“This writer conveys an important message through a strong and personal tone. Their research skills and attention to detail contribute to an overall excellent piece, exploring racial issues within a modern context. With a particularly powerful analysis of racism online and in the media, it’s a piece which must be read and understood by everyone using such platforms.” – Jessica Johnson
Notes on Being Black.
I had come across a book called ‘Loud black girls’ last year and being so intrigued by the title alone, I purchased it straight away. It told me that “Being a loud black girl isn’t about the volume of your voice- and using your voice doesn’t always mean speaking the loudest or dominating the room.” I was reminded of the stigmatization that came with being a black girl and found myself repeating ‘that’s so true!’ or ‘that’s happened to me!’ as I read each page. The black community shares so many of the same experiences and relate to each other in so many different ways, despite the irony that we are often talked about as if we are one person. We live in a society that has shown us how white people stay in the spotlight while black people are kept behind the curtain, their talent and hard work going without credit. So many years have gone by, yet most of the same issues that black people faced around discrimination and racism back then, are the same today. Despite the protests, laws and even the Black Lives Matter movement, issues that we faced over 70 years ago are still rife in today. Here are some notes on being black that I think are worth listening to.
‘Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed.’
The media is something that touches all lives in some way, so heavily influenced by what we see and read in everyday life, including social media. Apart from being so eager to find out what celebrities are up to online, there’s a much darker and more damaging side to being so easily exposed to what we see. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmuad Arbery, Elijah McClain and many other innocent black lives lost due to racism and police brutality, have highlighted the systematic racism that prevailed not only in America, but all parts of the world and a lot closer to home. There is a lot of distressing content in the news and videos that are shared online, often without any warning. “Staying away from socials just to avoid hearing the blood curdling agony in George Floyds voice again and again.”- This was what singer, actress and businesswoman Rihanna posted last summer in support of justice for George Floyd and other black citizens who have died. Videos like these circulated on the internet, making it hard to escape from the devastating murders that were happening in America, and also had a big impact on our mental health and wellbeing. Seeing black people persecuted, arrested and abused all the time is traumatic. More can and must be done to identify and abolish racial hatred within the police force, as well a safer way of spreading awareness of police brutality and murder in the media that is cautious and understanding of black peoples mental health, because as said by Will Smith: “Racism is not getting worse, it’s getting filmed.”
‘Appreciation not appropriation’
Whilst racism and hate crime is an obvious act of prejudice, there is so much else happening that has been normalised. For example, the commedical and ridiculing representation of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) by non-black people and ‘blackfishing’ online, the phenomenon of non-black influencers and public figures using bronzer, tanning, Photoshop, or even cosmetic surgery to change their looks to appear black or mixed race. One time I read online that people were debating whether or not saying ‘black people’ to refer to, well, black people, was offensive or not. The problem with this is that people are assuming the word ‘black’ has negative connotations in the first place, adding to the problem even more. These not so important twitter debates, shifts our focus onto less relevant news and activism. There is so much more behind a word. The way we present ourselves is so much more than just a hairstyle. The appropriation of black women in particular is further established by celebrities spending fortunes on huge lips, skin tanned too dark and having surgery that can now give them unrealistically wide hips. The standard physical attributes of a black woman have been popularised and colonized by white women who had once oppressed black women for their natural features. American TV series like ‘The real housewives of Atlanta’, explicit music videos targeted at the black community and other forms of popular culture have also shamelessly pioneered the ‘black woman’, depicting us as loud, aggressive and hypersexualised, just for entertainment.
‘You’re not what we’re looking for’
In the past, there has been nowhere near as much representation for people of colour interested in cosmetics or hair compared to the western beauty standards that celebrate ‘whiteness’, in fact, this can still be seen today. A message that has probably been drilled into every black girl’s head is that “you’re going to have to work even harder than everyone one else because you have two strikes against you- your gender and race.” I often find that as a black girl, everything we search up about ourselves has to be marked: ‘Black girl hairstyles’ or ‘Black girl makeup routine’. When I was younger, I was given the rare beauty magazine for black women- that was only sold in black hair shops. Once a month. I was also the only black girl in my class at primary school (until one other girl joined in year 5) so people would always touch my hair and ask me why I didn’t just straighten it to fit in. I share my experiences with many black girls all over the world, but this goes a lot deeper than just magazines and childhood memories. It’s compounded by seeing brands and publications that have historically excluded and marginalized Black people, yet now share messages of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Where was this solidarity when Black people were applying for jobs? A study by the centre for social investigation at Nuffield College found that minority ethnic applicants had to send 60 per cent more applications to get a positive response from an employer than a person of white british origin. These results were compared with similar field experiments dating back to 1969, revealing that this type of discrimination has remained unchanged for over 50 years. 
‘This world does not move without black creativity’
More emerging black artists, creatives, engineers and scientists are pushing through the industry barriers and making their voices heard. Although we are tired of not seeing enough black people in executive roles, and the systematic disenfranchisement that exists within these industries. Not enough has been done to support black people into executive roles in the creative industry, even though black culture is unquestionably one of the most popular and sought after ‘aesthetics’ amongst mainstream media, from music to fashion and art. Since the Black Lives Matter protests more people have woken up to the reality of how the black community is not, and has never really been, represented or credited in mainstream brands/ businesses. The societal realisation of how black individuals go on to achieve despite the prejudices and institutional racism they encounter, has resulted in the mass emergence of ‘Diversity and Inclusion programmes’ that in progressively diversifying their business by allowing the ‘best’ black candidates to occupy the same roles that dismissed them in the first place. We have always been silenced and stereotyped, preventing us from getting executive roles for years. We have been labelled as the ‘angry black girl’ at school and always had to run that extra mile in order to be given the equal opportunities, whilst constantly being pulled down by white privilege. This is an evolving conversation, and it requires evolving education. It’s now 2021 and young black children who are interested in art, history, sports, fashion, science or engineering need to be able to see successful and affluent people in those industries who look like them, in order to be inspired and achieve. So how can we move forward? Well, we can begin by understanding and recognising the exploitation that black people still face within the media for profit and entertainment, enabling the promotion of black culture to become more well known as something positive. Secondly, give black people the jobs and platforms so that they can achieve and earn just as much as their white counterparts, ending a cycle of career deprivation and unemployment. This world does not move without black creativity , so it’s about time we start appreciating it.
1. Loud Black Girls: 20 Black Women Writers Ask: What’s Next? (1 October 2020)
2. Rihanna Laments ‘Blood Curdling Agony’ of George Floyd’s Death (30 May 2020)
3. Will Smith: “Racism Is Not Getting Worse, It’s Getting Filmed” (3 August 2016) https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/will-smith-colbert-race-relations-obama-politics-sings-summertime-916816
4. The Real Housewives of Atlanta (2008) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1252370/
5. NEW CSI REPORT ON ETHNIC MINORITY JOB DISCRIMINATION (21 January 2019)
6. “Racism Is A Global Issue”: Edward Enninful On The Importance Of Cultivating An Anti-Racist Agenda (1
June 2020) https://www.vogue.co.uk/news/article/edward-enninful-racism
7. #blkcreatives (pronounced hashtag Black creatives) was created by Melissa Kimble to uplift Black creatives
+ remind us of our creative freedom.(17 June 2020) https://blkcreatives.com/about-us/