This is the final post from the archives of Lee who writes for her blog Woeful to Froful, where she shares about hair and skincare, beauty, positive thinking and music. This is from Lee’s second blog and I believe a great way to finish her series of posts. I went to South Africa at age 10 and went to a local school for two years. I found it very difficult to separate who could be my friend and who could not based on their colour. I still do. We lived in Liverpool during the Toxteth riots and were saddened by the violence that fractured so many families and lives. Lee shares a very balanced view of the subject and I am sure you will think so too.
Image Source: Bloomsbury.com
This is not a book review as such, just a reaction to a piece of work that unexpectedly moved me.
I will admit that the amount of reading I’ve been doing over the last few years has been quite woeful considering I call myself a writer. I read more as an enthusiastic 10-year-old than I do now as a down trodden, full-time working, mum of three.
It doesn’t happen very often but on a rare occasion, I’m actually able to go out. Crazy! Adult time…away from the kids. It’s almost like a mythical being that only 2 people have ever seen. Like a yeti. Going out for a parent of a young family is like spotting a yeti. But on a recent occasion of being able to go out, I went with a friend to watch Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie and Reni Eddo-Lodge speak.
I was introduced to Reni’s book that night and I promptly borrowed it from a friend. I knew I would find the time to read it, holding onto it until I went away on a friend’s hen do.
The plan was to read it on the train journey to Liverpool, on the plane to Marbella and lounging by the pool. It’s probably not the usual pool side reading but I knew I needed to read this book. And I did. I devoured it in 2 sittings, it didn’t even make it to Spain.
I can say that when I did read voraciously, I didn’t read critical works, I am a fiction gal through and through. But reading this book about feminism, race and all the issues that creates and encompasses, I feel richer for it. It was enjoyable and informative and it hit much closer to home than expected.
I am someone who is lucky enough to say as a black woman, that I’ve had very few encounters with explicit racism. A type of privilege, I suppose. I know that there are forces against me that I will never see, the things that are embedded in society, within our British culture, a term I now know as structural racism (rather than institutional). I believe I have been faced with the more subtle forms racism can take though.
And that’s the thing with this book. It’s thoroughly British. Like Eddo-Lodge says, British children are well aware of the Civil Rights movement in the US, MLK, Rosa, Harriet. But what do we know of our own BLACK British history. It’s something that is sorely neglected on TV and in schools, although if you have a chance to watch David Olusoga’s “Black And British: A Forgotten History,” your eyes will be opened as mine were to stories I couldn’t have even imagined. I was shocked about how entrenched we as people are in British history and that it’s not just a legacy from slavery. We are not a recent addition.
As I come from Liverpool originally, I was well aware that I was being brought up in one of the biggest former slave ports in the country. It’s a beautiful city with some not so beautiful periods in its past. Nowadays, to me it feels like a real cultural melting pot in comparison to the town where I live now. That’s a legacy of Liverpool being a port.
I also remember noticing how many interracial families there were around and never batted an eyelid. It seemed completely normal to me. Liverpool is a truly metropolitan city.
But there was a term I knew as a chid which I always knew was wrong, “half-caste.” I just never realised its actual origins were based on a statistical social study conducted about mixed race families in my home city post-slavery. This was a section of the book that resonated with me quite strongly since I have a white husband and biracial children.
And that was something that just kept hitting me as I read, especially the first chapter, “Histories.” Just how close this is to me. Not just the mentions of Liverpool, the Toxteth riots just down the road from where I grew up a few years before I was born, but mentions of London and Handsworth in Birmingham, all places I have or have had family.
My eyes have een opened to issues that I suppose I wilfully ignored in the past until they were actually a direct problem for me. There wasn’t anything in the book that if it hasn’t happened to me, it’s happened to family members around me.
And the subject matter is made even more relevant by the fact that my mother and her siblings came to this country near the end of the Windrush in the 1960s. Something that’s making the headlines due to the way those citizens are being treated now. My Dad came over in the 1970s, and I’ve heard over the years the odd snippet of history from them of the issues they faced.
For my Mum, working as a nurse as it was one of the few professions open to her. Which makes sense as you will notice to this day that a lot of health workers in this country are not white and many that are white, aren’t British. How my Dad and his friend, instead of running from a group of skinheads, stupidly or valiantly confronted them, most likely buoyed by youthful arrogance and somehow gained the upper hand. He obviously lived to tell the tale.
Lodge, who is slightly younger than me, seems to be a version of me, but amped up by a level of activism I never contemplated before. She found her activism at university while I just got drunk! The book is a must read for both black and white people, a way for both sides to express and understand the playing field of the world. I especially strongly recommend it for anyone who stands strong and proud and claims to be a feminist.
The night I saw Chimamanda and Reni talk, I felt more connected with my blackness and my place in the world. Seeing intelligent and educated black women speak on the issues that matter to us. And reading this book, I feel like I understand where I fit better. As I grow as a person who feels empowered in the way I look and feel about myself, reading this has made me realise that I must feel empowered AND act when it comes to issues of feminism and race.
I let my polite British demeanour stop me from speaking up way too much in case it creates awkwardness or animosity. Stupid, really. I need to find my own style of combatting the little issues around me and hopefully a ripple effect will be created and in my own small way will have helped with the wider issues.
I returned the book to my friend but I will be looking at purchasing my own copy as I enjoyed it so much. I will read this again, I have to as a reminder of what my obligations are to the world and myself.
xx woeful writes xx
©Lee Woeful Writes 2018
My name is Lee and welcome to my little written corner of the world. You’ll find posts on here about haircare, skincare, beauty, positive thinking and my favourite songs. Stick around, read a bit, leave a comment, hey, why not join me on your favourite social media to keep up to date with blog goings on!
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My thanks to Lee for allowing me to share posts from her archives and I hope you will head over and enjoy browsing them yourselves.. thanks Sally.