documentary for free on YouTube if you don’t have Netflix.
Of course, I have my concerns over the longevity of this global uproar. Humans tend to be very good at forgetting. This period may die, anti-racism may lose its trendiness, and my life, as a young black woman, will not change. However, I hope and pray that this will be the start of a reform that will have a ripple effect on every facet of society, so that those who are murdered because of their skin colour on and off camera will not have died in vain.
Despite the hardships, I am SO proud and happy to be black. I love my culture; I love my skin and I will shout that as loud as I can until the day that I die. As gut wrenching as this period has been, I know it will be a key moment in my life where I have learnt to be able to boldly and proudly fight for my black community. I can only urge you to do the same.
Oyinkan is a spirit and her smile and energy is contagious to say the least. The woman is unstoppable whether it’s fab content on her YouTube Channel, EstherTalks or photography. Oyin is currently studying Medicine at the University of Nottingham and loving it. I am beyond proud and blessed to be able to call her my friend and someone who inspires me to be better every day.