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Race & Identity

Speaking Of Race…. Discussing Diversity & Racial Issues

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Hello!

Today I’m going to do two things: talk about race, and introduce a new miniseries (of sorts). But first – some context! Two years ago I wrote a post which ended up going viral, entitled “What It’s Like Not Being White”. It was completely unexpected that this post would do so well and it was also the first time I’d really discussed race on this blog. Honestly, it was an overwhelming experience as I said at the time. There was a huge discussion in the comments on that post, as well as in my mailbox and DMs. I replied to everyone, considered every view that got shared and every question that got asked. Which was a LOT.

Since then I’ve only written sporadically about race, and that’s been a conscious decision. Whilst in real life it is a primary focus of mine, I’ve tried to avoid it becoming a primary focus on the blog. Part of that was due to the huge response I received initially, and the avenues of thought that led me down, but mostly it’s been a kind of self-preservation tactic. What I mean by that is that I’ve felt a kind of stress at times when trying to blog about race. There’s the desire to write about things I love, tempered with the knowledge that certain subscribers are just waiting for me to open my mouth up about being brown. I feel like I have so much more to offer as both a person and a writer. Once you become associated with speaking out on issues to do with race, it becomes hard to disentangle yourself from that and just let your own individuality shine through.

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Why I’m Not Talking About Race

There’s also a level of responsibility – or at least for me, there is. I’ve written before about how authors are accountable for their writing. Not too tricky if you’re blogging about a skirt (no shade, I love skirts!), but the stakes are upped a bit if you’re trying to talk about a societal construct and/or an ingrained, mass way of thinking. Even if you’re talking strictly in personal terms about your own life, you’ve got to deal with your lived experience of discrimination and that can be very hard to articulate if you’re still learning about race issues. Imagine continually learning about societal racism, navigating and un-learning your own ingrained racism, and dealing with newly-acknowledged forms of discrimination.

I find it especially frustrating when you have to repeatedly loop around with white people; it’s not their fault that they don’t understand, but it’s tiring. But learning that white people have a limited capacity for dealing with race issues can be tough. It affects me all the time and I’m forced to engage with it all the time, not just when I can afford the mental capacity and emotional headspace. Allowing white people to say “I just don’t have the headspace to take this all in right now” feels like an extension of their privilege, as I’m never afforded that free pass on having to deal with racism.

That’s Not All

Another hurdle that I’ve found difficult to overcome when writing about race is that the written word carries so much heft. Once you’ve committed to hitting publish on something, it sounds a whole lot more serious! I quite often debate issues of representation with my friends in the pub, or in whatsapp groups with mates. There’s a level of give and take there which is afforded by a real-time conversation – we can meander off into certain topics or ask each other questions. A blog just doesn’t have that.

I feel my thoughts on race sound preachy written down, or that it’s too essay-like and monotonous. Obviously there’s ways of writing around this (and that format works well for just sharing my experiences, as I have done in the past), but I write this blog in my spare time and it takes me a while to strike the right tone. Perhaps I could ramble on about these issues in a YouTube video but that’s essentially still a monologue, and I think I prefer taking on a role in a conversation.

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So, Here’s What I’ve Come Up With

So that’s the combination of reasons I’ve avoided talking about race on this blog. The thing is, I am (obviously) still affected by race in my day to day life, and it’s something that I’m constantly learning more about. I’ve been trying to find a way that I can incorporate race a little more and I’ve decided that this month I’m trying something new! I’ll be going for a single month concentrated around race issues – I’m hoping that this limited time span will stop the blog from feeling too academic. Race issues will be at the forefront of my content for this month, the anniversary month of that first article.

I’ll still publish the usual travel-vegan-lifestyle mix, but peppered with more race posts than I normally include in any given month. Today is the first of those posts! I wanted to just touch on how difficult it is to write about race at all. If you see any of our favourite bloggers chatting about race, you should be sharing the hell out of those posts as much as you can. Seriously! Re-read them until you learn all you can; take them to bed with you and dream about those words. Future posts this month will talk about problems I’ve encountered in my mixed family/friend group, cultural appropriation, tips on learning more, my experiences with visibility, and the use of digital blackface. I’ve kind of got it drafted out, but I’d be interested to know if there are any topics people would specifically like me to chat about.

Further Reading:

The Lack Of Diversity In Blogging by Grace at Gracie Francesca

Black, British and Blogging by Kristabel at I Want You To Know

On internalised racism, Asian representation, and blogging by Jane at Deluminators

Not A-Typical: My Filipino Identity by Ria at Thoroughly Modern Millenial

What It’s Like Not Being White aka my original post on race as mentioned above

Race Ya by Katherine at I Am Begging My Mother (disclaimer: Katherine is white and this is post about her acknowledgement of ingrained racism)

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10 Comments

  • Reply Chaoscream

    I appreciate how you address race in this space and the stance how you will be addressing it moving forward. Thank you for an honest experience.

    August 4, 2017 at 12:36 pm
  • Reply Charlie Elliott

    I find race incredibly difficult to talk about because, I’ll be honest, I’m not white enough to know white privilege yet black people think I am. It doesn’t matter if people know I’m half Jamaican or not, for some people it’s just knowing that I’m not ENTIRELY white and they can’t quite put their finger on ‘what’ I am. It means that when I speak out, people don’t believe I’ve experienced racism, which is a whole heap of bullshit.
    Looking forward to reading this series from you!

    August 5, 2017 at 6:06 am
    • Reply Laila

      I know exactly what you mean! I’m mixed brown and white, so there’s an understanding from white people that I’m “basically” white and therefore can’t be affected by racism, and then brown people feel that I fall outside that culture so I end up not really anywhere. I think it’s a specific problem for mixed race people, but hard to tell.

      August 6, 2017 at 11:22 am
  • Reply Jane

    I totally get you! It’s definitely a topic my friendship group discusses a lot but that’s a pretty safe space and feels different to putting my thoughts onto my blog in words which is harder.

    Thanks for the shout out too. looking forward to reading those posts!

    August 6, 2017 at 1:29 am
    • Reply Laila

      Glad it’s not just me. Yeah, it’s like you reach a conclusion with friends in a safe space and then it’s difficult to articulate that into a blog and out the non-safe space world.

      August 6, 2017 at 11:20 am
  • Reply Priya

    I’m so proud of you for addressing this topic- and so well. I would love to write about my own experiences with race on my blog someday…but yeah, I would need to really think that through, even considering the angle to take! I’m really looking forward to reading this series!

    OH- and thank you for all the kind comments on my blog <3

    August 8, 2017 at 3:47 pm
  • Reply anne-marie

    I am a white, I am half French and Lebanese-Syrian. In France, whites are always treated as racists. And that irritates many people. Even me. Yet I suffered some racism when I was young (French), but also from Arabs, because I am not a Muslim, I am a Christian.
    I travel a lot, in the Arab countries, and I can tell you that the Arabs are as racist as the whites. I was shocked when I saw that.
    That’s why I’m a little nervous, when we talk about racism, and we always talk about what you call white people.
    I have seen and heard some things, I do not know if I have to laugh or cry

    August 8, 2017 at 5:02 pm
    • Reply Laila

      Hi Anne-Marie,

      I am writing from the point of view of somebody who lives in western society, where racism is an ingrained part of our setup. I’m certainly not denying that there are problems within other cultures, but I’m not addressing those. In western society a couple of things are true. 1 – the society is majority white, and 2 – that society inherently discriminates against non-white people through ingrained racism. That’s not my opinion; those are both facts which you can look up and verify if you so wish. When we/I talk about racism (especially when it is discussed in academic terms, which I realise doesn’t include this blog) we are talking about the ingrained societal constraints that allow white people to prosper. Racism is different to discrimination in this way; it is a specific kind of discrimination that occurs in these majority-white, economically prosperous areas.

      I understand that being the recipient of a rude comment can feel very upsetting and on the surface might seem similar to the kind of discrimination I suffer when I talk about racism, but those things are actually very different. I’ve suffered the odd comment whilst travelling in Arab countries and elsewhere, and that kind of discrimination and belittling is very different to the kind of unconscious dismissal that I get daily from the country where I live. When I talk about racism, I am talking about a complex, hierarchical system in which people like me are subtly dismissed and turned away from to the point where we are unable to advance and grow economically in the same way that white people are encouraged to. I do not literally mean issues of name-calling and stereotyping, although those things are part of it. I think understanding the difference between racism and discrimination is very important. Discrimination can happen from anyone, to anyone. Racism is a specific system in white society whereby non-white people are held back. I hope that’s clearer now?

      August 9, 2017 at 10:58 am
  • Reply anne-marie

    No, say that racism is a specificity of whites, is false
    Because all peoples are racist, discrimination is also in all societies.
    I know that I hear that Christian in certain Arab countries, I could not evolve and ascended in the hierarchy (Christians can not command the Muslims)
    If some people say that they can not evolve in a society, and that it is the fault of the whites, sometimes it is rather their competences, that they should review
    When I speak of racism in the Arab countries, it is latent.
    Africans are treated as “slaves” (negroes), and also against immigrant workers, coming from both Arab countries and from Africa.
    In Lebanon, it is you are black house employee, you can not go to the pool and some beaches
    But everyone in his life, but put everything on the backs of the whites, is not it racism?

    August 9, 2017 at 4:40 pm
    • Reply Laila

      Hi Anne-Marie,

      I did try to explain myself in my previous comment about what I mean when I talk about racism pertaining to western countries. I am not speaking about experiences that happen to other people in other countries. I am always speaking about experiences that happen to me, in western, majority white countries. I’m not sure how else I can define that. I’m not entirely sure what point you are trying to make – if you are trying to argue me over my definition of racism then that’s not going to work, as I’ve been clear over how I am defining racism and the point of view and perspective that informs these blogs. Certainly if you believe me to be incompetent, then you do not need to read my blog or listen to my views. There are many other blogs out there that talk about discrimination in other countries and cultures; this blog is not one of them.

      August 9, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    Leave me some words