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.
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.
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.
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.
The Lack Of Diversity In Blogging by Grace at Gracie Francesca
Black, British and Blogging by Kristabel at I Want You To Know
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)