Growing up with Modern Racism…

I find it strange looking back to when I first realised racism existed.  Nobody is born with an inherent understanding of racism, it is something that you learn as you grow up in this world and something that you, unfortunately, just come to accept as a way of life.  As a child, my dark skin and my friends light skin did not seem remotely relevant; I went to a private primary school and was one of four black girls in my year, but I never remember noticing it as a fact, or having it be an issue.  Black, White, Asian, Hispanic… It didn’t matter.  We were all four-year-olds and we were all starting school, that was the only thing any of us saw when we looked at each other.

The first time I remember viewing my skin as something that made me “different” was when I was around eight years old.  It was ballet examination day and a couple of my friends came out of their exam giggling because the examiner had told them It was nice to see so many black girls in our dance class”.  There were three of us.  None of us saw it as a bad thing, in fact the two girls were giggling because they interpreted it as them being “special” and the examiner taking note of that.  It wasn’t until I was in the car with my mum later, telling her what the examiner said, that I thought about it a little more.  She explained, as tentatively as you can to an eight-year old, that ballet dancers are often seen to have a certain type of body, and that body is more commonly seen in white girls, so the examiner was probably a little bit surprised.

Up until this point I’d never seen my body as different, (at that stage in my life it wasn’t so different, I hadn’t gone through puberty yet), and the whole situation seemed so alien to me.  My innocent brain could not fathom how the colour of my skin determined how my body would turn out; in fact, up until this point I had never really taken into account the fact that ballet dancers fit a “mould” in the first place.  It wasn’t exactly dream crushing, as I never wanted to be a professional ballerina and dance was just a fun escape for me, but I recall this as the first time that I started to take note.  Professional Ballets were noticeably disproportionate when it came to skin colour and body type, and once I noticed it in one career sector, it was easier to notice it in others.  Was I different?  Was life going to be more difficult for me just because of the colour of my skin?

I never really openly talk about racism.  Not because I don’t have an opinion, but because it’s controversial subject matter can lead to massive backlash, due to something as simple as one misinterpreted sentence.  It seems so easy nowadays for someone to make a passionate stand regarding racial mistreatment and be stereotyped; labelled as “another angry black girl”, or seen as being “one step away from a violent act” during a protest.  I am not dispelling these tropes completely, because frankly all stereotypes come from a place of truth, but to take the acts of the few and assume that a whole community will act the same way is ridiculous and unjust.  You get angry and violent people everywhere, regardless of their race, and yet we only associate certain stereotypes with certain “types” of people.

It is because of stereotyping such as this, that “Because I’m black” has become a trivialised statement as opposed to one of significant meaning.  Nowadays it is viewed as just another person playing “the race card” to get ahead or cause a fuss, but there is so much more to it than that.  If you are a person of colour, be that black or otherwise, and you lose out on an opportunity to someone white, it is likely that the racial difference may cross your mind.  In actuality, we all know that this isn’t always the case, but people of colour have had this racial prejudice drummed into them from an early age.  We see the news, and hear stories from family members, and study cases in history, and are taught throughout our childhood that the world is going to be harder for us because of the way that we look, and we just have to accept that.  Yes, you never know the real reason why you lost out on an opportunity; it could very well be that the person before you was better suited for it.  However, when you’ve been taught your whole life that you will be discriminated against because of your skin, you are conditioned to go to that place in your mind.

When you really strip back the concept of racial prejudice, it becomes clear how ludicrous a concept it really is.  Treating people differently because of how much melanin they have in their skin is absurd.  We are essentially taking something that someone was born with, something that they cannot help or decide, and using it to determine their character and capability in life.  I was born in England, I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’ve had the same level of education as my white friends around me.  However, I’ve been conditioned by society to understand that life could be harder for me than them because of the colour of my skin.  There should be no “superior race” or pre-conceived notions of how a person will perform because of how they look.  We are all human.  We act how we act out of our own volition, not because of the shade of our skin, and that needs to be remembered.

But we’ve come so far, does racism still exist?  In all honesty, if you had asked me a few months ago, my answer would have been that, although it still exists, racism isn’t as overtly present nowadays in Western countries.  However, the acts in Charlottesville and the response that they were met with parallel the past in ways that I, a young black girl growing up in this world, find absolutely terrifying.  There are always terrible incidents of discrimination and acts of hate, however I liked to believe that the world was making progress in the right direction.  At the moment, it looks like we’re going backwards again, and it saddens me to think that this could be the case.

In terms of my own personal experience with racial prejudice, I find myself reminded of my “disadvantaged” skin tone in the smaller things.  I don’t have as much choice as some of my friends when it comes to trying cheaper makeup brands, because a lot of their “dark” concealers and foundations are designed for those with “olive skin”.  I get asked “Where are you from?” followed by “But where are you really from?” when I respond saying that I’m from England (which I am).  Though you might see these as “trivial” things, they can have an impact on an impressionable child when she’s had to grow up with them her whole life. 

Being reminded of your “otherness” through many little things only reinforces the fact that life will be different for you.  I’ve spent a lot of my life insecure about the way I look and knowing that I can try as hard as I want but physically can’t conform to the “western” standard of beauty.  It’s getting better, I know that it is, and I see drugstore makeup brands improving their ranges and people being more politically correct with what they say, and calling themselves out on mistakes, but it’s still not perfectly equal.  I wouldn’t necessarily say that I have been a personal victim of overtly “racist” acts, but I can’t honestly say that I have never been reminded of the fact that my skin is seen as a disadvantage.

The world has made progress.  There is absolutely no disputing that, but there is still a long way to go.

Hope you guys liked this, I wrote this a while ago because I rarely comment on political topics but I do have a lot of thoughts.  I’ve been scared to post it for a while but I finally bit the bullet and did it, would love to hear what you think in the comments as this post really meant a lot to me!

Lots of love,

Jas xx

 

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36 thoughts on “Growing up with Modern Racism…

  1. Kel says:

    A really eye-opening post, thank you for sharing.
    I feel like I’ve been dreadfully naïve for many years about just how real a problem racism still is in this country. It’s only in the last sort of six months or so that I’ve really started to see the full scale and implications, and it saddens me deeply.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thoughtsfromjasmine says:

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I feel like it can be easy to be naive and just assume that everything’s fine because things are better than they used to be. It took terms for me – as a black girl – to come to the realisation myself. I’m glad you found this helpful.
      Jas xx

      Like

  2. Natasha says:

    Jasmine, I’m so glad you shared this, as I think it’s so important to tackle these issues head on and move towards a world where equality really is something we all have. I did get a bit emotional reading this because I can imagine this was a tough one to write, but I’m so glad you did. Would love to read more of these types of posts from you too, you’re always so good at debating these kinds of issues and I definitely agree with you. Progress is being made, but we do have a long way to go, and posts like these help to move forwards with that. Thank you! – Tasha

    Liked by 1 person

  3. rachaelstray says:

    A great post. I’m from England. I’ve not experienced racism in a personal capacity but I’ve seen others face it and unfortunately I thought we had moved on a lot. Since last June I think the UK has taken a major step backwards with the Brexit vote. I’ve seen a lot more incidents of racism and it makes me so ashamed. I hope we make more strides going in the right direction.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ritu says:

    Oh I hear you Jas! As a British born Indian I’ve had my fair share of interesting comments…
    I too went to a private school and was one of 3 brown faces in my class by the end but for many years I was the only one, yet never felt different.
    The biggest incident I remember was actually quite recent after Brexit. I was in Margate taking my class for a trip . And a drunken you told me to go back to where I came from. The (white) parents were just amazing… but my first thought was “go back? Where to? Birmingham?”
    I’m lucky my kids are in such a multicultural society here. They don’t look at people and judge by colour. And neither do their peers. We haven’t made it a ‘thing’ either where we tell them about why they are ‘different’ but we’ve tried to teach them to celebrate the diversity out there xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. thenorthleftblog says:

    Thank you for writing this. If you don’t mind, I’d like to share it please? I feel pretty emotional reading it, and I think it’s such an important thing for us all to be aware of so that we can do more to change things.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. amindfultravellerblog says:

    So glad you did write and publish this post. We definitely need to talk more about these issues. Even though we live in diverse multicultural societies, there are still those who oppose this. We can only bring up our children to be more accepting and understanding in this matter. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. thebeasley says:

    Yep loved this. The first time I realised my white privilege (and I’m ashamed that it took me so long) was going into Boots with a black friend to buy hair products & make-up whilst she just had to stand by & watch as there were no products suitable for her. I was shocked, but she was completely resigned to it (this was back in the 90s & I think Boots is a bit better now, but the small Boots near my home now still doesn’t stock anything suitable). So glad you wrote this. I get so angry when white people do not realise their privilege (and in much more serious ways than shampoo selection). It also boils my blood when a white person commits an atrocious act (I.e. Las Vegas shootings) that they’re labelled a “lone wolf” but when a black person or a Muslim does something similar the common discourse taints all black people or all Muslims. It makes no sense & it’s so disappointing. Sorry rambling comment. Hope I made some sense! Great post x

    Liked by 1 person

    • thoughtsfromjasmine says:

      You made a lot of sense and I agree with everything you said! I know you only labelled it as a small thing, but even the small things like the shampoo are everyday reminders of disadvantage – it’s really great that you’re aware of it!
      Jas xx

      Liked by 1 person

      • thebeasley says:

        Yes exactly. It’s the “small”, every day things that (I imagine) can wear you down the most. Where I went to college in London, I was one of only two white people in my class so I was blessed with lots of lovely friends who were very patient in teaching me what everyday life was like for them and I’m so grateful for it. It really opened my eyes xx

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Flossie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I sincerely hope that someday your experiences will no longer happen to children as they’re growing up – but until that happens, I’m grateful for you being brave enough to share your story, so that everyone who thinks these things “no longer happen” can realize that we still have a long way to go as a world.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. daydreamsandcynicism says:

    This is a fantastic post! It’s honest and balanced, you’ve taken a rational, reasonable approach that is often missing in discussions about race. I also really agree with your views! I think this is exactly how the subject of racism should be approached and written about 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  10. laughingatthesky says:

    Thank you for your courage and thoughtfulness. I really appreciate this. I especially liked your paragraph on how “ludicrous the concept is.” Anger, fear, hatred, and “isms” and phobias…racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia… seem to be bubbling up in the US right now, as well as Europe, and the only good aspect I can see is the counter-reaction when it leads to greater compassion and understanding.

    Liked by 1 person

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