A Response: What It’s Like Not Being White

August 26, 2015

writing, notepad, pen and paper, bedroom, laila, bed, journal, journalism, article, want to writewriting, notepad, pen and paper, bedroom, laila, bed, journal, journalism, article, want to writeThree weeks ago I finished a post that had been knocking around in draft for about 7 months. I’m a chronic perfectionist. I wrote about my life and my experiences, as I always do, and I didn’t hit publish until I was happy with it. Whilst I’m pretty open, this post was a little more personal than usual, and I thought it might get a few more hits than normal. 40, 45, maybe even 50.

After an hour the post had reached 100 views. It’s a very, very rare day when I hit more than 100. I ran downstairs to show my housemates – look, this is insane, I’ve gone from 12 views yesterday to 100 in an hour. I kept running back downstairs as the stats skyrocketed. 300, 400, 500. It was 1000 by the time we went to the pub; we joked; maybe it’ll go viral. I thought that was it, a weird fluke day, but the views kept climbing over the weekend. 3000 on Saturday, me frantically checking whilst out on a date, 5000 on Sunday morning, me frowning at my dying phone, 8000 that evening, laughing it off with my housemates whilst feeling utterly confused.

By the time I left London on Monday things were crazy. Comments by the hundred, comments that were actually lengthy posts about other peoples lives rather than the two-line comments I normally receive. My inbox overflowing; requests for interviews, names of journalists, people who just wanted to reach out. I went to Edinburgh, away from the internet at the largest arts festival in the world, out of the house for 18 hours a day and living utterly in the moment, partying, working, drinking. Fleeting moments of internet catch-up were overwhelming with my stats up by 5000%. I was on the front page of BuzzFeed, I was Freshly Pressed on WordPress, I was trending on Medium. Most of the madness happened without me really observing: catch-ups with friends would start “so you’re on BuzzFeed?” before moving onto safer territory like work, friends, the festival around us.
writing, notepad, pen and paper, bedroom, laila, bed, journal, journalism, article, want to writeA lot of people thought it may have been cathartic or difficult to write my last post. It wasn’t. I wasn’t speaking up. I wasn’t raising my voice. I wasn’t trying to start a discussion. I just said what I was thinking: the same thing I do every day in my posts, in my songs, in my stories. Evidently, this was something that needed to be said. I really didn’t think my experiences would be that widely felt. I received hundreds of comments and retweets from all over the world, and the vast majority can be distilled into four words: “thank you” and “me too”. So many of us, it seemed, feeling the same things and thinking “it’s just me”. It’s not.

There was little backlash: I prepared myself for an onslaught of negativity which really never came. A few people told me I’m hypersensitive, that I need to chill, that I’m obsessed with race, that I’m the problem – attitudes I addressed in my original post. There was one comment saying they wouldn’t have read had my “attractive” pictures not lured them in, another saying I was beautiful despite my decision to write the post, a number of people saying that it’s equally hard being white. I responded to all of them.

Many of you responded to each other. Every comment was published, and every question that was asked, I answered. This is my blog, and these are my words, and I want to be accountable for them. I’m SO grateful to all those who read them, for sharing them, for responding and sharing their own words with me. I feel a lot stronger with 5000 strangers supporting me from afar. If your comments taught me anything it’s that we all need to speak up and call it out, we can’t laugh stuff off and ignore it and just suck it up or it will never end.writing, notepad, pen and paper, bedroom, laila, bed, journal, journalism, article, want to write

I live in London, in the UK. Where people like Katie Hopkins and Jeremy Clarkson are allowed to throw stereotypes and racial hatred around in the name of entertainment and journalism, where “immigrant” is a dirty word, where just 6.6% of our parliament is not white. I didn’t write about topical issues in this country or mounting racial tensions or social crisis in other countries. I wasn’t trying to share the “London perspective” my local MP Jeremy Corbyn is accused of having. I just wrote about myself.

I’d like to write more. I’d like to write more about my experiences, more about growing up in a white society, more about being mixed race; I’d LOVE to write about what it’s like being mixed race. I don’t get paid to write this blog, it’s my personal space, and it takes time just to get through the comments as I want to read them all and take the time to reply appropriately. But there’s more to come, I have more to say. I hope you’ll read my future posts.

If any of you have any ideas where I should write more, or what about, then please get in touch. And in the meantime you can follow me on bloglovin, or twitter, or wordpress, or my blogs Facebook or sign up directly for my e-mails or my personal facebook. It means a lot. And let me know when you have to #callitout with me – just this morning this happened. Thank you.

writing, notepad, pen and paper, bedroom, laila, bed, journal, journalism, article, want to write

SOME OF YOUR COMMENTS – if you’d rather not be quoted here please let me know, and I would really refer everybody back to the entirety of the comments on the last blog, as there were so many valid and interesting points raised: here.

“Even if people say we’re being overdramatic by pointing out micro aggressions, we really aren’t and everyone needs to be properly educated on the impacts of these types of discrimination to stop them” – Abby R

“Telling you to ‘not make a fuss’ is people not wanting to admit they’ve made mistake, don’t doubt yourself because other people are too afraid to confront their own shortcomings. Society needs people like you to stand up and make a change.” – richardhp

“The ‘exotic’ thing is seen as a compliment when really it is a vocalisation of ‘difference’. You are different, you are not from here.” – impublications

“Most people don’t intend to be racist, but intent doesn’t have to present.” – GamerDame

“There are an army of us out here, batting away the insult and marching on.” – Nadine

37 comments so far.

37 responses to “A Response: What It’s Like Not Being White”

  1. Denise says:

    Dear Laila, I am not amazed by the numbers at all, I KNEW it would be that way! Because in a world where people post about clothes and shoes and this is all what matters, and then you came with a personal story that means so much to you – that is really refreshing, it shows soul, feelings, emotions, and not “my dress is from ah! Dolce & Gabbana!” Ok, I don’t ant to generalise, and nothing wrong with the designers, just that true souls seem to “value” less than a piece of disposable clothes. So I am very glad that you shared your views and although some were truly painful, what you had to hear, it showed to others that you had the courage to voice your thoughts and I salute you! You are really amazing and I am glad I got to “know” you!
    DenisesPlanet.com

    • Anne says:

      Thank you! That’s exactly what I was about to write but you did it first 🙂 Keep writting Laila, that’s a real pleasure to read you! (and being French, it also help me with my English while reading something GOOD!) 😉

  2. “I Have A Dream” I Really like your Blog. Regards Lucas

  3. Solveig says:

    I came across the other post through freshly pressed (which I have to admit, I rather rarely check out) but I fully understand why it was freshly pressed.
    I decided to follow your blog, and am definitely looking forward to seeing more of your writing.

  4. bluerosegirl08 says:

    I found your orignal post on Freshly Pressed and loved it. A dear friend of mine has often found herself in a similar boat since her faather is white and her mother came from Pakistan as a teen and both she and her sister take after their mother. I have loss count of how many isensative and just plain awful things people have said to her. Evwey time I present I make as loud a scene of calling the person out as I can. There is no excuse for behavior like that.

  5. shannoms says:

    found your original post on freshly pressed! resonated deeply with me as people seem to constantly expect the “wow you look so exotic” line as compliment/segway into discussing how interesting it is that i’m mixed while dismissing the brutal history of colonization that eventually produced someone like me. cheers!

  6. Don’t stop, I am right behind you!

  7. Luz says:

    You are a fantastic writer.

  8. lpeachykeene says:

    You deserve it, I thoroughly enjoyed your post. Being the mother of bi-racial children, it’s eye opening to see what they may go through on a daily basis, and may never talk about it. Good luck in all your adventures.

  9. Jackie says:

    You are a fantastic writer and I’m so glad I checked out Freshly Pressed when I did and was led to your blog. We obviously have a lot of issues with equality and racism in the States (as we have for centuries) and I have to admit, I was a bit ignorant to all of the issues concerning race that exist in London so even though that may not have been your intention when writing the post, I greatly appreciated your honesty. It helped me be just a little less ignorant of the issues that exist in other parts of the world and that’s always a great thing. Look forward to your future posts.

  10. reshma83 says:

    Looks like you have indeed gone viral and I’m so glad that you’re continuing to write more on this topic. Looking forward to your future posts, Laila!

  11. mandycachoeira says:

    I AM brazilian and i loved that post. Yeah very sensitive But at the same time it was line a scream. I loved just it. I felt tour feelings even had grown in a mixes place line Rio. Interesting that i AM living at El Salvador now, and here I don’t hear things like: “but you have a good Jair don’t talk só bad about this.” i don’ t know if i could be clear but from all sides comes this kind of thinking. I’ m sorry for my english bit it’s been a long time I don’t practise it! It’s confusing me english-spanish-portuguese. Keep writing i AM reading!

  12. Anne says:

    I personnaly don’t have this issue as I’m white, but my fiancé is Indian, and truly black skin. Your writtings actually help me a lot to understand what my (unborn, yet) kids may have to face in the future if people don’t throw away their stupide ideas about races, that might be an old saying but in the end, we’re all red blood and white bones turning into dust , so what the hell is the point of judging colors?? Anyway… Thanks for writting so well, can’t wait to read your future posts!
    Have a lovely day,
    Anne

  13. atulkakkar says:

    Only a writer that …writes straight from the heart is able to write what you did… and the way you did it !

  14. Cuts for him says:

    I am hugely encouraged just reading your blog. Living in London at times makes one feels like things are perfect racially, but then reality hits after reading articles like these. Sharing your story does not only help you deal with these issue but also provide support to others who may be encountering the same issues. Trust me it makes a whole lot of difference knowing someone is speaking up on their behalf even if by accident.
    Again, dont let anyone put you in a box. You are stronger than you can imagine and at this point, you represent many who suffer in silence. And to those who use hurtful language towards you, respond kindly and gently just a way to show them that they cant break you. No one should have to go through what you are going through but be strong for you and thousands like you out there. thanks for sharing and keep shining.

  15. […] said; read Laila’s post What It’s Like Not Being White  and her follow-up post A Response: What It’s Like Not Being White and draw your own […]

  16. I’m not surprised this was so widely shared; you touched on an issue and spoke honestly where many are afraid to do so.

    Lizzie Dripping

  17. Eemaii says:

    I found this blog about 15 minutes ago and I feel like you speak my mind. I am in love with this blog and the way you write it. Thank you so much for existing and sharing these words!

  18. chris says:

    You deserve the big echo on your last post!

  19. K says:

    “If any of you have any ideas where I should write more, or what about, then please get in touch.”

    TBH I think you should write about whatever YOU want to write about, that blogpost went viral because you wrote your own true thoughts and found others who thought about this stuff too. This is why we have blogs, we can talk to each other without someone else controlling the agenda.

  20. […] Like Not Being White: by far the most popular post as it went viral. I already discussed this in a response post here but I couldn’t really not mention it. I’m so, so grateful for the feedback I […]

  21. smittenness says:

    I’ve only just come across your blog and I’ve been clicking around on various posts, I’m really enjoying your writing. You’ve got a very thoughtful writing style and it’s refreshing to see posts that are written in such an honest and clear way. I see from your most recent post that you’re away and dealing with family matters – I hope things are OK for you and your family soon and that you continue to write, here (or in some other medium at least!).

  22. Priya says:

    Ah, Laila. Such a brilliant post. You are an incredible writer. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, which TOTALLY resonate with me (being mixed race in an extremely Caucasian area of the country.) I’m so glad your thoughts made it to that many people!!

    ♥ perfectly Priya

  23. […] A Response: What It's Like Not Being White […]

  24. […] A Response: What It’s Like Not Being White […]

  25. […] most of my songs, it’s about a situation I didn’t understand which I mentioned in passing at the time. There was a lot going on. I wrote the lyrics when I was still optimistic about the situation, […]

  26. […] A Response: What It’s Like Not Being White […]

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