Hi, my name is Kelly and I’m the right kind of black person.
For starters, my name is Kelly. I don’t have an elaborate foreign name to scare off potential employers, and I haven’t been blessed with a moniker like Shaniqua or Jaquisha, to make me the butt of no end of jokes (there’s an excellent article on Salon about African-American names here). No, I’m just plain old Kelly, a good solid Irish name that belongs to a reasonably good, definitely solid but not very Irish woman.
And some will question if I should even be called black, as a mixed-race person. But going by the hushed tones that people talk about racism to me in, the racist micro-aggressions I’m subject to and the overflowing afro atop my head, most non-black people think I’m black. It’s the lighter, rather more palatable face of blackness, the muted latte colour favoured by high street stores when parading their new found diversity. Like I said, the right kind of black.
I have a degree. I have a job. I live in a leafy village that’s on the whole very affluent, in a county that’s 98.4% white.
This gives me a voice where others don’t. In fact, I even have the right kind of voice, the educated sound of the edge of the Home Counties, with no hint of patois or foreign shores. The worst you’ll find here is a West Country twang smuggled home from my Bristol years.
But it’s not enough. I’m still black enough to be able to see my face or that of a friend or family member against the curb, choking for breath. I’ve been called the N word. In my first job, a senior colleague thought it was hilarious to call me that after a few drinks. Lots of white men on social media have explained to me that it’s ok, because we don’t have racism in the UK anymore.
Whilst I appreciate the sea of black squares travelling across social media, it’s more important to acknowledge that black lives didn’t just start mattering today. Use the silence created by #blackouttuesday to listen to black voices, the struggles that BAME individuals face and see how you can help.
This wasn’t the first black man killed by an inherently racist system. Don’t come at me with #alllivesmatter – nobody ever said that they didn’t. Or that you just don’t see colour. Because that means you don’t see the struggles of people of colour either. Listen and learn. Call out those around you that are part of the problem and stop making excuses for them.
Don’t wake up on Wednesday morning and forget.