‘I was brought up to treat everyone kindly, so what’s the problem?’
This is something I hear people say a lot in the conversation surrounding black lives matter. They tell me they’ve never witnessed racism and that black people are being treated the same as everyone else.
‘I don’t see colour,’ they implore. ‘I treat everyone the same. I am nice to them, so why are they protesting?’
‘But they aren’t being treated the same by everyone,’ I say. ‘That’s the point. And they want you to see their colour, to see the differences between your lived experiences. They aren’t asking for special treatment, just that they aren’t discriminated against because of their skin colour. They are asking for exactly that; kindness. The same kindness most white people show most white people by default. The kindness you show them, is not the kindness they receive from everyone. So if you want them to be treated the way you would treat them, protests need to happen.’
‘I’ve never seen any black person being discriminated against. The protests are too much, I have never been unkind to a black person.’
And the conversation goes around and around until I could throw up from this sickening merry-go-round.
The profoundly ironic thing is that we both, frustratingly enough, are saying the same thing, but it feels like me against them. We both want black people to be treated the same way white people are being treated. But the difference between me and them is that I can acknowledge that that isn’t happening. Often white individuals aren’t in everyday situations in which they might encounter someone of colour. Particularly in York and Somerset – my two homes. I may be wrong, but both locations appear to be rather lacking in diversity. So, yes, they may not see black individuals being treated with disrespect and inequality, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
Is it a defence mechanism? I’ve observed that often white individuals become defensive and think people are saying all white people are acting in racist or discriminatory ways. I don’t think anyone is saying that. We are asking only that black people be treated the same way white people are. I’m not trying to say everyone needs to be doing something for the cause. I’m not asking you to take action, everyone has their own causes that they’re fighting. Everyone has their own difficulties in life and sometimes our own problems are too immediate to allow us to join in the conversation being had about race. All I’m asking is that each of us acknowledge that whilst you might have been brought up to be kind to others, many individuals have not.