Racism isn’t new. So, how come every time I experience it, it feels like the first time? How come I feel like my heart is being stabbed a thousand times over when I see yet another video of police brutality committed against a Black person, an Indigenous person, or a person of colour (BIPOC), or hear another speech given by Donald Trump? Why am I so overwhelmed when I talk about these things? Am I the only one who feels like this?
No, of course I’m not. Most if not all BIPOCs have felt like this at least once and many feel like this everyday – and it’s fucking tiring. I continuously ask myself, “Will things ever really change?” It seems like whenever progress is made, something new always happens to reverse the evolution.
I don’t think I’m pessimistic, just realistic. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want something a bit more peppy. I want the peppy.
So, this week, I decided to write an idealistic open letter to our future society. Whether it’s thirty, seventy, or a hundred years from now, I hope that this is how the world is one day.
To the oppressors,
I hope that you have found peace within yourself so that imposing chaos in and around somebody else’s life is no longer necessary for you.
To the allies,
I hope that you have continued to understand your position within the fight for racial justice and how important it is for us, BIPOCs, to have you by our side.
I hope that you’ve continued to respect us as individuals and have not forgotten to hold that same value for our cultures. That you’ve listened to our best interests without expecting us to teach you about systems of oppression and how you should combat them. That you’ve found out about us on your own time by using the resources that are available to you as a result of your privilege.
I hope you still use this privilege for good under various circumstances, like talking to other non-BIPOCs about racism and racial justice and standing directly against the systems of power that have committed injustices against BIPOCs. You’ve hopefully taken risks that have been scary and completely put you out of your comfort zone.
I also hope that you have remembered to give space to those whom you have allied yourself with, that you have been conscious of your surroundings and careful not to take over the narrative of their struggle, because you know that this would be disrespectful and damaging in that it erases the true story, which is not yours to tell.
To the oppressed,
I hope that your society no longer makes you feel inferior or disadvantaged because of your identity. Whether at the interview for that job you’ve worked your ass off to get, or at the school you’ve been dreaming of attending since you were five, may you have approached the opportunity with the utmost sense of pride and confidence. The hope is that where you are now, they no longer take one look at you, or your name, or where you come from, and immediately decide that you’re not good enough. They all see what you always knew, that those descriptors don’t determine your worth or status as a person. Yes, they are pieces of you that should be cherished, but they do not define you.
I hope that you can walk down the street freely without being afraid of judgement or harm based on your appearance. That systemic racial violence and colonialism have finally become an acknowledged, disgraced part of history, and that because of this, BIPOCs no longer have to be raised with the idea that they have to compromise their identities for the benefit of their oppressors.
I hope that these institutional changes are reflected in the social sphere. That you no longer feel less intelligent or accomplished than “Robert,” the cis gendered, heterosexual, loud, white man at that dinner party. That a little BIPOC girl can turn on her TV and see an accurate representation of herself and her experiences instead of a dehumanizing caricature that damages her self-esteem. That a queer BIPOC can feel comfortable and safe within their community, without stigmas attached to their race, gender or sexuality.
Finally, what I hope for the most is that you have all reached the highest level of unity among yourselves. No matter what group or social class you may belong to, I hope that you have chosen to support each other in your respective endeavours, continuously showing empathy and solidarity when it is most needed, even when facing issues that may not affect you “directly.”
I hope we all finally understand that we can’t be pitted against each other and expect things to change. We just can’t.
Talk Black is a column that seeks to engage in anti-racist culture writing, addressing art, music, and events. Jedidah Nabwangu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.