We’ve Become Desensitised to Racism

I’m a white male and with that comes privilege. From a young age I always knew racism was wrong but also thought it was a thing of the past. We learnt about racism in history, we were shown the terrible treatment people were subjected to, we couldn’t believe how people were treated. I associated racism with older generations, too lazy or indoctrinated to change their views, a way of thinking that would be erased as the older generations die. But it’s 2016 and we still see racism daily; in the news, on social media, in person. Racism hasn’t left, we’ve just become desensitised. We’re so used to racism it no longer shocks us and that’s a problem. 

We only have to look at the UK and US to see just how many issues still haven’t been addressed. Brexit and the rise of UKIP highlights some of the issues we have here in the UK. Whilst I voted to remain in the EU, I understood there were logical reasons why some people were choosing to vote leave particularly in terms of business agreements and UK legislation rules. However, a lot of the Brexit campaign was based on xenophobia, using immigration as an excuse for the downfalls of our government and country. It seems almost ironic or simply ridiculous that a nation who controlled the British Empire and forced themselves upon countries around the world are now deciding they want independence.

Of course the recent US election bares perhaps an even more depressing reality check. A man ran a campaign fueled by hatred and intolerance and won the election. It baffles me that a man who is so openly sexist, racist, homophobic and xenophobic to name but a few, was voted into power. The majority of voters who voted for Donald Trump were college educated white women and I cannot understand how a woman was comfortable voting for a man who has joked about sexual assault and repeatedly made sexist, derogatory comments towards women. Regardless of Hilary Clinton’s flaws, she did not run a campaign based on hatred and intolerance and I believe her concession speech only highlighted the hopes she had for young girls and women in America.

As I write this I have just seen a story stating that a Mayor in America has said “It will be refreshing to have a classy, beautiful, dignified first lady in the White House. I’m tired of seeing a Ape in heels” about Michelle Obama. Michelle, a woman who has fought to improve the education for girls around the world, improved the support for veterans, service members and their family and fought to address the issue of childhood obesity to name a few of her achievements. The fact that a woman who has achieved so much and has held her position with respect and dignity can be torn down because of her skin colour baffles me.

It’s 2016 and people still have issues over something people cannot control. The pigment of someone’s skin should not scare you, it should not intimidate you, it should not make you feel anything at all. Respect people’s heritage, celebrate cultures around the world, educate yourselves on different ways of life but do not allow someone to be discriminated because of the colour of their skin.

One of the most common excuses I have heard when witnessing an old person make racist comments is that it’s just their generation, they don’t know better. This very ideology is ridiculous, with age comes experience and they have witnessed the unnecessary horrors racism and discrimination has caused over time. If anything, older generations should be more switched on than any of us and realise racism only produces negativity.

As I write this, I’m reflecting on my own behaviour and prejudgments and I’m in no way perfect. I make assumptions based on stereotypes, I’m ignorant to a lot of modern racism issues that people face everyday. I’m worried I will come across as preachy but having the conversation is important. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot recently and have been discussing it with my friends but it was Hannah Hart’s video response to the recent US election that made me decide to write this post.

Have conversations, ask questions, challenge discrimination.

Have a great day,
Ben

If you liked this post you may also like White People, Get In Formation or White Supremacy & Cultural Appropriation.

 

I Want To Go Travelling – But Where?

For a while now I have been thinking about going travelling after I finish my final year at university. I saved up over my placement year and realistically I won’t get a better time to go because as soon as I begin work I will more than likely begin the cycle most go through of getting a new car then mortgage, then miserable about the prospect of working for the next fifty years of my life! So before I have to take the final jump into adult hood I think I would like to go travelling and experience different cultures and places around the world.

But where? I have thought about the typical travelling package for people my age where you spend some time in Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia which does look incredible but part of me can’t help but think I would rather travel around America instead. I love how each state offers different cultures, foods, experiences and sights and feel like you would never get bored travelling from state to state.

However, ideally I would like to go travelling with someone but not sure if I have any friends who would want to travel America for a few months over the summer. I’m also not sure how much it would be travelling from state to state by myself. I could do a few Trek Americas but I’ve been told by a few people that whilst they are great experiences, it’s cheaper to organise it by yourself. Another route I could look into is graduate schemes in America however that would come with a lot of admin including looking for a place to stay and working visas.

So basically I’m stuck with what I should do, where I will go and whether I should go travelling for a year or just for a few months before my graduation ceremony in November! If you have any advice or recommendations please let me know!

If you liked this post you may also like I Was On A Billboard In Times Square or Rockerfeller or Empire State?

Divorce: A Guide For Parents & Couples

Nearly five years ago, the day after I got my GCSE results, my Dad sat the family down to tell us he was filing for divorce. It didn’t come as a shock as I knew the family dynamic wasn’t healthy but I will never forget that day. Seeing my Mum cry at first made me angry, agreeing with her that they should try marriage counselling before jumping to divorce. I also knew it would mean moving house which was the hardest part for me to come to terms with. I had lived in that house all my life, it was all I knew and I didn’t want to let go of my home. Once my Dad had told me I left the house to process everything and soon realised I was happy they were getting divorced, nothing was going to save their marriage.

I thought I would write this post for anyone who may be struggling with their marriage, considering divorce or going through divorce at the moment. Of course I have never gone through divorce myself but hopefully someone may find it interesting to see it from the perspective of a child who was old enough to understand the process and decisions involved.  When I tell people I am happy my parents got divorced a lot of people seemed shocked but it was the best thing for my parents, two sisters and me.

Remember to take care of yourself

Filing for divorce isn’t something to be taken lightly but sometimes it is the only logical option. Whilst you may have children to consider, remember to think about what you need and your current happiness and wellbeing. Think of how much you change over a number of years. The person you are in your early twenties is going to be different from how you are in your thirties, forties, fifties and so on. Your interests, morals and priorities will change and evolve as you get older which is perfectly normal. Your husband or wife will change too and sometimes they will change in similar ways allowing you to grow and adapt with them. But in other cases they may change differently and you may find you don’t align anymore which is perfectly acceptable and normal. Sometimes life will take us down different paths and people sometimes end up on different journeys, wanting different things.

It will be tough

Divorces aren’t a barrel of laughs and there is a lot to consider. If you have children, explain to them it isn’t their fault and answer any questions they may have. In my opinion, if they are old enough to be able to understand the situation it is best to be honest with them as they will have witnessed your relationship and know if things don’t seem quite right.

Getting help from legal experts can make things easier as they can try and ensure the fairest outcome is met. However this can be expensive so if you can settle smaller details between yourselves calmly then this can be a good way of avoiding huge solicitor bills. However in some situations this won’t be possible and it is better to have legal aid to help you understand the process and resolve any issues you may be having.

Divorce may also mean you have to move house which is a stressful and often long-winded process. (I might write a post with my experience and tips on moving house in the future, let me know if it is something you would like to see.)

Remember the good times

If you are going through divorce or have gone through divorce you will know that it isn’t an easy time for anyone. For some people it can be hard to take that final step and decide to end their marriage, even if things haven’t been right for some time. It will be hard but try and remember the good times you had as a couple or family. You may have explored different countries together, had children, made new friends, moved out for the first time together. All these things still matter and are special even if you have grown apart or fallen out of love. Don’t focus on regrets or what you would have changed.

This is a new chapter, embrace it

What’s done is done and above all you were married to someone you loved at the time and got to make some great memories together. Try and view your divorce as a fresh opportunity. Both of you will have the chance to try new things and be happy again. Take time out for yourself, if you want to explore new interests or hobbies go for it. Set aside the previous chapter of your life and consider what you would like to achieve in this new era. A person, divorce or your past doesn’t define you. Take time to grieve and process the situation and then being focusing on your future.

If you liked this post you may also like to read all about how my Christmas traditions have changed since my parents got divorced!

Can Women Be Firefighters?

A few weeks ago, the fire brigade turned up at work after our fire alarms went off. As we all stood at the fire assembly point, huddled together like cattle, one of my co-workers pointed out that one of the firefighters was a woman. It seemed odd to me that she had pointed out the firefighter’s gender so I asked her why it mattered. She told me that she didn’t think it was good that there was a female firefighter because she wouldn’t be able to carry someone, such as myself, to safety. I disagreed instantly firstly on the basis that we didn’t know the woman’s strength or capabilities but secondly because a male probably wouldn’t be able to lift me either.

An argument frequently used to oppose feminism or gender equality is men and women are different genetically so therefore certain tasks, jobs and responsibilities are more suited to a certain sex. On the surface this statement is true; men and women are different and our bodies differ in a variety of ways. However, does this mean certain jobs should be off limits to particular sexes?

Take for example, the job of a mid-wife which is typically associated with women. What would make a woman more qualified for this position than a male? Some may argue that a woman may have had children before so could empathise more with the mother throughout the process. However, there is no reason why a woman would be able to deliver a baby any better than a man. The job is genderless, as both men and women can become qualified in midwifery should they choose to. and both genders are capable of empathy.

Another interesting example to consider is the job of a chef. Why is it a male-dominated industry? We have all heard the tiring joke that women “belong in the kitchen” so why are there far more male chefs than female, if society suggests women should naturally be more suited to cooking? Whilst on an individual scale there may be a whole host of reasons as to why a woman may chose not to pursue her passion of cooking could the generalisation be made that women are discouraged to become chefs because they wouldn’t be able to handle the pressure of a fast paced kitchen? Personally, I don’t agree with this notion as I don’t buy into the stereotype that women cannot handle pressure without becoming emotional. I’m sure many male chefs have become emotional during or after stressful shifts and perhaps even more would if society didn’t teach men that expressing emotion is a sign of weakness or damaging to your masculinity.

I guess my main point is, men and women are capable of doing the majority of jobs to the same ability. Fundamentally the issue lies with what careers society encourages men and women to pursue. Returning to the female firefighter analogy, what if my colleague had made her comment in front of a young man or woman considering a career in the emergency services? Could a comment, with no intentional malice or agenda, play its part alongside other information and opinions to discourage an individual from pursuing the career they want purely because of their gender?

It’s an interesting one to consider. Let me know your thoughts!

White People, Get In Formation

When I first watched Beyoncé’s new video I was impressed with the song and visuals as well as the political and social issues they addressed but it seems not everyone agrees. Ever since Beyoncé released the video for Formation on Saturday and performed at the 50th Super Bowl I have been following some of the commentary on various social media sites and was shocked at some people’s views.

Formation highlights issues America and the wider world are still struggling with whilst Beyoncé celebrates and proudly claims her heritage, culture and looks. Mainstream media often depicts the white women as the ideal for female beauty, an ideal which Beyoncé is defying as she celebrates her features. This will hopefully teach younger black women who are influenced by the media and pop culture to embrace their looks and culture regardless of the ideals society and mainstream media may promote.

“I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros
I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils”

 

Some viewers have suggested Beyoncé’s video and performance was ‘anti-police’. Take for example, the imagery of Beyoncé, a powerful and respected black woman sat on top of a sinking police car. This imagery on a quick glance could be seen as ‘anti-police’ but when thought about on a deeper and critical level the message is clear. Police brutality and institutionalised racism has been a serious issue in America and this imagery depicts the metaphor that the institution is sinking under their current system and values. America’s policing systems and government will have to think in depth about how they can work towards an equal society in America where all races are treated fairly.

It has also been argued Beyoncé should not have made a social and political statement at the Super Bowl. If the Super Bowl is an unfit place for social and political statements should Chris Martin not be chastised for having a Global Citizen logo on his shirt, a community who “learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges”? The simple answer, of course, is no. Pop culture has morphed and shifted over the years into the mainstream and stars now have a strong influence on the conversations the world is having. If a performance can provide entertainment and shed light on important topics, igniting conversations about how communities are struggling this can only be a win-win situation in my eyes.

It is interesting to see how quickly people got defensive when racial issues are brought up, a notion that Macklemore referenced in his recent release White Supremacy II. It is important to note; Black empowerment is not white defamation. Beyoncé is not attacking white people. As a white person, the video and lyrics did not offend me. Instead it triggered me to think about the racism that still exists and prompted me to look into and learn more about the significant examples Beyoncé used to amplify the message behind the song including the reference to The Black Panthers Party.

In my opinion Beyoncé has proven herself once again to be a great role model, not only black people, but for men and women of all races.

 

White Supremacy & Cultural Appropriation

This morning at work I was listening to the hot tracks on Apple Music when White Privilege II by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (feat. Jamila Woods) began to play. I was intrigued by the first verse and how Macklemore discusses whether it is his place to give his two cents or should he stand on the side and shut his mouth.

“It seems like we’re more concerned with being called racist than we actually are with racism.”

However as the song continues there were some lyrics that stood out that dismissed this insecurity. The song encourages discussion to allow people to understand and to realise where they can help. I wasn’t sure whether to write this post at first but after listening to the song a few times I realise the best thing we can do is ignite discussion.

“But the one thing the American Dream fails to mention is I was many steps ahead to begin with.”

It can be easy in this day and age to be ignorant and think racism is uncommon however we have to accept this isn’t true. Whilst direct racism may be less common, it still very much exists alongside subtler racism that restricts and discriminates.

I think understanding the media and how they create representations of people, race and culture is a very important step in progressing with this issue. It is no secret that there are issues throughout mainstream media where black men and women are frequently misrepresented; consistently demonstrated with the portrayal of Nicki Minaj. When Minaj made a valid comment about black women not being celebrated for earning the same achievements as white women she was quickly depicted by media outlets as the ‘angry black woman’ whilst Taylor Swift was seen as the innocent white girl. Whilst an image of an angry looking Minaj and a smiling Swift may seem minor, it subtly fuels the misconceptions of those who use these media outlets.

“White supremacy isn’t just a white dude in Idaho. White supremacy protects the privilege I hold.”

I believe children should be taught media literacy from a young age so they can digest and understand what they are being shown through the media and understand how damaging cultural appropriation can be. Cultural appropriation has been a widely discussed topic in recent years and whilst I think Macklemore’s mentions of Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea were valid, I don’t think he was doing it to cause offence. Throughout the song he admits his faults and understands he holds a responsibility because of his presence in the hip-hop industry. Artists need to consider the genre they borrow from and learn they cannot use it for the good whilst ignoring the bad.

Ultimately this song has encouraged people to discuss and share their experiences. It may be hard or awkward to discuss with family members or friends but know you can challenge their views and explain to them the damage cultural appropriation and turning a blind eye can cause. What do you think of the song and the topic as a whole?

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Why I Am A Feminist

I recently saw a video by the Huffington Post about white feminism and it raised a lot of important issues that need to be considered. I saw the video on Facebook and unfortunately looked through the comments and so many people were posting comments like “We should work towards equality instead of feminism” or “Feminism is the problem”. The world feminism for many now is seen as a negative and it’s core values are so frequently misunderstood or dismissed.

I think one of the main issues is the way the media has portrayed feminism. Extreme feminism is more frequently documented, alienating the cause and misconstruding what feminists believe in. It is no secret that there are a lot of issues in the media with how both men and women are represented and feminism strives to understand and better these representations.

A common misconception of feminism is that it fights for women to be in power over men. This simply isn’t the case. Google defines feminism as:

“The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.”

However this is not to say that feminists do not care about the treatment of men. Feminists understand how gender roles can be damaging to both men and women and how society puts pressure on both genders to conform.

I think feminism should be taught in schools from a young age. The Always #LikeAGirl advert shows how early sexist remarks that seem harmless can actually impact young people and begin damaging self esteem and confidence. I believe children should be taught media literacy so they can understand the messages and examples they are exposed to on a daily basis. I believe this will benefit young people and equip them with the knowledge they need to make better strides to a more equal society.

If I had to sum up why I am a feminist I think one of the easiest ways is to explain that I have a mum, sisters and female friends. I would never want those people to miss out on opportunities just because they are women. I want them to feel valued and have the same opportunities anyone else has throughout their lives and careers.

I am considering doing my dissertation for university on something around women in the workplace and whether they get the same opportunities. I might write more about feminism as I continue to develop my blog as it is such an important topic that really interests me.

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